comicsthegathering dot com logo

Fantastic Four #4 Review

by Charles Martin on November 28, 2018

Fantastic Four #4 Review
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Stefano Caselli & Nico Leon
Colourist: Erik Arciniega
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Fantastic Four finally return to the 616, and they're just in time to see some classic Marvel villains get into a stand-up fight with the celebrated heroes of the Baxter Building, the Fantastix!

Wait. What?!

If "the Fantastic Four confront cheesy imposters" sounds like a weak premise to you, don't worry. It's meant to be lame, and the goofy Fantastix don't earn the comic's full attention. They are about 50 percent, max, of what's going on in this issue.

When the Fantastix and the Four come into conflict, it's Valeria who saves the day. Fast. With very basic observation and deduction.

The balance of this book is all about stocking Chekov's armoury with guns that are surely going to get taken down and used later. The Future Foundation (under Alex Power, so much for a Power Pack relaunch) keeps exploring, with an added mission to hunt for Owen Reece. The Griever is still out there fuming over her defeat. The Hulk is angry with the FF. Alicia is ready to get married yesterday. And when the Fantastix do get dealt with, it's in a way that definitely suggests we haven't seen the last of them.

On the art front, editor Tom Brevoort informs us on the letters page that we're due for an artist shakeup in the next issue. This one, sadly, demonstrates that the time is right. While all of the work is solid, the joint between the two artists' work is a lot harder to miss this time around. Comparing a Thing from the early pages to a Thing from the back of the book is a recipe for inevitable disappointment.

I don't mean to slag off Nico Leon, the artist for the back half. He's pulled one of the toughest, most thankless gigs in comics: harmonizing with Sara Pichelli's incredibly polished style. He works heroically to do it, and the extent to which he's matched her designs is incredible. But it's just not possible for anybody else to invest those designs with Ms. Pichelli's effortless, naturalistic details.

The back half of the book looks good. But the front half looks great, and comparing the two is unavoidable.

There are some weaknesses in the script as well. After using Franklin productively in the big Griever fight, this issue returns to his chronic problem - how do you integrate an insanely powerful reality-warper into conventional superheroics? The answer given here is an unsatisfying one. Suddenly Franklin's powers are a non-renewable resource he has to conserve?

There's also an issue with the Fantastix beyond their baked-in lameness. They've got a flat stretchy guy impersonating Reed. The Marvel universe already has a guy with that exact power set and modus operandi. Without completely spoiling the whole Fantastix premise (I hope), I can say that Val "Flatman" Ventura would have fit the team perfectly. Casting random newbie Darrel as the Fantastix's "2-D" instead of calling up Flatman is a missed opportunity - and the existence of two joke characters with identical powers strains credulity.

Although I've picked a lot of nits here, I'm still recommending Fantastic Four #4 as a very good comic. Why? Because that Chekov's arsenal is amazing, and all the foreshadowing is matched by some fascinating changes in the family's relationships. 

Valeria's resentment at getting sidelined in combat is intriguing, as is the questionable parenting Reed is laying on her. Ben is moving into an interesting new place as the stable adult of the Fantastic Four. We're fast-tracking to his wedding with Alicia, and I think there's plenty of potential for friction and fun as everybody (Ben included) realizes that Mr. Grimm is poised to leave the nest.

In Fantastic Four #4, it's the new status quo, the new story leads, and the character relationships that impress rather than the immediate conflict with a very silly band of imposters. Previous issues reunited the Fantastic Four; this is where the even more interesting process of re-carving their place in the Marvel Universe begins.

Our Score:

8/10

A Look Inside

Comments

Charles Martin's picture
Okay, yes, I have an obsessive desire to see Flatman make the big leagues and show up in the World's Greatest Comic Magazine. Sue me.
Charles Martin's picture
CORRECTION: The credit block is right and my text is wrong. Stefano Caselli is the first artist on this issue, not Sara Pichelli.

Can I play it like it's complimentary that I confused them? Like, they're both top-tier artists with a superb naturalist line-style?

Well, they are both excellent, but I definitely screwed up. I apologize to the artists and our readers.