Monday, January 27, 2003

Fantastic Four #65: A Review

One of the reasons I love this book is that every issue so far has left me with one image that just reminded me of why I read comics: something either so amazing (or should I say, fantastic?) that it’s hard to picture it being duplicated in another medium.

I didn’t have to go past the first splash page to get that image this month. The Thing, standing in front of a cabinet with a giant roach staring back at him, munching on a bag of chips that it holds in one clawed hand. And poor Ben Grimm, who had just gone to get those chips… is facing off against this monster… with a dress shoe.

This is why I pick up the Fantastic Four. Mark Waid packs every issue with scenes that are completely and totally devoid of the ironic humor that so many super hero comics today are filled with, that mock the genre and the inherit silliness of people in tights running around fighting giant monsters.

Waid doesn’t mock that silliness. He revels in it. Of course it is ludicrous for a giant stone man to pick up a size-9 dress shoe as a weapon to fight a giant roach. But that’s your first natural reaction when you see a bug, right? Grab a shoe and squash it. Never mind that the person seeing the roach is a big stone giant or the roach is five and a half feet tall… it’s just natural, in spite of the sheer absurdity of the situation.

Of course there is more to the story than just the efforts of Ben Grimm to rid his home of extra-dimensional vermin. There’s a continuing plot from the last few issues, explained in what remains the best (and funniest) “Previously On…” page in all of comicdom.

If you’ve avoided the Fantastic Four because of the cliché personalities of the characters (the humorless scientist, the big dumb guy, the cocky young hot-shot, etc), you should check out this issue and see how wrong you’ve been. The perceptions of these characters have never really been totally accurate, but in this issue you’ll see Reed Richards laughing at a silly voice, Ben Grimm figuring out some matter of weird science before Reed and Johnny Storm actually proving he can actually think on his feet.

I can’t say much about the artwork, except that it is exquisite. Mark Buckingham is a perfect match to Waid’s writing, taking the amazing elements of the story and presenting them in a remarkably natural way.

My one complaint about the book is that it never quite manages to top the image of a giant roach munching away contentedly on Cheese Poofs as Ben Grimm raises a shoe in defiance and thus, it can only go down from there. Still, it’s a worthy read.

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