Things have seldom looked bleaker for the Fantastic Four. A class action lawsuit has put them out of their home, and taken away the kids of the Future Foundations (including Reed and Sue’s own son Franklin.) The Human Torch is without powers, The Invisible Woman has attacked the Avengers in a fit of rage, and now The Thing is accused of the murder of one of their oldest foes. Can things get any worse? Your Major Spoilers review of Fantastic Four #8 awaits!
FANTASTIC FOUR #8
Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Leonard Kirk
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Mark Paniccia and Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Fantastic Four: For one of the oldest hero groups in the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four certainly don’t get much respect. After a freak accident caused their Baxter Building headquarters to explode, the government has seized the building, and taken the kids of the Future Foundation away from them. Worse still, The Thing has discovered his old friend’s greatest secret (thanks to the ‘Original Sin’ crossover): The Human Torch accidentally ruined one of Mister Fantastic’s attempts to transform him back to human form, and may have caused him to be stuck in his Thing form forever. When The Thing received a panicked call from his girlfriend Alicia, he rushed off to confront her father, The Puppet Master. By the time Mister Fantastic arrived, he found The Thing in a locked room with a dead Puppet Master. Is The Thing a murderer?
THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN
Robinson’s run on Fantastic Four has been making use of an interesting narrative tool, with the narration being presented as stories written by Betty Brant for the Daily Bugle. This has a dual effect for me of putting the events in the past tense (which makes them read weirdly) and distancing me as a reader from what happens on the page. The first few pages of this issue include The Thing being taken into custody for murder, and angrily confronting Mister Fantastic for volunteering information to the arresting officers, all of which is only explained through the text pieces. It makes it feel like I’m reading the Cliff Notes version of the story, which I’m not particularly happy with. The team ends up split by their misfortunes: Johnny Storm, the Human Torch finds that his singing tour has been cancelled because he no longer has his powers. Reed and Sue, forbidden to go home to the Baxter Building, travel to a new “community of the future” called Eden, whose leader welcomes them into the fold in a manner that makes me think he’s up to no good. And The Thing, having been indicted for murder, is taken to a special holding facility for super-strong types, with special attention paid to making the guards as offensive and hateful to him as possible, calling him a “monster” and treating him with disrespect as they take him into custody. As for the kids of the Future Foundation, they’ve decided to save their friend Dragon Man from being dismantled by unknown government rogues, with a little help from Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch.
INSULT TO INJURY
I think the biggest complaint that I have about this issue is one of overkill. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of mileage to be had in torturing your heroes and putting them at rock bottom, but Robinson has (to my mind, anyway) piled things on a little too thick, especially given the in-story coincidence of the Original Sin crossover. Yes, certainly I get that bad things seem to happen in groups in real life as well as fiction, but unless there’s an unseen hand behind these events (something that was hinted in the Frightful Four appearance a few issues ago, but not really touched on since), I have trouble believing it all. The brutal, ignorant guards who handle The Thing this issue are added to the schmucks who took the FF kids into custody in previous issues, the callous prosecutor who somehow managed to use the entirety of the Fantastic Four’s history as part of his case and the strangely out-of-character Avengers (whose fight with the Invisible Woman finally gets shown this issue, and it makes Sue look amazing, but does so by making the Mighty Avengers look like the New Mutants) among the many supporting characters who seem to hold personal grudges against the members of the Four for unseen reasons There’s clearly an endgame here, but I am frustrated at how, eight issues into an arc, the first heroes of the Marvel Universe are still flailing about in interpersonal ignorance when they might be acting. From an art perspective, Leonard Kirk draws a pretty amazing Susan Richards, but I’m still not sold on the youth (and the ridiculous haircut) of his Johnny Storm, and his Thing is merely okay. He also has a tendency to draw characters as slightly cross-eyed that can be distracting.
THE BOTTOM LINE: TOO CALCULATED TO BE EFFECTIVE
All in all, while I like the concept of a super-team driven to their lowest point, this issue (and the seven before it) are taking their own sweet time in getting things together, and the introduction this issue of John Eden immediately put my suspicions on him as the mysterious hand behind The Wizard, and the man driving this initiative to bring down the first family. Fantastic Four #8 isn’t a bad comic book, and writer Robinson does have a lot of character beats that are successful (especially in the fact that Reed & Sue aren’t turning on one another, instead pulling together as a family unit), but the plotting is just too methodical for my tastes, leaving us with an above average 3 out of 5 stars overall. I’m interested in seeing where this story might be heading, I just kind of wish it would start moving that direction already…