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Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #1

Posted: Friday, June 10, 2011
By: Ray Tate

Brandon Montclare
Michael Wm Kaluta, Bryan Bodenheim, Simon Bisley
Marvel
Something's spreading fear among the populace of the Marvel Universe. Such fear attracts Man-Thing, "For Whatever Knows Fear, Burns at the Man-Thing's Touch." Howard the Duck and She-Hulk attempt to peacefully deal with the Man-Thing, and along the way, Nightwing and the Frankenstein Monster join the party. How could anyone resist such a team formation? Not me, and legend Michael Wm Kaluta's presence certainly sweetened the deal.



Kaluta illustrates the Man-Thing and Nighthawk sequences. He's right at home. Kaluta worked with Bernie Wrightson. While his literally lighter style differs sharply from Wrightson's moody and shadowy art, Kaluta's rendering of a swamp monster gone amok is perfect especially when juxtaposed against the innocence of a child and young lovers.

Kaluta cut his teeth on Batman covers, and it's no surprise that he accomplishes the Dark Knight's first Marvel analogue with stylish ease. Montclare brings back some of Nighthawk's original edginess. Combined with Kaluta's treatment of the hero and Chris Sotomayor's startling colors evoking the pale, spilt blood of Nighthawk's foes, Nighthawk reminds the reader of Christian Bale's Batman. Nighthawk is more emotive and bombastic than Kaluta's tight-lipped, ethereal Batman. A parallel to the way Christian Bale handled the Dark Knight when contrasted to Michael Keaton's subtler, underplayed cool-headed classic.



As one might expect Kaluta outperforms Ryan Bodenheim, but Bodenheim is a good artist. Bodenheim's Howard the Duck takes getting used to, since he leans Howard strangely toward the George Lucus bomb design rather than the shabby Disney parody. Bodenheim's She-Hulk is a pretty, proportionate, pulchritudinous, pistachio powerhouse. His Frankenstein Monster is a little cleaner than those who read the Pablo Marcos magazines might expect. However, Bodenheim's version echoes the friendly Dick Briefer incarnation. As such, it's a perfectly valid vision.

Given the high caliber artwork, it's easy to overlook the elements of plot and characterization, but Montclare's personae for the heroes all feel authentic, and Howard displays a great deal of pathos because something weighs heavily on his narrow shoulders. Also, for the first time, somebody actually suggests that the blinding fear that spread among the populace might be caused by an outside force. Readers of my reviews will recall that the inexplicable behavior of some of the cops toward the heroes bugged the hell out of me. Fearsome Four provides an explanation but does not solve the mystery.



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