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Fantastic Four #503

Posted: Saturday, August 30, 2003
By: Ray Tate



"Authoratative Action": Part One

Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Howard Porter(p), Norm Rapmund(i), Matt Milla(c)
Publisher: Marvel

It's difficult to read Fantastic Four after one learns about the intercompany shenanigans that led to Mark Waid being ousted. It's a book that's even harder to judge when one learns about the future plans in store for Marvel's first family. They sound perfectly hideous, and I expect massive reader fallout after first issue by the new writer working under the half-assed plans of Bill Jemas.

How much of what is in this story is in actuality Mr. Waid's attempt to bend the FF to better suit the Jemas Mayberry redo? How much was actually the direction Mr. Waid intended? I can see how the events in this latest story can lead the FF to Petticoat Junction. So how much of the story is story, and how much is new-direction?

It's difficult to judge the FF nowadays knowing all of these goofball plots, schemes, rumors and facts. It's not impossible.

Despite my feeling that Dr. Strange should have been able to fix Reed's face or at least make him an offer of magical cosmetic surgery, the story is still a pretty good one. Mr. Waid does not forget that Doom to the world was a despot but to Latveria a super-hero. He personalizes the theme by briefly giving insight to a Latverian soldier's thoughts and feelings over the many armies waiting to storm Latveria's borders. Mr. Waid does not forget that the FF witnessed what happened the last time Doom was removed from the throne. He uses this as a premise and gives more pragmatic reasons to explain the motivation behind the story.

Mr. Waid again provides scintillating characterization for the quartet, and they look fantastic thanks to JLA artist Howard Porter. They not only look good. Mr. Porter symbolizes the story through the art. He groups Ben, Sue and Johnny, but Reed estranges himself from his family. Reed keeps his plans to himself, even more than usual. Mr. Waid seems to be suggesting that Reed's genius has crossed the line, and Mr. Porter provides the absence of propinquity and a look of self-absorption to reinforce the supposition. Sue is his wife, yet he only touches her when she's physically hurt. Reed does not hold her hand. He does not look at her. She does not share space with him. All very clever.

Fantastic Four may be heading down a dark road, but Mr. Waid is still paving the road if not with gold certainly then bronze. Howard Porter's contribution is welcome and fits the darker tone. While he cannot give the FF the grandeur he bestowed to the JLA, he makes you never doubt who these characters are unless that doubt is Mr. Waid's intent.



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