“Cosmic Ray Rampage; Remember the Alamo; Domestic Disturbance”
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Chris Weston and Gary Erskine
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Reed and his friends are released from military observation, but on the condition that they function with military interests in mind. Someone else has gotten out as well.
Comments: Chris Weston is the best choice of illustrator for Casey’s fresh take on the Four, which aims to ground them in a more compelling realism than the giddy sci-fi days of their first origin. Weston’s almost macabre realism puts the emphasis on the mundane and the freakish in high contrast. His figures are far from ideal, even the attractive ones, and they have a weight and a solidity that makes actions and their consequences seem all too fraught with potential human flaws.
Reed comes out of his stupor and he and Johnny, Ben and Sue attempt to subdue another captive radiation victim, who goes on a deadly rampage. Their heroism is shown up in the battle, especially in contrast to the military presence, as faceless soldiers summarily execute the threat.
I didn’t expect Casey to free the team so quickly from confinement, but here we see them set up speedily in New York, and they face the first few threats of yore (including the Mole Man) off-screen. Casey is more interested in the military bureaucracy’s attempts to contain the Four as assets rather than threats. The influence of Straczynski’s Supreme Power is felt in this approach, though JMS crucially centers events on an America of the present. There’s a strange timeless quality to FFFF, as remote controls and Think-Pad computers proliferate, but the military and the Four look and act more like holdovers from decades old B-movies.
As does the fifties ideal family revealed in the final chapter in a gruesome sequence focusing on the new antagonist for this tale, another military escapee who doesn’t seem to be Dr. Doom, but some sort of insidious psychic genius.
I’m guessing Casey wishes to underline the family loyalty of the FF in contrast to this murderous loner, but I’m unsure after this issue about what’s being saved and what’s being discarded from the iconic tales of the Four. The addition of concerns about media and public perception and governmental control is timely, but I expect more novelty than that in this new take on old favorites.
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