Comic reviews- Fantastic Four #554

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Gokitalo: “So good, I FUDOed in Sue’s mouth… and Reed didn’t even notice”
Gokitalo: … too strong?
spiffygy: lol
spiffygy: id do it
Gokitalo: even if the comic was bad
spiffygy: especially
spiffygy: if it was
Gokitalo: It’d be like, our only consolation
spiffygy: shed love it too
Gokitalo: We’d make an Invisible Woman out of her
spiffygy: lol a bit much
Gokitalo: We’ve probably already crossed the line by now
spiffygy: truth

When I heard Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch would be taking over Fantastic Four, I was both excited and skeptical. On one hand, their work on The Ultimates and Ultimates 2 was great fun and I’ve enjoyed Millar’s writing and Hitch’s pencils elsewhere. On the other hand, Millar’s characters can sometimes sound very similar and Hitch’s faces, especially when he’s rushed, can look very similar (not to mention heavily photo-referenced). Fortunately, these flaws are kept at a bare minimum in this first issue, which, while not as groundbreaking as some of their other work (again, Ultimates), is a strong, very accessible start to what looks to be an exciting run.

If there’s one thing to said about this first issue, it’s that Millar and Hitch don’t like keeping the FF in one place for long. In the course of 22 pages, the Fantastic Four end up in the Old West, the Baxter Building, a school and a place which I won’t reveal for all you spoilah-haters out there. Similarly, Millar introduces plenty of plot elements that will likely come up again throughout his run: the Invisible Woman’s all-new super-team, Johnny Storm’s latest “project,” the return of “Mrs. Fantastic” (she’s never been called that, but she actually is someone fans have seen before) and one member’s blossoming romance with a new character. Not to mention the surprise at the end of this issue, which is quite different from Millar’s usual cliffhangers, but it suits the FF perfectly.

What really impressed me about the issue the most, however, were the characterizations. Don’t expect to see the FF sounding all cynical and spouting Millarisms like “oh please” and “meatball.” Instead, Millar writes the characters straight: Reed is the brilliant, albeit absent-minded scientist, Ben is the lovable tough guy, Johnny isn’t entirely familiar with the concept of “maturity” and Sue knows how to bring everyone down to Earth. Franklin sounds like a real kid and Valeria… well, she’s young, so speaking may not be her strong suit yet.

Of course, Millar isn’t doing the heavy lifting by himself. Hitch brings the same incredible amount of detail he’s known for, although his pencils aren’t quite as refined as they’ve been in other projects. His backgrounds and architecture are as meticulously rendered as ever, but some of his faces look like they’ve been redrawn a few times. I suspect this may be due to the speed at which Hitch has said he’s been drawing these issues; frankly, I prefer this to the excruciating delays Ultimates went through while Bryan was trying things “just right.” Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see these problems correct themselves in future issues.

I should also mention the new costumes and the cover design. I don’t feel particularly strongly about the costumes either way: they’re kind of a hybrid between their classic and “Ultimate” costumes (not surprising, since this has been marketed as “The World’s Most Ultimatest Comic Magazine”). As for the new cover design, I appreciate the intent, but I’m not sure putting the Fantastic Four banner on the bottom was the best move. Putting it on the top might be better, but then some further changes would have to be made. I did see a tweaked version of this cover online, however, so I suspect they’re still working out the final design.

Aside from that and the kinks I mentioned earlier, however, this was a good start to what will hopefully be a [dare I say it] fantastic journey.

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One Response to “Comic reviews- Fantastic Four #554”

  1. spiffyithaca Says:

    I daresay that I will have to give this a shot. I’m a fan of Millar and Hitch’s work in general, but in my mind, they work best in tandem, such as on The Ultimates. However, I’m not sure I like the idea of it being marketed as the Ultimatest Comic Magazine. Lame.

    And thank god there are no “meatball”‘s in this ish.

    Great review Goki. You already got this thing down pat.

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