Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest TPB

18th February 2009 | by | No Comments

There’s no arguing that the response to Millar and Hitch on Fantastic Four has been, depending on how you want to phrase it, largely underwhelming. While the team garnered praise for re-envisioning superheroes in two volumes’ worth of Ultimates, most of their issues of Fantastic Four seem to pass by entirely without comment. There’s no obvious reason why – both the characters and creators are both consistent sellers, but perhaps there’s something about the pairing that simply doesn’t line up.

While the collection was recently released in the US in the “Marvel Premiere” regular-sized hardback format, Panini have exercised their rights as licensors to collect it as a trade paperback for the UK market. With combined discounts, that means I got 8 issues for £6.50. It’s not hard to see why the singles market is dying when it’s expected to compete with that level of savings.

download geronimo online It’s with only some trepidation, then, that I approach this – a collection of issues #554-#564 – the first 8 issues of their run. And, with the benefit of being able to sit down and read it in one go, there’s actually a lot to enjoy. It’s not quite the ground-breaking material of their Ultimates work, but it is a similar take on the Fantastic Four, steeped in realism while retaining some of the more outlandish territory that the comic traditionally explores.

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Indeed, if anything, that’s the problem. The idea of top scientists building a “spare” planet for when ours dies is proper Science Fiction – but juxtaposed against Johnny’s affair with a new super-villain, and Sue’s attempts to start up a support group for victims of super-crime, it doesn’t really work. The tone clashes massively, feeling like separate stories for each character rather than interleaving the way you’d expect a group book too.

Millar’s handle on the group’s relationships is good, though variable. His “Paris Hilton” version of Johnny doesn’t quite ring true, though his take on a more tender, upbeat Ben Grimm is a welcome breath of fresh air for the character. Furthermore, the use of Alyssa Moy and Valeria both represent compelling new developments in the F4 canon. Even the “future Defenders” are an oddly compelling bunch – there’s a familial tone more similar to Clandestine than the Fantastic Four, and it’s easy to see why they’re being spun-off into their own comic.

It’s fairly clear that there’s no inherent problem with the Millar/Hitch F4 run – the dialogue and art are both great, but there’s something of a clash between what readers expect of the characters, and what the intentions of the creative team are. Couple that with a slight lack of coherance throughout the actual story, and you can see why it hasn’t lit up the fandom like people might’ve thought.

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