The Storm siblings face the one threat they cannot overcome with power or guile… Their own teammates! Your Major Spoilers review of Fantastic Four #9 from Marvel Comics awaits!
FANTASTIC FOUR #9
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Ivan Fiorelli
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: July 5, 2023
Previously in Fantastic Four: Alicia, Sue, and Johnny face off against Ben and Reed as they battle for the survival of their own minds against an alien that can wipe their memories clean! But can they survive this brutal onslaught from their friends and lovers, the very people who know them and their powers better than anyone else in the universe?
FANTASTIC TWO VS. FANTASTIC TWO
After encountering a strange phenomenon in the small town where they’ve been staying (courtesy of Ben’s Aunt Petunia), the Fantastic Four has had their ranks split and their memories tampered with. Reed and Ben are now contented slaves in the army of an alien called Xargorr, while Johnny, Sue, and Alicia Masters-Grimm have to figure out a way to overcome their husband and best friend. The story actually starts with Alicia narrating, explaining how there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer to the question of how to make comics accessible to the blind. Ben reads her the comic book adaptations of his FF adventures, which gives her a slight edge once she is caught in the middle of battle. With the help of Alicia’s skills as a sculptor, The Human Torch and The Invisible Woman are able to combine their powers into more complex forms, only to have Xargorr trick them into giving her access to Johnny’s mind. When a full-scale fire blast envelops the Invisible Woman, leaving her with fourth-degree burns, it seems that Xargorr has checkmated the Fantastic Four, once and for all.
Fantastic Four has always toyed with the fourth wall, having creators Lee and Kirby appear in-universe, even having Earth-616 Marvel Comics printing their adventures in comic form. Even so, I’m very much bothered by the fact that Allie (which is apparently her new official nickname) is speaking directly to the readers, seemingly aware that she is in a comic book. Much as a previous issue did with Doctor Doom progressively removing the heroes’ notions of language, this issue focuses on the question of identity, asking whether any of us is more than just the sum of our memories. It’s a heady concept, and one that the creators try to address in a cohesive way, but chaining it with an in-universe examination of comics feels like it breaks the FORM of the story, not just its rules. This issue’s art is fun, featuring loose and flowing layouts, and the double-page reveal of what Johnny, Allie, and Sue collaboratively created is impressive. But the character’s faces and forms are also very loose and stylized, which works for Reed’s elastic form and Johnny’s flame-enrobed self, but less so for The Thing.
BOTTOM LINE: IF STAN AND JACK COULD DO IT…
The upshot of Fantastic Four #9 is that playing with form and function works for the heroes in-universe (Sue’s gambit near the end of the fight is ingenious, as is Alicia’s explanation of various ways of approaching comics without sight), but isn’t quite as successful in the structure of the story proper, rounding out to 3 out of 5 stars overall. This entire run has been about breaking various rules and expectations of a Fantastic Four comic, and even if it doesn’t quite stick the landing, I applaud the creators for experimenting. Now, if only somebody could tell me what in the world happened to the Baxter Building, and what Nick Fury is up to in the background.
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FANTASTIC FOUR #9
Alicia Masters-Grimm's narration is both the best part of the issue and the biggest weakness of the narrative, making for an endlessly debatable total.