Fantastic Enough, Anyway


I’m currently working my way through the Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – The Power Cosmic Edition DVD, and will have a new look at the movie and review of the additional material later this week. In the meantime, here’s a re-presentation of my review of last October’s Heroes Reborn: Fantastic Four collection, which seemed timely:

Heroes Reborn: Fantastic Four
by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, and various
Marvel Comics – softcover, $29.99

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting when I picked this up from the library, maybe something like a proto-Ultimate universe. It fails on that level, introducing too much too fast, with not enough explanation for a new reader to really get the significance of much of it.

However, after having read the whole thing, it’s clear that the real goal is a single year-long “Best Of The Fantastic Four” story, fitting in all the classic elements of the Four mythos. The pace wouldn’t be sustainable over an ongoing series, but works fine for a limited run. The feeling I get is, “if you ever liked the Fantastic Four, here’s all the best stuff in 12 issues, to remind you why.” In 12 issues it introduces the new origin, Wyatt Wingfoot (here an Agent of SHIELD), the Mole Man, Atlantis’ first attack on the surface dwellers and the inevitable coup attempt against Namor, the Black Panther, Alicia Masters, Frankie Raye, Doom, Skrulls, the Super Skrull, the Silver Surfer and several other Heralds, Galactus, the Watcher and the Inhumans.

At this, it succeeds. Sure, the dialogue is a tad weak and prone to repetition, the pseudo science is sillier than necessary in places, and I can’t stand the mid-’90s art by Jim Lee and others, but it’s actually fun and as an alternate take on the Four, less boring than the Ultimate version (of which only Ellis’s “N-Zone” has really worked for me). [Note: I have not read Ultimate Fantastic Four since writing this review and therefore cannot say with any certainly that it has not since become awesome.]

On the plus side, the story entertains as a self-contained run-through of Fantastic Four tropes in a universe where they and the Avengers are the only superheroes. Everything from the Mole Man to the Surfer to the Inhumans to the source of the Four’s powers is connected, which is really the only way to include that much in a year without getting a mess like “Batman: Hush,” and the writers achieve a fairly cohesive and organic-feeling method of connecting them.

The real downside is also a result of the “Best Of” approach, namely that everything is being presented “for the first time,” but feels overly familiar in that context, especially Galactus, who arrives on Earth in issue 12, but has been shown several times already on his journey. It doesn’t hurt too much, since the whole series feels like it’s really for people already familiar with the concepts, but since it is supposed to be Galctus’ first time on Earth, it’s too bad they pass up on the reveal.

Actually, the whole thing makes me all the more impressed that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were able to create such a coherent mythos, considering that they were largely making it up as they went. Here, how everything relates to everything else is clearly thought out from the beginning, but it just can’t beat the level of imagination Stan and Jack brought to the original.

Probably not something I’d need to read again, but fun enough to have been worth checking out. If you enjoy the FF, you can find worse ways to spend a few hours.

PS: Captain America make a few appearances and, while he has the traditional “A” on his head in the second half, he’s got the eagle thing in the first half, and I know this is unpopular, but I don’t mind it. The “A”’s traditional, but it seems a little silly and dated. Galactus doesn’t have a big “G” on his chest anymore. Also, just imagine the Mark Millar dialogue we would have been spared if Cap just had a little eagle on his head. Is the hate just because it’s a Liefeld idea?


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