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Noble Causes: Family Secrets #4

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2002
By: Craig Lemon



Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist: Ian Richardson

Publisher: Image

Well now, my first exposure to Faerber’s superhero soap and it just has to be the last issue in the second mini-series. Great place to check it out, huh? The thing is, I wasn’t really that interested in the concept of superheroes-with-soapsuds-attached, yet another reinvention of the Fantastic Four (or so it seemed to me to be), until I read the mini-interview that squidgey Brandon Thomas had with Jay a couple of weeks ago in his Ambidextrous column. Could I find any of these issues? Could I heck. The first trade isn’t out until February, but a quick call around and a copy of this issue lands on my doormat…

My verdict?

It’s crap. No, I’m only joking, it’s actually a million times better than I thought it would be.

I had envisaged that we’d just be seeing reruns of the Fantastic Four’s greatest hits, except with a few names and arty details changed, but the same sort of thing – missions for the family, bickering between the two kiddy figures, a slightly remote and detached father figure who pulls it out of the hat at the last minute with some dohicky, a mother figure oh-so-tolerant of the testosterone flying around her, the real backbone of the team.

What I actually got (behind a marvellous Michael Avon Oeming cover, this being cover A of issue four) was a major confrontation between the equivalent of Mr Fantastic and Doctor Doom (and, yes, the Mr. Fantastic guy is an inventor and slightly remote from his family) where they actually sit down over a beer (well, almost) and discuss teenage children and the problems of bringing them up…followed up by a wholly unexpected and ultimately humorous final sequence that leaves you gagging for the next mini-series.

This comic is essentially about the Noble family and their spouses, and the trouble and scrapes they get into, and out of, with the superpowers (in this issue, at least) playing a very minor part in the proceedings. I wouldn’t say it’s Dallas with capes exactly, but that’s not too far off. The father of the family I’ve already mentioned, Doc Noble. His wife, and the matriarch is Gaia Noble – one question answered herein is does she have an illegitimate son that Doc doesn’t know about, and if so, who is really the father? Doc and Gaia’s kids are Rusty (think Cliff the robotman from Doom Patrol), Race (aka The Flash, now deceased) and Zephyr (aka Storm, pregnant by person unknown, revealed in this issue).

The Doctor Doom chappy is a mix of Doom and Diablo, called Draconis. His son, Krennick, is a reformed villain, and spends much time with Zephyr – the second half of this comic tells the story of his and her relationship and how Draconis reacts to it. The other Noble kids have/had spouses – Race’s widow is still involved with the family, whereas Rusty’s wife is estranged (she’s had a fling on the side). So there’s a mish-mash of relationships to sort out, but you get a very reader-friendly inside front cover with small pics and bios of each of the main characters, plus a “Previously” paragraph to bring you up to date. I thought the story would get rather confusing with so many balls to keep track of at once, but this didn’t happen at all – I got right into the story from page one, and felt like I’d known these guys for years.

Whether other issues concentrate on characters rather than powers as this one does I’ve yet to find out; my personal taste means I prefer the character moments rather than having four or five pages wasted in yet another slugfest we’ve seen a thousand times before; if this issue is indicative of the series as a whole, then it’s the perfect way to either expand your superhero reading into the world beyond just plain old heroes, or to start the bridgehead into heroes if you’ve never fancied the industry’s obsession with violence.



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