The latest manifestation of my CDO - obsessive compulsion disorder with the initials in alphabetical order as they should be - is my desire to get current on most Marvel Universe titles by the middle of 2010 or sooner. Naturally, I decided to start with Fantastic Four, the title that launched the new Marvel Age of Comics. Then I'll move on to Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, and so on in the order they were introduced. Yes, this is a cry for help and thanks for asking.
Prior to this new fit of madness, I had read and enjoyed all the Fantastic Four issues written by Dwayne McDuffie, save for his last one. I have no idea why I hadn't read that last one unless my subconscious was telling me his run would be a good place to start this quick overview of the title.
McDuffie came on to the FF knowing from that start his run was sort of a placeholder while Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch got ready for their run. For my money, I would have gladly had more McDuffie issues instead of the Millar/Hitch run. Under the most difficult of circumstances, what with Reed Richards being one of the villains of Civil War and Reed and Sue leaving the team for several issues, McDuffie nailed what makes the FF special. He managed to redeem Reed, fortify the love of family that is at the heart of the team, and leave us with a final page that says everything you need to know about the Fantastic Four:
The page was penciled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar, and colored by Wil Quintana. Not that you asked, but I think the Pelletier/Magyar team was much better suited for the Fantastic Four than the Bryan Hitch/Paul Neary that followed them.
"Hollywood" Mark Millar wrote Fantastic Four #554-569 with scripting by Joe Ahearne on the last two of those issues. I do not use "Hollywood" as a complimentary nickname. Much of what I dislike in Millar's comics writing is similar to what I dislike in today's movies. Enormous body counts for shock value with nary an attempt to let readers see these victims as anything other than props. Gratuitous brutality for similar shock value. Gratuitous sex to give the adolescents something to titter over, even when it comes at the expense of established characterization. The Miller and Hitch Johnny Storm is unrecognizable in both deed and visuals. A decided meanness of spirit runs through most of Miller's comics and, while it may have worked in Civil War, it didn't work for the family-oriented Fantastic Four.
There are some intriguing ideas in Miller's stories, but they are submerged in those concepts that don't work. His revamping of Doctor Doom into a veritable god of evil is ludicrous. On a more human note, he turns a fun new romance for Ben Grimm into a cruel tease. I get the Thing as a tragic figure; I think this "illusion of change" was predictable and even trite. The FF are closing in on fifty years of continuous publication; running in place doesn't cut it anymore.
Incoming FF writer Jonathan Hickman warmed up for the gig with the five-issue Dark Reign: Fantastic Four with art by Sean Chen (pencils), Lorenzo Ruggiero (inks), and John Rauch (colors). While I don't completely accept the Dark Reign premise that Norman Osborn is the untouchable top cop of the United States - maybe if Bush were still president - it was the catalyst that convinced me to embark on this Marvel Universe reading project.
In this series, Osborn attempted to strong-arm his authority over the FF. Despite my contention that the popular FF would be far more untouchable than Osborn, it was an intriguing situation taken to a satisfying not-quite-resolution. Hickman's concurrent storyline focused on Reed Richards trying to solve the great many problems which he blames himself for creating.
Richards' guilt (and husband/father) issues were the driving forces behind Hickman's debut story in Fantastic Four #570-572. It felt a little overplayed, but, again, he brought it to a satisfying resolution that should allow him to move the series into less Reed-centric adventures. As for the Dale Eaglesham art, it's more suited to the FF than Hitch's, but not quite the better match that was Pelletier's work on the title.
Having survived Millar's run, Fantastic Four is back to being a solid comic book which can reasonably aspire to once again becoming Marvel's flagship title. Besides, the Avengers could use a break from carrying the Marvel Universe.
These Marvel overviews will continue as fast as I can catch up with their titles. Next up will be the Hulk/Incredible Hulk. Look for it later this week.
I've never seen even a single episode of this animated series from 1979-1981, so I'm very much looking forward to watching these cartoons over the next few weeks. You can probably figure on some sort of review along the way.
Thanks, Tom, and happy holidays to you and yours.
And thanks to all of you for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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