Editor's Note: Fantastic Four: True Story #2 arrives in stores tomorrow, August 27.
In the first issue of this miniseries, we saw the Fantastic Four enter the world of fiction, a sort of shared human subconscious experience encompassing the entirety of fictional works, in order to combat a menace to humanity's imagination. It's a great concept, rife with possibilities for interaction with famous literary characters. What sort of crazy adventures would writer Paul Cornell be able to come up with?
Well, he certainly tries, but I don't know how well he succeeds. The first half of this second issue is spent having the team defend the sisters from Sense and Sensibility from a horde of monsters, which seems surprisingly difficult for our heroes. It's not a bad scene, but the Fantastic Four is best when using crazy science concepts to battle weird evil, not just having big brawls. There are some interesting ideas put forth, like the way the world of fiction is affected by the perceptions of the "real world" characters (the Human Torch causes the Jane Austen characters to begin talking in text message lingo) and vice versa (the sisters' view of the Thing turns him into what looks like a toy soldier made of rocks), but many of them seem half-formed; they're not thought out or explained especially well.
The second half of the issue sees them all travel into Ivanhoe and raise a force of characters like Frankenstein's monster and Natty Bumppo to fight the bad guys. Like much of the rest of the story, it's an interesting idea, but too much time is given over to silly jokes, like characters from a censored version of Shakespeare's plays saying things like, "be silent, or I shall talk harshly to you in the arsenal." I'm all for humor, but the lighthearted atmosphere makes this all seem like a fun romp, rather than a real threat.
Horacio Domingues' artwork probably doesn't help either; he doesn't really sell the menace of the monsters very well. His style is kind of quirky, like something from an indie book, rather than the usual superhero art that Marvel publishes, and while it's not bad, it might not be the best choice for this story. Everything seems so bright and cheery, even in the midst of what should be a scary monster battle. He does come up with a pretty striking image or two near the end, when the big villain is revealed; maybe the tone will turn more appropriately dark in the second half of the series.
So, I suppose it's a mixed issue, with some neat concepts that could have stood to be more fully explained. It's nothing that I would encourage people to avoid, but we'll have to see where the rest of the series goes before I would give it a recommendation.
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