Marvel Comics
Fantastic Four #563
By Zak Edwards
February 4, 2009 - 13:18

Marvel Comics
Writer(s): Mark Millar
Penciller(s): Bryan Hitch
Inker(s): Cam Smith, Andrew Currie & Karl Kesel
Colourist(s): Paul Mounts
Letterer(s): Rus Wooton
Cover Artist(s): Bryan Hitch
$2.99 US

The Fantastic Four is not a comic series I usually follow, it’s usually too far down the science fiction line for me.  Things like other dimensions, crazy inventions, and Reed Richards, the ultimate rational space captain; it’s all a little too much throwback to the old pulp magazine science fiction and what it represented.  But I joined up with the Fantastic Four with Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch out of a love for Ultimates and I have to say, I see why this stuff can be fun.  Millar enjoys a sort of reckless abandon with this series, especially in plot but it pours over into other areas as well which makes for a lot of enjoyment.

And it is, Fantastic Four is just a lot of fun.  Sure, Millar had some things to say in the initial arc about global warming and the environment, but mostly the series has been fun for the crazy things he’s done, like the people from the future using Galactus, the guy who literally eats planets, to power a time machine and move billions of people to another planet that was created by some scientists.  It’s over the top and melodramatic and that is where Millar thrives.  So when the first panel of this issue opens up with the Human Torch having two girls dressed up like the Scarlet Witch and Storm, I don’t feel the need to be ranting about depictions of females in comic books, I just take the whole thing as a piece of fun literature, pop culture, and it’s a relief for someone who finds themselves doing the former constantly.  The issue focuses on two things, Ben Grimm’s engagement and also the villains who taught Dr. Doom how to be evil being, well, really evil.  Two stories which have very different tones which probably explains the structure of the story.  Millar simply split the comic in half.  The first half is the engagement and the issue is generally a happy one.  The Thing, Ben Grimm, is smiling the whole time, his betrothed showing off her ring.  A media circus and a giant fertility statue are also included.  There really isn’t anything you could complain about, Millar makes for a lot of general good feelings for Ben and his fiance, and for the family in general.  There is some underlying conflict, though.  The media’s effect on the family is starting to show, as is Reed’s loyalty to his worldly responsibilities over his familial ones, but not in a way which takes away from the joyous occasion.  As for the second half, Millar depicts Dr. Doom’s teachers destroying another dimension’s Earth and Sun, along with killing Reed and this dimensions Human Torch.  The scenes are action filled and take up too much room, I think.  In an issue which could really have some emotional impact, Millar dedicates just under half of this issue to showing how bad the bad guys are.  It really is unnecessary and feels like it is stealing from the engagement, which is much more interesting.  Overall, the issue is a good one, with Millar enjoying some over the top fun and some more grounded themes.

Bryan Hitch’s pencils bring a level of grounding to Millar’s script, working in tandem with the script to balance it out.  If some other artist with a more extreme or exaggerated style would probably take this comic book to absurdity, but Hitch prevents this.  With a book that has a lot of over-the top mixed in with a very real moment (an engagement), Hitch helps highlight the smaller moments within Millar’s script.  The balance works very well, Ben Grimm’s excitement and happiness is more resonant than the twenty foot fertility statue.  The action filled sequences benefit from Hitch’s action as usual, with his attention to minute detail really paying off.  Everything just looks better when his skylines are paid attention to with crazy detail.  It makes the setting feel real.

7.5/10    Millar allows for escapism while Hitch’s art grounds the entire book.

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