Current Reviews


Marvel Knights 4 #4

Posted: Friday, April 23, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artists: Steve McNiven
Inks: Mark Morales

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Plot:
The book takes us on a day in the life of Reed Richards as he adjusts to his new life as the head of the financially strapped Fantastic Four, and needless to say he's troubled by feelings of failure. However, an encounter with the villain Hammerhead, who also had money stolen from him by the Fantastic Four's money manager, has Reed realize that there is a lower level he can descend to, and he chooses a more optimistic path. We then see his new brighter outlook on life allows him to talk a suicidal man down off a building ledge.

The Good:
Reed Richards takes center stage in this issue and I have to say Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa does a wonderful job of taking us on a day in the life of the head of the family, as there's several wonderful Reed Richards' moments in this issue, from his conversation with Hammerhead, to the scene where he talks a man down off a ledge. I mean Hammerhead has never been much of a villain, as while I hold a great deal of fondness for the old James Cagney/Edward G. Robinson gangster films, I've always found Hammerhead to be a goofy villain, with a downright stupid power. However, the conversation that he has with Reed in this issue is a perfect back and forth display between the harden criminal, and the thinking man that left me truly impressed. The scene on the ledge was also extremely well handled, as not only does it deftly spell out why this man would make his way out on that ledge, but Reed's solution to this problem is a great moment that perfectly plays off the character's ability to make anything sound like it's possible. Plus I absolutely adored the scene where Reed performs his Spider-Man impersonation. I also have the book credit for neatly tying off a loose end as we do learn why Reed and the others haven't gone running to the Avengers for a cash infusion, though one would think that Tony would be a smart enough business man to recognize that putting Reed in the R & D division of Stark Labs would be the ideal solution to both of their recent problems, as it would give Reed the funding and equipment he needs, and Tony would have an employee whose technological prowess rivals his own.

Steve McNiven is a fantastic artist, and if there's one good thing about the CrossGen stable of artists jumping ship it's that this book has managed to snag one of their best. From the lovely cover image that has to be one of the most heroic looking shots of Reed that I've ever come across, to the truly amazing images of World War Two that open the issue, I have to say that the only other artist who has a more impressive grasp of the photo-realistic style that Steve McNiven has mastered would have to be Bryan Hitch, and up to this point Steve McNiven looks to be a more reliable artist when it comes to getting the art out on a monthly basis. I also have to applaud this issue's deliverance of the scene in the limo with Hammerhead, as it's a wonderfully moody piece of work, and drips with menace, as Reed looks to be of the verge of making a deal with the devil. The art also does some lovely work with Reed's stretching power, as there's a great shot where he slips out of hammerhead's limo, and as I've already mentioned I absolutely adored the scene where Reed moves up the side of a building, and the one page shot that ends this scene stands up as the highlight image of the issue.

The Bad:
I will give this book credit for doing a pretty impressive job of climbing out of the hole it dug for itself in the first issue, but it still looks to be avoiding the central issue, as it really hasn't offered up the moment that turned our group into the target of such hostility. I mean I guess we could look to the main title for the answer to this question, but since there are plot elements in this book that keep have set it down a different path, such as their money manager running off with their funds, it's difficult to tie this book to continuity that it playing out in the regular monthly series. Instead this book is calling upon readers to openly accept the idea that it was their fortune that made the Fantastic Four popular, and that when their money was stolen away, the entire city conveniently forgot the idea that were holding parades down main street celebrating their efforts. In the end if Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wants longtime readers to embrace the idea of the Fantastic Four being down and out, he has to provide a better reason than the fact that their crook of a money manager ran off with their money, as making this the reason leaves him open to the criticism that Reed should be able to rebuild the family fortune in pretty short order. He really needs to offer up a defining moment that readers can latch on to as the reason why Joe and Jane Public would have turned their back on the Fantastic Four, and frankly it's getting a little too late in the game to fill in this blank. The book is also still avoiding the question of why Reed hasn't been contacted by the technological firms that populate the Marvel Universe.

Life Is Like A Box Of Melted Chocolates:
This is easily the strongest issue of this series, and it also marks the first time that I've really taken note of the quality of the writing. I mean I still have some serious problems with the central idea at the core of this opening arc, as the book hasn't really dealt with some pressing concerns. However, this issue does offer up a great flashback moment where we see Reed and Tony Stark hold a conversation that neatly ties off the loose end of why the team didn't turn to the Avengers for help. I also have to say there's a wonderful exchange between Reed and the villain Hammerhead, who we learn is yet another victim of the money manager that fled with the team's fortune, and this is a lovely little exchange between two very different characters who find themselves in the same boat. There's also a powerful display of Reed's ability to solve a problem as he encounters a man who is perched on a ledge ready to jump to his death. This scene is a great little Reed Richard's moment, as I loved his continued reassurances that he would be at this man's side even if he was in the middle of saving the world when the call came.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!