The Hulk action continues this week, but this time he’s bringing some friends along for the ride. As we transition to Marvel’s First Family, I thought I’d mix things up by finally checking out the ‘New Fantastic Four’ story, wherein the original FF are believed dead. Their replacements? The unlikely foursome of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk and Ghost Rider (a.k.a. Marvel’s most monetisable characters)!
I’ve decided to retire my old New to Comics format, so contextual pieces will become their own articles if necessary. So with that in mind, on to the review!
Published by: Marvel
Written by: Walt Simonson
Art by: Arthur Adams
Collects: Fantastic Four #347 – 349
Founding Members: Mr Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch & the Thing
Base of Operations: New York City, USA
First Appearance: The Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961)
Determined to explore the unknown, scientist Reed Richards took his girlfriend Susan Storm, his best friend Ben Grimm and Sue’s kid brother Johnny Storm on a trip in his experimental shuttle to explore the stars! However, on their maiden voyage, the group was struck with cosmic rays and plummeted to Earth forever changed.
Reed’s body gained incredible elasticity, Susan could cast force-fields and turn invisible, Johnny could throw fire and set himself aflame, while Ben was transformed into a rock-hided, monstrous ‘Thing’. Though Ben’s new form initially created some animosity amongst the old friends, the four decided to band together as the Fantastic Four; the ‘first family’ of superheroes.
While the team would devote themselves to saving lives from the likes of Reed’s rival Doctor Doom and alien threats such as the Skrulls, they also strive to explore the wonders of the universe, paving the way for a better tomorrow through their scientific discoveries. In time, Reed and Susan would marry and have children, making the Fantastic Four the beginning of the most fantastical family around!
PLOT: The Fantastic Four has been all but destroyed.
Reed, Johnny and Ben have been murdered by mysterious assailants, leaving only Susan Storm alive. Desperate to avenge her family, Sue calls upon four heroes to become the new Fantastic Four: Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Hulk and Ghost Rider.
Armed with the FF’s technology and a mission from Sue, the new FF must solve the mystery of the old FF’s murder, as they battle monsters and aliens in the Bermuda Triangle!
REVIEW: I seem to be in the minority here, but I found this story to be rather underwhelming.
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of this ‘New’ Fantastic Four. I’ve read the What If? where they remain a team, and generally dig the thought of seeing four such varied personalities trying to function as a group. It’s part of what makes Marvel’s various team-up books so charming, after all.
And yet, in the story, they don’t really do much.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the Fantastic Four doesn’t actually die, and that fact is made obvious in the first issue of the story.
There’s no mystery. There are no stakes. There’s also no real reason for half of the heroes to be there.
It’s not poorly written or anything, Walt Simonson is a legendary Marvel writer, but it very much feels like he’s been given some sort of mandate by the editors, and the only character he’s really interested in writing from the pitch he’s been given is the Hulk. Spider-Man and Wolverine are pretty much only there for marketability and barely do anything beyond be intriguing presences on the cover. Ghost Rider gets some cool moments, but even he is relatively irrelevant in the grand scheme of the story.
The art, by Art Adams, is pretty solid, as it always is. The classic colouring doesn’t highlight the beauty of his sketches in the same way modern colouring techniques do, but the comic looks good regardless.
His art shows masses of variety and does well to not only highlight the action of the piece, but also the emotions and the wonder of the Marvel universe – whether his subjects be superheroes, aliens, or titanic monsters.
There’s something to be said for stories that cut the fat and get to the point, but this does actually feel like it could do with some fleshing out. A bit more mystery behind the FF’s demise and a chance for the characters to tackle actually having to step into the FF’s shoes would be welcome.
Instead, they go off on a mission and the regular team is back in action before it’s over. Everything is told to you upfront, and I think that takes away a lot of the intrigue.
There is fun to be had here, but overall, it’s a very short, somewhat lacking little story that doesn’t really live up to its potential.
Read this if you’re a die-hard FF fan; I’m sure it’ll be more enjoyable as part of the wider Walt Simonson run. But on its own, it’s a bit disappointing.
As such, all-in-all, I give the Fantastic Four: Monsters Unleashed a…
Thanks for reading! Who’s your favourite FF member? Do you like the switch-ups, or prefer they stick with the First Family? Let me know in the comments below!
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