Fantastic Four #574
By Zak Edwards
January 3, 2010 - 15:30
After a disappointing conclusion to the first arc of Jonathan Hickman’s stint on Fantastic Four, these past two issues seem to do more for his return to the original idea mission than the Solve Everything arc. The last issue, although filled with plot holes, had a single issue adventure which honestly felt fairly old school in approach and this issue does a good old-fashioned birthday party for Franklin Richards and is unapologetic in being more nostalgic than anything else. Really, Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four has caused me to doubt his abilities as the creator, once the visionary mastermind of the indie scene, has now become a lackey for fairly safe superhero stories. However, the continued high quality of his Secret Warriors series also causes a confusing moment on how the same writer could be writing such differing books in quality.
Maybe Fantastic Four does need to return to its roots of a focus on family dynamics and crazy, over-the-top science fiction, this is very valid. The formula has been proven to work and really no other Marvel book is doing this sort of thing with a possible argument (which I would be hard pressed to believe) for the X-Men books. And maybe Fantastic Four, as one of the oldest titles in Marvel Comics’ line, can occupy a space of nostalgia, but I just don’t buy it and I really don’t believe Hickman is the man for the job or that the goals are really believable and viable. If Hickman channelled his inner Stan Lee and put out some campy story filled with equally campy dialogue, the outcry would be swift and vicious. What a return to the roots of the series really means is to take a select few ideals of those early issues, modernize them past the point of the fall of the superhero to normal man in a costume and present this as nostalgic. The idea is to re-appropriate something which never existed and in turn makes the return to roots a false buying in of nostalgia. So when Franklin has a birthday party filled with a myriad of characters from past Fantastic Four stories, the whole thing comes across as completely contrived and fake because of the realization of the impossibility of what Hickman is arguing to do. Sure, it’s cute at times, with Spider-Man hiding behind the Thing’s back and the kids all yelling “There’s Spider-Man!” but really the book feels false. Just as Hickman attempted to gloss over the negative gender politics of the era he is trying to capture through the blatantly sexist depictions of Sue and Richard’s relationship, the silliness of this issue forces the reader to assume the role of a child in order to feel connected to the story. It is only when the book becomes a more serious type of story in the second half does it really become enjoyable over cathartic for the creative team. But even then the story uses such tried and true methods that nothing original seems to be created. However, this non-originality may be part of the nostalgic element of the story and a recognition that most superhero books are simply attempting to deny their past while regurgitating worn-out ideas. But the big reveals at the end, both in the identity of the time-traveller and Franklin getting his powers back are hardly moments which cause any impact on the reader. I don’t feel connected to this series and see it as a giant waste for a creator who has proven to be much more innovative and effective than what Fantastic Four can offer. It saddens me to think this is the man who wrote The Nightly News, now like a starving dog left on a short chain in the backyard.
Neil Edwards’ art (no relation) just seems rushed, with not enough care put into the work. For example, page five, panel one is a picture of a couple of children but one of the children looks like a disfigured and obese middle-aged woman only to revert looking like a child in the next panel. Similarly, Mr. Fantastic on the next page is experiencing some perspective problems, making him look like a hawk and incredibly thin. Overall, the art feels uncared for and done in spurts of rushing.
4/10 Fantastic Four’s new old direction focus is detrimental and supported by lackluster art
Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25
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