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Marvel Knights 4 #3

Posted: Friday, March 19, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artists: Steve McNiven (p), Mark Morales (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Plot:
As the Fantastic Four move their belongings out of the Baxter Building we see the group is coping with the situation in their own way. As Reed decides he needs to get his butt into gear, and join the others by getting a job, we see Ben is made aware of a situation that is developing at his work, as his healthy work ethic threaten to put everyone else out of a job. As Johnny turns down a job offer, in favor of a job where he feels he could do more good, we see the issue ends with the team reflecting by on the happy times they've had in the Baxter Building together.

The Good:
Not half bad. I mean if one ignores the ungainly premise that has stripped the team of its fortune, and the halfhearted efforts to establish why they would have such a difficult time rebuilding it, than this issue is actually a pretty enjoyable reading experience. In fact one of the more enjoyable elements of this issue is the fact that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa seems to recognize the various personality aspects that make up the team, as this results in several truly engaging moments where the characters are doing little more than interacting with each other. I mean there's a great little scene between Reed and Franklin, which nicely plays up the relationship the father/son two share, and frankly it's nice to see Franklin getting some panel time as most times the character is presented as a background element that the team encounters from time to time rather than a fairly important part of Reed and Sue's world. There's also a solid little scene where we see Ben runs into a bit of a problem at work, as I have to say I rather enjoyed the fact that Ben's boss is allowed to come across as pretty reasonable, which actually makes it easier to see why he would rise to a position of authority, as far too often the higher ups are presented as unreasonable buffoons who make one openly wonder why they were ever placed in a position where they would hold any authority. I also enjoyed the brief bit of action in this issue as Reed is called upon to deal with a trio of trigger-happy bank-robbers, as their reaction to his attack was pretty cute.

Steve McNiven is a fantastic artist and if nothing else I'd recommend this book to fans looking for a solid display of art. There's some lovely pieces of work in this issue from the shot of Ben and Johnny is heated combat with each other, to the wonderful sequence in the final pages where the team reflects back on the happier times as they leave the Baxter Building. In fact it's this work on these final pages that really warmed me to this issue, as these panels managed to perfectly capture the family feel that is at the core of the group's appeal. The art also does some solid work simply telling the story as there's a quiet sadness to the image of Reed standing in an unemployment line, and the scene where Ben is on the job site, the art manages to deftly convey why the other men on the job site would be a bit concerned. There's also a wealth of charming little details like the notes pinned to the bulletin board behind the lady at the unemployment office, or the fact that we can actually tell what movie the Fantastic Four have gathered together to watch, and Reed's thumbs up recommendation.

The Bad:
While this book shows a strong understanding of the Fantastic Four, it completely falls apart when one makes an attempt to place it within the larger confines of the Marvel Universe. I mean Mark Waid is delivering a fairly similar story over in the pages of his title, and I have less trouble embracing his version as he included a reason why Joe and Jane Public would turn their backs of the Fantastic Four, something which Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has utterly failed to do. I guess my really problem with his work is that he seems unable to think beyond the confines of his plot premise that he's come up with, as I'm sure I'm not the only reader who has come up with dozens of means for the Fantastic Four to get back on their feet. I mean there are some signs that he's put some thought into how the group would fit into the real world, as Ben's problems at work is nicely presented, but if one remembers that Marvel Universe Manhattan is home to battles the destroy entire city blocks on a regular basis, one has to openly wonder why "Damage Control" hasn't come seeking Ben's services? There's also something truly silly about the idea that Reed Richards has to wait in line at the unemployment office, when one would expect there would be technology firms lined up for blocks to bid for his services. In fact the only job that made sense was the offer that Johnny turns down in this issue, as it's exactly the type of project I can see Johnny being approached with. Oh well, at least the book didn't forget about Willie Lumpkin, as he's allowed to say good-bye.

Lives Of The Formerly Rich And Famous:
A well written character study that works far better if one is able to ignore the central premise of this opening arc, as Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa does have a solid understanding of how these characters would deal with a crisis like this. I mean If one can accept that Reed would have difficulty getting a job, than there is something rather engaging about watching the character deal with the sense of helplessness that one feels when one finds themself out of work. The book also manages to nicely capture Ben's need to feel like he's pulling his weight, as I honestly believe that he wasn't aware of the problem he was creating with his machine like work ethic. There's also a nice quiet moment where we see Reed and Franklin enjoy a moment together, and Franklin's reaction to the idea that his dad has gotten himself a normal job was a cute little moment. However, I'm still not convinced there's a big demand for a domesticated Fantastic Four, as their out-of-this-world adventures are what earned the group its fan-base, and one wonders how long fans will stick around if its biggest draw is solid character interaction.



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