The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine

March 20th, 2008 by

Fantastic Four #554With issue #554, the ‘World’s Greatest Comic Magazine,’ aka, Marvel’s Fantastic Four, has had yet another creative team relaunch. Normally, 66.6% of these relaunches are Ho-Hum at best (as in “the return of J. Scott Campbell”who ended up only doing covers) or idiotic (let’s erase thirty years of Spider-Man continuity) at worst. But the remaining third are often a worthy change. The new creative team on The FF is one such worthy change, as it consists of megalomaniac, Mark Millar (writing), detail-freak, Bryan Hitch (drawing) and tracer extraordinaire, Paul Neary (inking). This is the same team who brought us The Ultimates, which was, in my opinion, a very interesting and well crafted comic.

Now, having been through my share of FF reboots over the years, I wasn’t overly hyped for this version. And to be honest, I’m not in awe of this team of artists and writer. But I’ve always had a fondness for the FF when they’re done well, which, for me, constitutes that family feeling of familiarity, communication, bickering and, of course, solving galactic problems that threaten the Earth, if not the Universe. The Civil War arc that Marvel ran last year had it’s Good, Bad and Ugly moments, but I was thoroughly disappointed with the way that they wrote Reed Richards, the (allegedly) ‘smartest man on earth’ as a blind-sided fool. (Personal aside: I honestly believe that Dr. Doom is smarter, but he’s never grown past his high school emotional jealousy that he keeps getting his ass whupped. C’mon, Doom could use his magic to send the FF to hell any old time and probably get away with it. Doom works at it; Reed kinda takes it for granted.)

I gave the ‘new’ FF creative team two issues (#554-555) to see what they can do and I can say that I’m impressed. In #554, Ben cannily guilts Reed into going with him to visit his old school by saying, “Any chance of doin’ a solid for the guy ya disfigured in that cosmic ray accident?” This gets followed up later with Reed giving a lecture to the school kids on his ‘anti-Galactus suit,’ and boring them to the point of near-fatal nose-picking, which is broken only by Ben interrupting, “Anybody wanna play in the Fantasti-Car?” sending the kids into a frenzy. No, these scenes aren’t terribly pertinent to the main story, but they’re the type of characterization that I’ve always felt was successful for the FF. Reed is too smart to see that everybody isn’t as excited by nano-particles as he is and Ben is the ice breaker.

I like the addition, or rather, return, of Alyssa Moy, the character Sue describes as “Mrs. Fantastic.” Alyssa is an ex of Reed’s from college. She’s cute, sassy and equally as smart as he is, even though she’s now married as well. Although the chemistry between the two is still pretty tame at this point, I can see the seeds of angst being planted by Millar. Flashbacks of flirting from their college days, as well as observations from Alyssa’s husband regarding her feelings towards Reed are tell-tale signs that the pot’s going to be boiling over soon. No, I don’t think that Sue & Reed will split (again….), but I’m going to enjoy the miscommunication, the innuendo, the assumptions, and the ensuing chaos presented by “Mrs. Fantastic.” (Yes, I just enjoy the name…).

Fantastic Four #555As for Johnny Storm…. let’s see… it’s been about 45 years since FF #1 came out and he’s still called Johnny, aka, the boy who never grew up. Well, I can’t say much complementary about him in this reboot. He decides that he wants to put together a band through a reality show and ends up making out with some hot babe/diamond robber in a sexy leather suit while trying to bust her for the crime. Hasn’t this guy learned ANYTHING in 45 years!?! Ok, ok, comic continuity being maybe one year for every ten that we, mere mortal comic readers live, maybe it’s only been four or five years for Johnny. But, Geez! The guy’s been involved with Skrulls, Heralds of Galactus, Inhumans, models, bimbos, witches, and anything in a skirt. If he doesn’t have a majority of the social diseases out there, he should at least have enough dating knowledge to not act like a drunken frat boy 24/7. (Hmmm, maybe that’s why the FF are rich: Reed invented cures for all the STD’s Johnny brought home over the years…?)

And Sue… stalwart Sue. She’s easily proven herself to be the most powerful member of the team on numerous occasions. She’s taken Doom down single-handed. She looks good in leather, even after giving birth. She’s smart, funny, and makes sure the bills get paid. She’s the one constant in a group. Here, she’s trying to create a charity group, working with She-Hulk and the Wasp. The scene where they’re discussing issues, while being served tea and pumpkin pie by modified Doom-bots is a treasure. Sue explains it by saying, “Oh, you know what Reed’s like… Always building stuff while we’re watching TV. I don’t even ask.” Again, this is the characterization that I’ve come to know and love with a well done FF.

Oh, did I mention the plot? Here comes the spoiler info, for those of you who care… The plot revolves around Alyssa’s husband, in conjunction with several other bazillionaires who’ve learned that Earth will only be habitable for another 10 years and have decided to pour their riches into creating ‘Nu-World,’ an exact replica of Earth, minus the guns, war and troubles (though keeping the graffitti, for ‘arts sake’), for all six billion humans. Things begin to go awry in issue #555, but I eagerly await the next installment to see how far the pot boils over. The art is solid the writing is spot-on and the plotting is the usual slow burn I’ve come to expect from Millar before he pours the molten liquid over my brain. The only thing that I can say that I really don’t like is the drawing of the Thing. Hitch seems to be taking a leaf from Kurt Busiek’s “Astro City” character from the First Family (who was, of course, drawn from Marvel’s FF). Ben is drawn somewhere between a human, a lizard and the orange rock we’ve come to know. It just doesn’t work for me… but considering that I’m enjoying the rest, I guess I can make allowances.

My rating: Go buy it.

2 Responses to “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine”

  1. Martin Says:

    Thanks for this sweet review, Rurik!

    I have to say that I don’t think I’ve ever actually read a single issue of Fantastic Four. I’ve always sort of looked at them as the pop stars of comic books… all style and no substance, but this review got me wanting to read these issues.

    I’m going to add some cover graphics for your review… I hope you don’t mind.

  2. Michael Says:


    I thought about picking this up. Like Rurik, I’ve been an off-and-on fan of the FF throughout the years. When they’re done well (Byrne) it’s awesome but more often than not, the creative team doesn’t understand their unique chemistry and dynamic with each other and resorts to tired plotlines and characterizations of them. The last time I found them interesting was during Chris Claremont’s run (possibly some of his last good Marvel work) which, coincidentally enough, introduced Allysa Moy. Since then I’ve occasionally glanced at them to see what’s going on but nothing piqued my interest. I looked at Millar/Hitch’s work when it came out but found something a bit lacking. But since I know Rurik reads everything under the sun, he can probably tell the good from the bad. So maybe I’ll give this a try after all.