Monday, September 1, 2003

Fantastic Four #503 - A Review

Written by: Mark Waid
Penciled by: Howard Porter
Inked by: Norm Rapmund
Colored by: Matt Milla
Lettered by: Russ Wooton
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The first time I encountered both Mark Waid and Howard Porter was a few years ago when I picked up the TP collection of “Underworld Unleashed”. Considered by many to be one of the few DC summer crossovers to live up to the reputation of the summer blockbusters, the book was an instant classic thanks to Waid’s original plotting and dialogue and Porter’s disjointed, but gorgeous, style of artwork. The two have reunited in this, the first issue of a new storyline in Fantastic Four and the two masters have never looked better.

Waid treats us to his typical blend humor and action that makes all things (for lack of better word) fantastic seem commonplace and the commonplace fantastic. The opening pages, for example, detail a common New York City sight; the theme store. The twist here is that this is a theme-store for a superhero group and that it is in the bottom floor of their base. Likewise, the main plot of the book details the Fantasic Four’s efforts to protect the country of Latveria from invaders in the absence of Doctor Doom and destroy Dr. Doom’s more dangerous technologies before anyone else gets a chance to use them. This leads towards Reed having to make an important decision which will have dire consequences for the team…

Well, I hope it will, anyway. Be a pretty dull six-issue series if it doesn’t!

Porter’s illustrations seem much less stretched out and wild than usual. Indeed, it looks as if he is trying to mimic the style of former artist Mike Wieringo at times, with characters being more rounded than angular. Still, the style is undeniably Porter’s, with an emphasis on deep shadows and sharp lines. I only have two quibbles; at times, the shape of Ben Grimm’s head keeps changing from round to square-shaped and the artwork is very “posed” at times. Consider Reed’s sudden shift into the standard Superman pose in page 18. Still, Porter’s darker style does seem to suit the tone Waid’s writing has taken the book during the course of his run and the two complement each other quite well.

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