Apparently, this has been around at least since October. How is it I’m only seeing this now, and why does it tickle me so? You’d think I’d be a little more mature, since today I reach the Big 3-0. Ah, well – I still don’t look like an adult, so I guess I don’t necessarily have to act like one, hm?
But welcome comic book heads, to this week’s edition of…
I flipped through FANTASTIC FOUR #562 last week, and believe it or not, I’m going to give Mark Millar credit – with this latest effort, he actually managed to capture everything that has been so disappointing in his run thus far, in one single issue.
Y’see, the kind of ideas that Millar has been playing around with are indeed the kinds of things that I’d want to see in a Fantastic Four story. Incidentally, that’s also the problem: he’s just playing around with them. Specifically that by rushing through each concept he’s introduced, he’s not even squeezing half the dramatic potential out of any single one of them. Let’s take Valeria’s sudden intellectual leap, and the resultant change in Reed’s relationship with his two children. We jumped from 2-to-3 year oldValeria holding advanced conversation with Elder Sue a few issues back, to this:
So…that’s it? Reed’s thrilled and Franklin gets a weak punchline? Reed’s not going to be the teensiest bit curious as to how his daughter was able to make such a quantum leap in cognitive ability? Hadn’t he been down this road with Franklin, before the ABRAXAS SAGA wiped out his psionic abilities? Didn’t Reed once have to make the agonizing choice to shut down Franklin’s brain, when his powers seemed to go out of control and threatened his very life? If Mr. Fantastic is ultimately going to be happy about Valeria’s sudden mental spurt, great – but how about showing ushow he gets there?
How about Susan comes face to face with her own mortality – as well as, apparently, her potential longevity – and loss of moral compass.
This should be weird – even by the FF’s standards. But it’s made all the weirder by the way Millar’s portraying them. Susan’s not going to ask herself how it’s possible that she’d live to see what the world would be like some 500 years later? She wouldn’t be appalled on some level, to think of the sort of circumstances that would lead her to risk, even take her brother’s life to make a battery out of Galactus, all for some Hail Mary plan? I could see her doing that to Doctor Doom easily, but Johnny? Someone she loves both as a brother and a son? Shouldn’t we see her wrestling with this?
And then, there’s Johnny having been trapped and tortured by his own sister. Or worse: Johnny having been lured into a sex-baited trap, and then tortured, all of it orchestrated…by his own sister.
“Sure, we’re cool. You did what you had to do, Cindy.” Remarkably enlightened for the team hothead, wouldn’t you say?
This has to be the most disappointing of all, because even if you concede that Elder Sue was from merely a potential future…this was still someone who raised him, using his own weaknesses against him to lure him into a scenario that could’ve resulted in his very painful death. Not only could I see Johnny going through a serious bout of depression following this ordeal, resulting in a self-imposed sabbatical from dating (and if you wanna play up the celebrity angle, have the media relentlessly hounding the rest of the FF about the sudden disappearance of the team superstar), but there should be some serious conflict between him and his sister right now.
As a matter of fact, this is how little sense the actions of the New Defenders make in the larger picture of this arc – especially if this is a team that has a Susan Richards on it. Nobody came to Johnny and said, “We need your help.” Nobody came to Reed and said, “We need your help.” Nobody came to Ben and said, “We need your help.” Nobody came to Sue and said, “We need your help.” This is the Fantastic Four – isn’t that all you’d necessarily have to do, with them? How did nobody think of that? If there’s anyone in the Marvel Universe that you can take the direct approach with, it’s these guys. But then, we wouldn’t have gotten to see Johnny hop into bed with a bank robber, or the manufactured mystery of the identity of the FantastiNanny, so I suppose you do what you have to, to make your story work the way you want it to work.
And finally, we have the Thing being the only person at the moment being anywhere NEAR a normal relationship. This has to be one of Millar’s cooler ideas – nobody getting all sappy about inner beauty and all that mess. A perfectly normal relationship for the most visually abnormal member of the team makes for a great dramatic contrast…
…but you mean to tell me, Mark, that you’re going to pass up on showing us the first meeting between Ben Grimm and Debs’ parents – a scenario that, as far as I know, the Thing has never been in – and instead you’re just going to tell us it happened? You do realize this is a largely visual medium, right?
All of this is great stuff, and all of it thus far has been toyed with at best. For God’s sake, Millar – quit batting the mouse around and DIVE THE HELL IN!
And since when does Doctor Doom have a master? That just doesn’t seem right to me, you know?
If there has been one thing that has ever been integral to Victor Von Doom’s character, it is this: Doom will not concede that there is anyone above him. If Eternity itself were standing across from him, Doom would TOTALLY expect that sucker to bow before HIM! That’s what makes him DOOM! HE does HIS own work – he doesn’t sit in a cell going “nyah-nyah, Daddy’s gonna get yooooou!”
I just don’t get Mark Millar’s choices, I really don’t. Ah well – at least Bryan Hitch made Doom look extra good, I guess. Also, there’s the return of an old chestnut from the ’90s, for which we shall draw open the curtains of KNEE-JERK REACTION THEATRE, and present…
…the return of FANTASTIC FORCE! Well, in title, anyway – COMICSCONTINUUM.comreports an April premiere for this new comic by Joe Ahearne and Steve Kurth spinning out of FANTASTIC FOUR, that will chronicle the ongoing adventures of a team of future heroes who didn’t have enough sense to know that when it comes to the Fantastic Four, if you want their help, all you gotta do is ask.
And MY KNEE-JERK REACTION: Baaaaahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaa!!!!
*wiping away tears* I’m sorry…I need a moment…
I was interning at Marvel when the first FANTASTIC FORCE came out, and because of how typically…90’s that title was, I honestly never thought I’d see it used again. I mean, how is it that this book didn’t get a title all its own, to mark its place in the 21st Century…like DARK NEW DEFENDERS or something?
Nah. That would’ve just been dumb.
Now for a quick stop in DC Nation territory…last week, contained in the back pages of DC’s shipments there was the latest commentary piece from editor-in-chief Dan DiDio, that really caught my notice. I’m just going to let him do the talking – italics and images have been provided by me:
From the time I started working at DC, I had a plan – no, scratch that, a DESIRE to bring back Hal Jordan and Barry Allen.
To me, they were the definitive Green Lantern and Flash, and they helped bring forth a generation of heroes. More important, they were the base from which all other ring-bearers and speedsters would come. Nothing against Kyle and Wally, but you can’t know who they are without knowing who Hal and Barry are first.”
This statement…bothered me. In fact, it was because this comment smacks of exactly the sort of attitude – I almost want to call it arrogance – that is prevalent in the people in charge of the Big Two right now, that led me to coin the writing mantra from last week: The writer is not the writer. The writer is the pen.
“The definitive Green Lantern and Flash”? Says who, Dan? YOU? Who are you to make that call, Dan? “Nothing against Kyle & Wally”…well, maybe there’s a lot of people who not only managed to accept, but really got to enjoy Wally West as the Flash for some twenty years – and Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern for some ten or so years. What about them? Maybe they like Wally and Kyle better in those main roles. You’re gonna tell them what – tough titties, they’re not the REAL Green Lantern or the REAL Flash? Marvel tried that with Ben Reilly ten years ago. How well did THAT work out?
And what about this guy?
Or this one?
I mean, they’re only Alan Scott and Jay Garrick – the FIRST Green Lantern and Flash, respectively. Don’t they count? I mean, besides being the real “base from which all other ring-bearers and speedsters would come,”that is. Do they figure into this in any fashion, or are they just dust in the wind? Let’s say this “Battle for the Cowl” leads to where it looks like it’s going to lead – and if you just read FINAL CRISIS #6, it sure looks like we’re going in this direction…
…and more than that, let’s say it STICKS. For SEVERAL DECADES. What would you say some forty years from now, were someone to decide to declare Dick Grayson as the definitive Batman? Would it occur to you at all sir, the irony of how ridiculous a statement it would be to say that Richard John Grayson is the base from which all other Caped Crusaders would come?
I can only shake my head at such ill-advised declarations, because they completely give away one’s true motivations. Dan DiDio was instrumental in bringing back Hal Jordan and Barry Allen not because they shouldn’t have been replaced, or because their replacements were somehow lacking. The reasoning that they were the “definitive” iterations of Green Lantern and the Flash is a total rationalization. No – Hal Jordan and Barry Allen are back not because they were the “definitive” Green Lantern and Flash, they were Dan DiDio’s favorite Green Lantern and Flash, and he simply wanted them back. He found a kindred spirit in Geoff Johns, and here we are. That’s what you call putting story second, and that is not what you’re there to do, Dan.
It’s such a shame – stories like FINAL CRISIS, or even the SINESTRO CORPS WAR and the upcoming BLACKEST NIGHT could have gone a long way towards strengthening both Wally and Kyle as characters and as heroes worthy of their predecessors. Talk about a golden opportunity lost to the tandem shrine of Jordan and Allen. Ah well – I’d have a snappy wrap-up for this one, but…
…we’re a week away now, and I’m just too excited. 🙂
Til Day One of President Barack Obama, I’m Greg Manuel and I’m just sayin’, is all…