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Fantastic Four #538

Posted: Monday, July 3, 2006
By: Shawn Hill



ďStreet Fighting"

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Mike McKone (p), Andy Lanning, Kris Justice, Cam Smith (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics


Plot: Sue, Ben and Reed have a lot of thinking to do about the current ďMarvel Comics Event.Ē Johnny canít do much thinking, as heís comatose. Reedís mind seems already made up anyway.

Comments: JMS seems schizophrenic to me these days. How can the same manís words ring so hollow in one book (Amazing Spider-Man), and yet hit all the right notes in another? While Reed remains callous and opaque (as he has occasionally seemed before when lost in thought), no one gets as dumbed-down as Peter has been to so blindly follow Iron Man into the mess heís making.

Peterís anguish may have been convincing, but encouragement from the women in his life in favor of his momentous decision rang false. While itís nice to see Peter rely so much on his wife and aunt for guidance, the Aunt May of recent issues has reverted to the platitude spouting senior citizen of olden days. Mary Jane as well has lost all shadings of character in her cheerleading. While itís true that Sue plays her traditional distaff role, itís also a role that actually matters. She does the work Reed refuses to validate and connects ties of friendship, family and loyalty to the tough decisions hanging over everyoneís heads these days, thanks not to the New Warriors or even Nitro, but largely to Tony and Reed. This side of her character was identified as far back as What If? Vol. 1 #6. In that issue, the FF got different powers, still tied to their personality traits. Sue gained the stretching abilities, because of how malleable she was in accommodating everyone elseís needs.

Sheís just one voice in the story so far, however, as the action shifts over to Ben. His Yancy Street Gang has taken a decidedly resistant stance, and here JMS sounds great, too, linking these urban boys from the hood with their personal outsider heroes such as Daredevil. Ben, who hasnít made up his mind, has to listen to their words and reasoning, and this is a different brand of average citizens than those who are hysterically panicked about the Superhero Problem.

This team, this family, is going to be shattered by the brewing storm, you can feel it coming. Not least by familiar villains (the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master) plotting in the shadows ways to take advantage of the rift in the heroic community. JMS achieves a decent depiction of the fallout of this event on a human level, with plenty of room for individual reaction. He knows the heroes donít need to be made human, they already are feeling and thinking beings.

Now if only Spidey could wise up again, too.

And, oh yeah, Thorís back.



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