Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Mike Wieringo (p), Karl Kesel (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens by showing us that Reed likes to get outside the lab every now & again, as he finds the sensory overload of Times Square will often help him uncover the answers that have eluded him in the lab. We then see he alerts Sue to a rather worrisome discovery, as the nightmarish incident in Val's room last issue might be the result of Val having powers similar to Franklin's, and the couple races home to test this theory. As Reed's barrage of tests reveal Val possesses no extra abilities, we see one of Reed's inventions has caught Johnny's eye, as he's struggling to deal with the financial responsibilities that Sue has saddled him with, and Reed's new computer with an infinite memory looks to be just the corner cutting device he needs. However, we see this computer might be the source of the latest threat to endanger the team, as we see a complex equation that Reed has entered into the device looks to come to life. We then join Sue & Ben, as they are out enjoying a movie together, when the sentient equation emerges, and we discover this entity has the ability to break down anything it wishes into its basic chemical components. As Sue's right arm is dissolved, and Ben's rocky hide is partially eaten away, we see their attacker reveals that it's in love with Reed.
To put it simply Mark Waid has brought a sense of imagination back to this series, as these pages are filled with cool little moments that serve to remind me of how utterly cool I found the Fantastic Four's world when I first stumbled across it. From the opening little bit where Reed explains to Sue why she can see an invisible object, to the panel that shows us what Ben does when he's left to baby-sit Franklin & Val, Mark Waid shows a wonderful understanding of the idea that it's the little details that make the bigger picture work so well. It also doesn't hurt that this issue introduces us to a fairly terrifying new threat, as we see this creature handily defeat two of the team's most powerful members, before it makes a decidedly creepy final page revelation. The book is also filled with the little character moments, like the playful back & forth banter between Reed and Sue in the opening sequence, or the frank conversation that Ben has with Sue about her recent efforts to force Johnny to act like an adult. There's also the fun little throwaway scenes, like where Reed reveals that he was paid three million not to release one of his revolutionary inventions on the market, or Ben's movie watching chair.
I think the one word that sums up the new creative team of this book is fun, and not to beat the idea into the ground, but this is the first time since John Byrne's run ended that I can't wait for the next issue of this series. Oh there's been some great work done on this book in the fifteen-plus years since John Byrne left the title, and I'm sure if one cared to, you'll probably find me making similar remarks about the early issues of Carlos Pacheco's recent run. However, this new start has me extra excited as frankly I'm not left with the sense that Mark Waid is simply trying to recapture the lighting in a bottle that made John Byrne's run such a success with fans, but rather I see Mark Waid taking the basic concept of the Fantastic Four, and simply letting his imagination run wild. I mean there's been more cool ideas in the first three issues of this run than I've seen in an entire year's worth of stories on the other runs. What's more Mark Waid has truly surprised me with how he's approached the book, as every writer that's touched this book over the past decade has played up the explorers first angle, and they're a family not a team angle, but Mark Waid is paying more the lip service to these ideas. This book is easily one of the more enjoyable relaunches the new Marvel has delivered.
Mike Wieringo is proving to be the ideal artist for this title, as his style is clean, yet highly energetic. In fact, one look at the double-page spread that opens this issue, and one can't help but be impressed by the art's ability to capture the sheer visual splendor of this environment. The art is also wonderfully expressive, as how can one not love the playful look on Sue's face in the opening scene as she messes around with her invisible husband. There's also the design of the latest threat to the Fantastic Four, as while Paul Mounts deserves the lion's share of the credit for the imaginative coloring effects used on this character, I also have to admit that Mike Wieringo makes this villain's ability to disassemble a targeted object, or person down to their very chemical elements is chillingly captured by the art. I mean that panel where Ben's rocky hide is literally flying apart does a wonderful job of telling the reader this entity is very dangerous. There's also the cool toys that litter the background of Reed's lab, the one page spread where we see Ben holding up the collapsing wall of the movie theater, and the page details Ben's tumble through the floor into the subway tunnel below.
I'll admit I'm a big fan of Mark Waid's previous work, and I've been a loyal follower of the Fantastic Four for as long as I've been collecting comics. With this in mind, I can't hide the fact that I probably enjoy this material far more that the newer reader who might've been pulled into the book by the nine cent issue. I mean, I've been with this book for 20+ years, and as such I've been on the book during it's high points, and equally I've been there for its lows, so any time the book looks to be entering the latter, I'm always a bit blinded by the simple fact that this book is good again. Based on these first three issue, I can't help but like what I see. Mark Waid seems to get the idea that the Fantastic Four can be interesting contemporary characters, and not merely tired echoes of the personalities that Stan Lee created in the 1960s. He's also is nicely playing up the idea that the FF function in their own little world where the extraordinary is everyday, as one has to love the casual way these characters deal with the barrage of wonders that surround them.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!