Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Steve Epting, Rick Magyar, Carmine DiGiandomenico, Ming Doyle, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Farel Dalrymple
Colorist: Paul Mounts, Andy Troy, Jordie Bellaire, Javier Tartaglia, Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Gabrielle Dell’Otto
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So after being FF for a year, this title is flipping back to Fantastic Four. And FF is continuing as a separate series. And stuff happens.
Good stuff, fortunately. Over in FF, a group of alternate-reality Reed Richards have been preparing a war that will hit the entire planet, the Future Foundation has rounded up the Avengers, X-Men and other guest stars to help in the fight, Annihilus is about to break into our universe, and the Inhumans and Kree are up to some assorted monkey business in space. The first chapter of this 100-page mammoth is about the battle for New York, followed by a chapter that’s too spoiler-tastic to get into in this review (even though most of you no doubt know what the spoiler is by now). From there, we see Black Bolt and Medusa pondering their place in the war, Galactus pondering his place in the universe, and Franklin and Leech pondering something else entirely.
If there’s anything about this issue that I find slightly disappointing, it’s that it isn’t actually the end of the story. After this much buildup, a 100-page giant anniversary issue seems like it would be the place for the story – or at least this stage of it – to conclude. Instead, it resolves one cliffhanger and takes us up to another one. It’s very well done, mind you – the opening fight sequence is wonderful, and the long second chapter is great for filling in the blanks of what’s been going on behind the scenes for these characters all year. But when I finished the book, I was most definitely left feeling a tad frustrated, knowing I’ll have to wait another month to find out what happens next.
Still, if you actually want to know what’s going to happen next, you can’t argue that the comic book hasn’t done its job. More excellent work by Jonathan Hickman and a big stable of artists.
Quick Rating: Fair
Title: Absolutely No Way To Win Part 3
Rating: Parental Advisory
Zombie Skrulls, Galactus Zombies… the Fantastic Four is in a tight spot.
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Pencils: Francis Portela
Inks: Francis Portela
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Cory Petit
Editor: Axel Alonso
Cover Art: Arthur Suydam
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Still in the Marvel Zombies universe, the new Fantastic Four find themselves being chased down by a zombie Skrull version of the original FF, which isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds. As they do this, the Marvel Zombies continue their plan to turn the Skrull homeworld into a buffet, and one of them suggests they start using their new powers to the fullest.
While I’m not one of the ones crying that the Marvel Zombies are getting overexposed, I do think that perhaps they weren’t put to the best use this issue. By their very nature, the Zombies are a very dark, tongue-in-cheek concept, but some of their dialogue this issue (particularly Spider-Man and the Hulk) goes past simply tongue-in-cheek to simply absurd. The plot works well, the action works well, but the dialogue doesn’t work.
What does work is Portela’s art – his style almost perfectly mimics Sean Phillips’ designs for the Zombies from the original series, and the still-living heroes don’t clash at all with that vision.
Overall, this storyline has been surprisingly good. It just gets a bit too silly here at the conclusion.
Quick Rating: Bad
Title: World’s Greatest Part Two
Is Reed Richards smart enough to save the human race?
Writer: Mark Millar
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover Art: Bryan Hitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reed Richards’ ex-girlfriend has presented him with a startling declaration: the Earth is dying, and it’s too late to save it. The only hope now is to build an entire new Earth, a perfect Earth, and to transport everyone in the world there.
“World’s Greatest” may be the single most inaccurately-named comic book story ever written. Nothing of this book smacks of greatness. Most of it doesn’t even seem to indicate a passing familiarity with what makes these characters who they are. For starters, the entire story is predicated on the idea that there is something that is so fundamentally wrong with the world that Reed Richards, the smartest man on Earth, the guy who – in the very Civil War crossover written by Mark Millar – crafted a list of ways to save the world, never realized that the world was in danger in time to avert it, NOR did he realize that there was a problem in the near-decade since the point of no return supposedly passed! Reed then proceeds to tour a plan ripped straight from the pages of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that seems to be orchestrated by guys so smart that they haven’t got the foggiest notion that the “changes” they’re going to attempt to institute will most likely result in far more bloodshed and hatred than the things they’re trying to prevent.
Then there’s Johnny. Oh, poor Johnny, who has grown up and been devolved so many times that one can only assume he’s been replaced by a Skrull a minimum of 15 times. Johnny does something so abysmally stupid this issue that if a superhero on his first day on the job did it, he’d be brutally murdered, and everybody would agree he brought it upon himself. Even at his least mature, Johnny has never been this reckless before. The character has been boiled down to nothing but Id, no nuance at all.
Bryan Hitch’s art is, at least, better than the story, but even he isn’t on his A-game.
I don’t even know what else to say, except to mourn the fact that we’ve for 14 more issues of this stuff on the schedule.
Spider-Man Family #3 (Marvel Comics)
By Paul Tobin, Pierre Alary, Fred VanLente, Leonard Kirk, Roy Thomas, Jim Craig & Yamanaka Akira
This issue of Spider-Man Family is something of a mixed bag. The focus is on Spidey and the Fantastic Four, which is always an entertaining pairing, but the lead story is kind of weak. Spidey and the FF team up to fight a giant mummy (which is definitely fun), and then again against Electro. There’s a lot of the standard misunderstanding-then-team-up stuff, which is really somewhat out of place considering the relationship between these characters even relatively early in their careers. The personalities are off as well. While it’s true that many of the earliest FF stories made Sue subservient, this issue goes too far in the opposite direction, making her more aggressive than she’s ever been painted. We also see the Scorpion drawn into battle with her former namesake, Mag Gargan, the current Venom — a pretty good story, and certainly a logical one. Next is a reprint of What If? Vol. 1 #1, “What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?” This is one of my all-time favorite What If? stories, and it’s a welcome addition to this book. The story ends with a new “Spider-Man J” tale (does the “J” stand for “Japanese?”), a reprint of the Japanese Spidey title. This is the first of those titles I’ve read and, honestly, I wasn’t impressed with either the story or the artwork. This isn’t a bad issue, but except for the classic reprint, there’s really nothing to get excited about.
Quick Rating: Very Good
The Human Torch is going back to high school… with a certain arachnid.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: J.D. Smith
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Cover Art: Mark Bagley & Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics
When Reed Richards and Sue Storm suggest Johnny goes back to school to get his high school diploma, he’s not wild about the idea. You know he’s going to break down and go, though, because if he didn’t there would be no team-up. Johnny, predictably, winds up attending Peter Parker’s high school and falls in with his group of friends, including a smitten Liz Allen.
You’ve got to remind yourself, as you’re reading this, that the Ultimate Fantastic Four is not yet the world-famous team of adventurers their mainstream counterparts are. The characters are in hiding and the sight of someone bursting into flame is pretty startling, even for a guy with spider-powers. Bendis balances these reactions very well. In addition, this is a surprisingly strong issue for Mary Jane. We get to see several sides of her as she struggles to help her friends with various problems, and even see her slip up a bit with Peter.
After the laugh-out-loud Wolverine team-up and the unrelenting bleak tone of Carnage, this issue is kind of back to normal. There are some amusing, lighthearted moments, but there are heavier moments too. The issue is light on action but heavy on character content, and that makes up for any deficiency.
Mark Bagley gets to play with some characters he doesn’t get to use as much this issue, doing a solid job on the FF, particularly the Thing. It’s still weird to see a young Reed Richards, but you learn to get used to it. The issue is extremely heavy on dialogue and Bagley has to carry the weight of a lot of talking heads scenes – something, as luck would have it – he does very well.
As usual, Ultimate Spider-Man is a solid title, the strongest of Marvel’s Ultimate line. This issue works for people who read the title for the emotion and character interaction. If you’re looking for fisticuffs, you’ll have to wait.
So what’d I review over at CX Pulp in the last seven days? Here’s the list…
- Avengers Academy #18
- Batman #713
- Darkwing Duck #15
- DC Retroactive: Batman-The 90s #1
- DC Retroactive: The Flash-The 90s #1
- DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman-The 90s #1
- Fables #108
- Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #3
- Flashpoint: Abin Sur-The Green Lantern #3
- Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #3
- Green Lantern Corps #63
- Justice League of America #60
- Power Girl #27
- Superboy #11
- Tiny Titans #43
- The Walking Dead #88
- X-Men: Schism #3
Hulk and Power Pack #4 (Marvel Comics)
By Marc Sumerak & David Williams with Chris Giarrusso
The Hulk has been accused of a rampage, but Power Pack has discovered the real culprit is his old foe, the Abomination. Hulk has the Pack on his side… but every other superhero in New York is ready to try to take him down. I’ve been on board for this incarnation of Power Pack ever since Marvel relaunched it as a series of miniseries a few years ago, and this is hands-down the most ambitious issue yet. Sumerak does a good job of balancing a pretty massive fight scene, and still really making it about the kids in the end. The book has a great Mini-Marvels back-up story by Chris Giarrusso featuring the Hulk on his first date with Betty Ross. Lines like “Arrow Man not Billy Cosby” nearly made me roll off the couch laughing. There have to be enough Mini-Marvels stories done to put out another special, Marvel — c’mon, give us the goods.