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Fantastic Four #509

Posted: Saturday, January 24, 2004
By: Ray Tate



"Hereafter"

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mike Wieringo(p), Karl Kesel(i), Paul Mounts(c)
Publisher: Marvel

The opening to the latest arc of the Fantastic Four is much better than the former arcs. In "Authoritative Action" and "Unthinkable" Reed and Doom greatly departed from previous characterization. Everybody now sounds in character. Mr. Waid imbues some poetry in the way Reed intends to "rescue" the Thing, and he furthermore shows Reed's charisma. Not all the team are fully behind his latest scheme but out of loyalty join him on the excursion.

The return of Mike Wieringo does not just give us a Sue Richards who "isn't bad, just drawn that way." His convincing portrait of Alicia Masters' sorrow is palpable. For anybody confused by the dialogue--Alicia and Ben not being a couple--it signifies one of the top ten stupid things written in the series' history. This was not an invention from Mr. Waid. The cold-blooded breakup between the metaphorical beauty and the beast was simply a means to free Ben from his ties to earth so that he could explore space in a justly short-lived comic book series that capsized like the Titanic. Mr. Waid's inclusion of reaction from Alicia exhibits an understanding of emotional maturity that is more powerful than the Thing's death which is let's face it is a shoulder shrug.

The death of super-heroes is not new. The ancient Greek storytellers killed off Heracles in one myth by having his flesh necrotized by a precursor to the infamous flesh-eating bacterium. In comic books Zahl and Madame Rogue murdered Elasti-Girl. The Spirit King who possessed the body of the Flash to do his dirty work killed Mr. Terrific. The Barry Allen Flash died valiantly, and there is no comic book death that instilled more shockwaves felt to this very day than the death of Supergirl.

Supergirl's death was one of self-sacrifice. The creature she ripped to shreds was no mean villain. The depiction of her final breath by George Perez and Jerry Ordway was one of the most dramatic moments in comic book history. There will be no death more remembered and given more substance in comic books than the death of Supergirl. Even if god exists, and god reads comic books and by her almighty command, Kara returns, Supergirl's death will still be remembered.

The current FF storyarc dovetails from the shallow death of the Thing. There was no good reason for the Thing to die. The method of execution bore the worst of contrivances, and while from the Thing's point of view a sacrifice had been made, the ludicrous situation from the reader's point of view made that sacrifice stuff and nonsense.

The Thing's airy death makes the impact of his retrieval something less weighty than it should be, and the execution of the scenes in which Reed comes to the decision while adequate skip over something that would have at least made the book fun. In the story Reed says that he stole the Thing's body from the government. This casual aside in conversation is not enough. Mr. Waid should have shown Reed infiltrating the installation that kept Thing's body. He should have shown the obstacles Reed had to overcome to retrieve the body. Telling in no detail just isn't enough to explain how it was done.

The FF is a super-hero book, and action is one of the ingredients of a super-hero book. Mr. Waid displays scenes of talk, talk, talk and more talk. While the dialogue is technically well crafted and certainly characteristic it does not give the reader any meat. It's basically denoting what we already knew would happen. Still, this beginning chapter in a new storyarc is better written than the wholes of the previous stories.



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