Fantastic Four #523

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Rising Storm Part 4 of 4

Written by: Mark Waid
Pencilled by: Mike Wieringo
Inked by: Karl Kesel
Colored by: Paul Mounts
Lettered by: Virtual Calligraphy’s Randy Gentile
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

A few months back I wondered aloud if my enjoyment of Waid’s run on Fantastic Four would ever return to its pre-Frightful Four heights. And while the book has remained consistently interesting since that pondering, I do have to admit that this issue confirms that that loving feeling is indeed gone, gone, gone (whoawhoooo).

The problem is not one of poor dialogue, ugly art, missed characterization, or continuity gaffes (except, perhaps, Quasar’s continued presence on earth. But then that little bit seems to be Marvel’s favorite piece of continuity to ignore. And since it came from Maximum Security, really, who could blame them?). The problem is one of stifling familiarity.

Sue compliments Johnny on having a control that she never properly gave him credit for? Well, that has happened at least once in each of the previous two issues. Alicia Masters tries to help someone realize the value of humanity (theirs or others)? She’s gone down that road a few times before. Galactus being impressed by humanity’s resilience? Actually, I’m not sure if this has happened before or not, but it sure feels like it has. I may not be able to name a specific issue, but I am fairly sure that a big FF-phile out there could school me on it. Besides, it having occurred or not really isn’t the point. It feels overly familiar so that we can predict Galen/Galactus’s proclamation from pretty much page one of this issue.

I know this sounds harsh and I honestly wish that it did not. There are things to be enjoyed here. I appreciate Galen’s constant snacking (despite no longer being Galactus) and his ordinary schlub looks. It makes sense to me, and makes me smile, that Grimm would take Galen to the corner bar in an attempt to wake up his compassion. Even Galactus’s closing speech, predictable though it was, I thought had merit. Sadly, all these elements just do not manage to push it over the top. This arc started strong and has offered some genuine moments of character development for Johnny, but overall, like this closing chapter, it has felt very rote and mediocre to me.

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