Monday, March 17, 2008

In Review Of: Fantastic Four #555 by Millar and Hitch

I'm really wanting to like this series, as I was very happy with Millar's reinterpretation of the Avengers in Ultimates, but I'm not too sure that its working. The question is: why?

On the face of it, the elements are there: the evil, or well meaning scientists, the outlandish concepts, the multiple sub-plots. All of these are great descriptions of the Lee/Kirby high point on the book: issues #45-65. Hitch is clearly putting in some long hours at the drawing board and it shows. There is very little shorthand on the pages. Jack would smile at the work ethic I'm sure.

Part of the problem is that we don't get to start with a cohesive FF at the beginning. One of the problems here is that the FF used to function as a kind of home base in the Marvel Universe: they were the first family, and a lot revolved around them. This current version of the FF reminds me more of the splintered FF circa 1973, a time of an unpopular war and a great deal of social unrest and a time when the nature of family was being challenged by the new generation. Yes, the Gerry Conway version of the FF is back, the unpopular war has shifted from Vietnam to Iraq and the social unrest brought on by Wategate and Nixon has been transferred to Bush, Cheney and Halliburton in the form of Civil War and the realignment of the Marvel Universe's loyalties.

So, sadly, we have a rather splintered FF that Millar inherited, as opposed to a cohesive group that he could introduce difficulties into. It gives us little chance to enjoy the group before everything hits the fan. Why this matters has as much to do with story arc construction as it does my personal taste of why I think that the FF works, and when it works, why they matter in the Marvel Universe.

In reality, the FF haven't functioned as the touchpoint of the Marvel Universe for some time, essentially since the Byrne era. The X-Men, and their various spinoffs functioned as that for a good decade, and then, in the Bendis era, the Avengers and their permutations. If we want to see the FF back in the position of prominence, then the group has to be written as such. There was a time when every damn piece of machinery had a "Richards" or "Stark" logo on it. The rest said "Pym" or they were imported from Latveria.

I'm interested to see where the book goes, even though I know that I'm not going to get the FF functioning as the group that faced down Galactus for a while yet. And the fact that instead of this group of scientists creating "Him", they've created yet another stupid giant robot that we will have to subdue, but what the hell. "The Thing versus a Giant Kirby Robot" isn't such a bad plot devise for the twenty odd pages.

Last complaint: Hitch, while he can draw absolutely lights out, doesn't get Ben's unique anatomy, and its driving me crazy. The Thing has a distinct anatomical build and Brian just isn't drawing it that way.

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