FF#1 McGuiness variant
The Fantastic Four has traditionally been one of the best superhero comic books on the racks. When it was created, the series was a blend of the sci-fi/horror elements that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were familiar with along with the traditional superheroic genre.There are several unique characteristics to the FF, chief amongst them being that they function as a family. That family met with tragedy recently when Johnny Storm was killed defending our world from an attack beyond our dimension stemmed from the Negative Zone.
While the Fantastic Four had an auspicious start, it has to be said that the comic was not always at its best. With the arrival of writer Jonathan Hickman, the series has found new footing and become one of the most amazing series out there. The restart series, simply called FF, has quite a job cut out for it in continuing the good work he started and the unprecedented new readers that picked up the issue where Johnny Storm died.
FF #1 is essentially a new beginning as the team enlists a new member, a new sense of purpose and tries to steer itself through grief into a wondrous future. Reed Richard’s time-traveling father Nathaniel has plenty of advise and much of it is not to Reed’s liking, though Mister Fantastic tries to swallow his pride and go along with the decisions that he must make in order to secure the future. Valeria Richards offers a whole slew of troubles as the most petulantly brilliant child on the team. Her cliffhanger decision will either get you excited or infuriated as the team’s roster swells to include yet another unexpected new member.
The addition of Spider-Man is a long time coming. As a member of the Avengers, I honestly find him to be a square peg forced into a round hole. But as a member of the FF, he makes perfect sense, especially as he is taking Johnny Storm’s place. Peter Parker is the perpetually self-doubting loner who dearly needs a family and he has certainly found one with the FF. I look forward to seeing his character blossom in this new role even though it will mean over-exposure of the character in far too many titles than I can count.
The artwork by Steve Epting continues to impress with staggering layouts, eye-catching designs and plenty of action. If, like me, you recall loving the Fantastic Four as a kid but have been reluctant to pick up the modern series fearing that it would disappoint, hesitate no longer.
I have to admit that I never really had that much love for Thor. It’s not that I dislike the character, but I have traditionally found him on the boring side. His most recent relaunch by JMS has of course changed all of that and I am now a happy convert to the Hammer Gang. The hand over from JMS to Gillan and now Fraction was a bit bumpy but there have been extraordinary stories along the way.
Most recently, the story of a threat from beyond the nine realms has kept Thor busy. So busy in fact, that he has resurrected Odin the all-father who was happily enjoying his salad days fighting Surtur forever. An unknown and deadly enemy has attacked the other realms of the Great Ash Tree, causing a band of refugees to land on Asgard’s door-step (still located in OK). Unfortunately, Asgard has seen better days and is in ruins. As the ‘World Eaters’ descend upon the gathered survivors, the townsfolk of Broxton, Oklahoma attempt to prepare for the worst as a rain of blood falls around them.
Things are bad.
Furious that his son has brought him back into the realm of the living, Odin calls upon ancient magic and raises an army of corpses, earth and blood to fight the World Eaters. An awesome sight, it only causes mirth from the strange enemies who clang swords with their Asgardian giants.
While I have enjoyed the more human approach of JMS and the traditional adventure tales by Gillan, this is exactly what a Thor book needs to be. Writer Matt Fraction and artist Pascal Ferry have created a rock opera for the printed page. This series is so dynamic and explosive that I am surprised when each successive issue tops the last.
Amazing Spider-Man #656
I have previously praised Dan Slott for breathing strong life into the Spider-Man universe. Sure, it had a rocky start, but the turn of events that has both weakened Spidey’s abilities and strengthened his resolve is exciting.
Determined to stop kidding around and finally mature into the superhero that he was always meant to be, the new Peter Parker is hardly a slacker or a schmuck. A gifted inventor, he works at a braintrust corporation where he puts his mind to finding solutions to impossible problems. When I read the old 1960′s Spidey books by Lee and Ditko it was clear to me that there was a plan to gradually transform this awkward teen into a capable adult and was disappointed to see subsequent creators fail to follow through with that plan. Slott seems to get this and delivers the goods without forcing Parker out of character or making him ‘grim’ or ‘dark.’
The second in a two part story, Parker is faced with a terrorist who is emotionally stunted. Threatening to blow up innocent civilians, he fails to feel any remorse or anxiety, only anger. Without his spider-sense, Spider-Man is more vulnerable than ever before. Unable to predict his enemy’s actions, he is easily shot and wounded. But that will not stop Parker’s plan to prevent the loss of life, leading to another series of ingenious inventions that assist his battle with super criminals.
The new ‘armored suit’ is another in a line of new costume designs, but each one has been specifically created to overcome an obstacle that Spider-Man’s built-in abilities could not. I am so happy that the smart inventor has finally blossomed out of the smart-alec wise ass that has ruled this character for far too long.
This series has honestly been going from strength to strength. The rotating creative team of the ‘Brand New Day’ era was hit and miss. I was so unsure of what I would get each month that I sometimes dreaded the new issue. But with Dan Slott, I feel the series is in safe hands.
What a great book!