Fantastic Four #4 (Comics Review)

In the first three issues of his run on Fantastic Four, writer James Robinson has created the framework and structure for a really dark story that is going to break apart Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four, the original four. From the very first issue we know that the family struggles against betrayal and lack of trust and that the events as we are seeing them here are all flashbacks to what has already happened. It creates a certain feeling of “10 minutes to midnight” and you know that things are going to head downwards pretty damn soon. And that is exactly what happens in this new issue.

Fantastic Four #4 sees the team go up against the Frightful Four, a bunch of C-grade villains of the Marvel-verse who have a bone to pick with the heroes and who are pretty much out for blood. With Johnny depowered in the second issue, the team is down a man, but as you can see from the cover, the backup FF team enters the fray here and together they all win over the bad guys. But, turns out that things are much more dire than they seemed and the final twist in this issue really sent me reeling from the absurdity of it, as well as the impact that it is going to have on these characters.

Fantastic Four 04This new issue is mostly an intense action sequence, with little bits of character development strewn about but at the same time it does have a strong feeling of balance between the two because James Robinson uses the action to inform on these characters, whether good or bad, and gives you enough to go on and stick with the story right to its surprising ending. What I really liked here was that we final begin to get hints that there’s been a larger mind at work here, given everything that the Fantastic Four have gone through, right from the first issue against an old, classic villain of theirs. There’s a criminal mastermind who is pulling at the strings, setting the team up for a major fall, and you really start to feel that at the end of the story.

James’ story here is pretty fast-paced given all the action, and yet you never feel lost because he devotes ample attention to all the characters, irrespective of who they are, whether the Fantastic Four or the FF or the Frightful Four. I had some concerns while reading that the story might bend under the weight of so many characters, but James pulls it all off by the end, and with that he shows how and why he is one of the best writers in the industry right now. He gets all these characters and he knows how to communicate the essence of who they are and what they are to the reader.

My favourite bits of this issue undoubtedly were the ones that dealt with Johnny, who is depowered at the moment. In his situation, you’d think that he wouldn’t be of much use to the team and would just be dead-weight. Truth is, he is anything but, and that’s the fun part of the story. Sure, Johnny feels like crap because of everything, but there’s a ray of sunshine here for him, and he just has to realise that, hopefully. After all, there are ample characters in comics who have done big things without ever having powers. They’ve just utilised their skills and natural non-powered abilities to the max.

As the overall story moves into what I think is the second phase of the arc, I can’t wait to see how James begins to break up this team, to expose all the flaws lurking beneath the surface. That’ll be fun.

Leonard Kirk’s pencils, with inking by Karl Kesel and Jay Leisten, and the colours by Jesus Aburtov make this one of the best-looking issues of this past week, and certainly among the best I’ve seen this year. Just as with the writing, the art at times looks like it is struggling with all these characters and the necessary details, but the art team pulls through and they make it an experience that is definitely worth your while. The trick, I think is on focusing on a few key characters for each scene and being crazy-good with the expressions!

As far as I’m concerned, this issue rocked, though I think that the fight sequence was dragged out a bit too long and it is weird to see Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk in a different costume than the one she has in her own solo-title right now.

Rating: 9.5/10

More Fantastic Four: #1, #2, #3.

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Posted on May 18, 2014, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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