Fantastic Four by Mark Waid Analysis
By Alexander Jones
October 31, 2012 - 15:37
Writer(s): Mark Waid
Penciller(s): Mike Wieringo
Inker(s): Karl Kesel
Colourist(s): Paul Mounts
Letterer(s): Bill Oakley
Cover Artist(s): Mike Wieringo
The following is an examination of Fantastic Four 60-70 and 500-524 spoilers abound!
The Fantastic Four have never been my favorite characters. Although the relationship of the four is an dynamic, separately they always seemed too plain to me. Then writers like Johnathan Hickman and Mark Waid show the potential the characters truly have and blow the floodgates open. Mark Waid states a similar point of view in his introduction to the series. Waid does state that people like Wieringo, the artist of Mark Waid's Fantastic Four run, who is now deceased, had a vested interest in Marvel's first family.
Mark Waid is a smart person and also a smart writer. He followed the people he trusted into a new project. This run of Fantastic Four is not truly perfect, but a masterpiece of the medium. It is a run that has and will continue to be celebrated for some time. If Waid's current Daredevil run is captivating your interests, then this edition of the Four should be right up your alley. So without further ado an examination of Fantastic Four under the steady pencil of Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo and friends is in order!
The first arc of the series introduces themes that are toyed with throughout the series. These themes include Reed's guilt for getting his friends into the initial accident spawning the Fantastic Four, the incompetence that Sue begins to notice in her younger brother and the compassion that the Fantastic Four show to the colorful cast of villains they combat. Issues 60 through 66 show Mark introducing these central themes through a villain named Modulus, along with giving Johnny a new status quo. Modulus is a villain who is a copy of Reed Richards. He believes he knows what is best for Reed and his family. Modulus is mistaken and is handled with compassion and science. (example) Johnny is given new responsibilities by obtaining a job. Johnny earns new respect of his sister and takes his first steps down an ongoing character arc.
The next arc, which features Waid and Wieringo's take on Doctor Doom, is enthralling. Waid has an interesting angle on Doctor Doom where he mixes science with magic giving him a new costume and power set. Waid also attempts to paint Victor Von Doom as a tragic hero. The effort fails. When watching Doom wage a war against the Fantastic Four, its hard to root for him though it appears that is what the writing team wants you to do. Even though the Fantastic Four save the day at the end of the story, their venture is not without consequence. Reed Richards is left with a battle scar across his face.
Authoritative Action is the next arc of Fantastic Four, and one of the few stumbles Mark Waid makes in the series. The art of Howard Porter also downplays the story making it filled with a sort of angst. After saving the day from Doctor Doom, Reed takes control of Latveria. He does this without telling his family anything. Reed starts keeping more and more secrets and acting like a complete jerk. This is out of character for Reed Richard, even with the battle scar is perched across his face. Reed is leaving his family in danger, something no one who follows the Fantastic Four would believe him capable of doing. This characterization is lacking and the Reed filled with angst becomes sloppy. His poorly stitched together plan results in the death of Benjamin Grimm, better known as The Thing.
The next arc, Hereafter, features the Fantastic Three going into heaven to rescue Benjamin Grimm. The idea of not being able to live without someone is youthful and romantic and an interesting ideal for the Fantastic Four. Featuring fallen angels, floods and God himself, this arc, while still retaining the angst of Reed Richards, is written very thoughtfully. However what makes this arc truly special is the revelation of who God really is (at least in the context of the Fantastic Four). Having Jack Kirby in such an important role is truly special and mesmerizing. His dialogue is written perfectly and the issue in which he is featured turns out to be the best issue of Mark Waid's Fantastic Four.
Unfortunately this takes us to the only other roadblock in Waid's run, the Frightful Four. This arc stumbles and its characters are not very interesting. However, when Galactic shows up, the stakes become considerably higher. A character like Galactus is a force to be reckoned with. Turning Galactus human is once again a stroke of genius on Waid's part.
The series ends with the Four regaining their powers and the main characters coming to terms with the themes of the series. For instance after becoming the herald of Galactus Johnny has a newfound sense of responsibility that Sue appreciates. By Reed offering to take Ben's rock form, he removes the guilt that he carries. Teaching compassion to the villains is played when Galactus saves the planet on behalf of the Fantastic Four.
This series is truly special and features masterful art by Mark Wieringo and incredible writing by Mark Waid. If you are a true Fantastic Four fan this series is a must read.
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