Friday, March 14, 2008

Fantastic Four #554-555 Review

Marvel’s First Family looks for a fresh start.
by mr. b


Following an insanely successful run on The Ultimates, superstar creative team, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, check in for an extended stay at the Baxter Building. The aptly named “World’s Greatest” storyline kicked off last month and continues (on time!) this week.



I was apprehensive when this story arc was announced. Aside from the obvious prospect of having Hitch falling behind schedule, Millar has had a rough couple of years critically. I, personally, enjoyed the majority of Civil War but the ending felt extremely disappointing. His previous runs on Ultimate Fantastic Four were underwhelming and forgettable. That being said, I approached the first issue with high expectations.

Those expectations were met within the first four pages.

Everything a Fantastic Four comic should be was here. The sarcastic Ben Grimm. The nerdy, oblivious Reed. The annoying kids. All balanced out by the ever-present mother figure that is Sue Richards. The opening of this comic oozes Millar’s obvious love of the Lee/Kirby era. It was amazing to me that he nailed the characterizations so quickly. All against the backdrop of a time traveling train, barreling through the Old West. Millar spends the rest of the issue setting up a handful of interesting subplots that will run through his tenure on the title.

“Wow” seems to be as good a word as any to describe what Bryan hitch brings to this book. Every panel is illustrated with pain-staking detail. No empty spaces and no shortcuts taken. His trademark widescreen panels are made to give the book a blockbuster movie feel, and they accomplish just that. Imagine if Michael Bay made good movies. These two issues also showcase Hitch’s underrated ability to draw “quieter” moments. His facials and body language add a whole dimension to Millar’s already excellent dialogue.



The running subplots make sure the book never seems stale. Every member of the team seems to have something going on. Sue has joined an all-ladies group of superheroes to fill her time. Johnny has moved out of the Baxter Building and getting ready to start work on a reality TV show. And Reed has been recruited by his ex-girlfriend to rebuild the planet. Millar was so good at putting these side stories together and having them seamlessly run through the book, without bogging it down.

Two issues in and the nay-sayers already have begun speculating how late the next issues will be. Bad news for them. Millar has twelve scripts finished and hitch has enough issues in the can to last to December.

One Sentence Review: A great Fantastic Four story in the tradition of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. | 9.0/10

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