"Dream Fever, Part 1 of 2"
Writer: Karl Kesel
Artists: Tom Grummett (p), Lary Stucker (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The Fantastic Four return home from a mission and find themselves thrown headfirst into another crisis when their old enemy Diablo shows up and transforms all the lead pipes in an old building into gold. He then threatens the do the same to an entire city block unless the Fantastic Four grant him access to their time machine, as he wants to travel back to his home time period and use his alchemy abilities to carry out his vengeance on the tormentors that drove him into hiding. The Fantastic Four also have to deal with the unusual problem involving their dreams.
Comments: Karl Kesel has made it pretty well known that writing The Fantastic Four would be his dream assignment, and it does seem like whenever there's a gap in-between the creative teams he's right there to provide the fill-in issues. What's more, whenever he's gotten the opportunity to provide issues, he's done a lovely job of it, so frankly I've always felt a little sad when they announce the book's new creative team, and Karl Kesel is left sitting on the sidelines once again. I realize that he might not generate the buzz that Marvel is looking for one of its flagship titles, and with the upcoming movie, I understand why Marvel went for one of its more high profile creators, but from a creative stand point, I would have been far more excited if Karl Kesel had been given the job as his fondness for Marvel's first family is ever so apparent. As his various fill-in assignments have also shown, he has a very firm handle on what makes these characters work. For example, this issue has a lovely talking heads sequence as the Fantastic Four discuss their troubles over breakfast, and you know a writer is perfect for this title when he is able to make a scene like this so engaging. The issue also manages to come up with a pretty interesting plan for Diablo to use against the team, as the threat to transform a city block into gold would actually do more than cause a panic, in that the gold market would go in the toilet, as would the gold-based American dollar. The secondary threat involving the messed up dreams that the team are having was also a lot of fun, as it's actually quite interesting to try and figure out whose dreams belong to whom. One has to smile at Johnny's reaction when he discovers that he's been having someone else's dreams, as one can only imagine what was setting him off.
I've been seeing Tom Grummett's name gracing the credit box of a number of books recently, and I'm delighted to see Marvel has let him run with the ball, as he's a fine artist with a proven track record when it comes to getting the issues out on a timely basis. His work on this issue serves as a nice eye opener should The Fantastic Four ever find itself in need of an artist, as there's some lovely visuals in this issue; The Thing is allowed to be a one-man wrecking crew during the battle sequence, and there's a number of moments where the art has some fun with the team and their powers (e.g. the scene where Sue turns the walls transparent, or the throw away visual where a dead tired Reed stretches). The art also effectively conveys the idea that the Fantastic Four are suffering from sleep depravation as it offers up the important little visual touches like the bags under the eyes, and the general lethargic posture of the characters. The art also does a pretty fair job of capturing the surreal quality of the character's dreams, though the art could've gone a little more Steve Ditko on the background visuals.
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