Book of Doom:
Fantastic Four #561

My fears that I’d be flying solo this week turned out to be relatively unfounded, as Fin Fang Doom and Jason from Legend joined us again this week. More from them in a minute.

I haven’t been reading Fantastic Four at all, but I thought this seemed like a fairly interesting point to jump in. Not necessarily a good point, but an interesting one. And everything else coming out this week looked terrible. Marvel solicited it as “the Death of the Invisible Woman,” but visitor Aussiesmurf warned us that the Invisible Woman who was about to kick the bucket was likely to be the recently introduced Invisible Woman from the future.

So for a reader who was just jumping on, I thought this book was very accessible. It did a good job of introducing me to this gang from the future, what they wanted, why they wanted it and what they were going to do about that. It gave a great depiction of the Fantastic Four and their personalities, including the geek chic of Mr. Fantastic with his awesomely clever way of tracking Future Sue by injecting a tracker into Present Sue. I also dug the little character moments, like Alex Ultron noticing the contrast between Johnny Storm’s screams for mercy and Doom’s composed silence. Everything about the building tension and the drama made sense, but it played out so casually in a way that just made the FF seem supremely confident of their awesomeness. I dug that. And Bryan Hitch’s art, as always is beautiful.

For the most part, I enjoyed everything about this. I’m curious about this future Earth he’s created, and if or how that ties into the future Earth we’re seeing in Old Man Logan. I’m also curious about this alternate Earth that’s now stocked with future Earthlings. I also found myself thinking the Fantastic Four wasn’t lame, which was a surprise for me. Maybe I’m just easy to please because of how little I’ve liked lately, but everything about this seemed to be handled competently and I find myself excited by that. Everything, that is, except for the advertised shocker.

Future Sue’s death was stupid. I have no sympathy for a character who walks up to Dr. Doom after torturing the team’s greatest villain and then gets killed as a result. How stupid does she have to be to think she can just walk up to Dr. Doom after putting him through that and he’s going to NOT do something like that? Did she really think the worst he was going to do was maybe not accept her apology and hold a grudge and not want to talk to her for a while? It just felt like they had two pages left, realized they had forgotten to kill a Sue, and then tried to pick out the quickest and easiest way to do that.

It also bugs me that this seems to completely ignore Secret Invasion. I don’t really have a right answer for that, though, because I’m also tired of books tying in to Secret Invasion. I just don’t like that in SI, Sue was revealed to be a Skrull, but here she’s just Sue and all is well (relatively speaking). I’d like to see better coordination so as to not have it shouted at me that Secret Invasion’s implications on the Fantastic Family aren’t going to matter.

Here’s what Jason @ Legend Comics had to say:
When I heard that this was the Book of Doom for this week, I let out a Darth Vader-like NOOOOOOOOOOO! Not because I don’t like the Fantastic Four. No, the Lee/Kirby, Perez and Byrne eras were all fantastic. I really like Marvel’s first family. What I don’t like is Hack Millar, err, Mark Millar. I loathe Mark Millar. Millar is a wannabe Garth Ennis but without the actual writing skill. He uses what I call the “shock and schlock” technique, while forgetting to actually develop any characters.

Anyway. FF #561. The solicitation for this issue says “The Death of the Invisible Woman”. Swell. The most overused cliché in comics. Enough with “The Death Of…” already! OK, I will try to be objective.

The book opens with the New Defenders (from the future!) apparently trying to bring 8 billion people from the future (or is it an alternate reality?) to the “616 universe”. The mechanism to do so involves three famous FF- related characters, but are they from the 616 or elsewhere? Maybe this was explained previously-I have not read FF since the first issue of this arc.

Everything is resolved regarding the fate of the 8 billion refugees in a very anti-climactic manner. This is just typical Millar (see Civil War as an example of an anti-climactic ending). Then, as if an afterthought, the title event occurs. Even I, not reading this book regularly, knew what WASN’T going to happen-and I was right. I won’t spoil anything, but the ending left me asking why do I care about this character? Oh, that’s right, I don’t.

Hitch’s art is very good, bordering on great. I can always tell exactly what is going on and his facial features and expressions are excellent.

Overall, I give this book a C+ — an A for the art and a C- for the story. Also, everyone please read Pax Romana written and drawn by Jonathan Hickman. The final issue (#4) came out this Wednesday and it was not only the best of the week but perhaps the best of the year.

and now our own Fin Fang Doom:
There’s been something lacking in the Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch run on Fantastic Four so far. While Millar and Hitch usually produce good work together, this time they’re just not clicking. Maybe it’s that this doesn’t really feel like the Fantastic Four. Maybe it’s that the FF is an inherently uninteresting concept. Or maybe it’s just not a very good story. But whatever it is, it didn’t turn up in this issue either.

The first adventure the FF had this run involved them fighting a giant robot that none of the other heroes were able to defeat. The current adventure pits the FF against a team of bad guys. Neither of those really sound like FF stories to me; they sound like Avengers stories. The FF works better exploring new worlds than it does defending this one. Unless there’s aliens or science involved, saving the world is better left to the Avengers.

And maybe that’s part of the reason the Fantastic Four just seems uninteresting a lot of the time. While I really like the concept of the FF, the execution of that concept doesn’t work a lot of the time. Look at the FF movies: they got a lot of things right in those movies (namely Johnny’s character and the Torch/Thing dynamic), but the way the creators brought it together just didn’t make for a great movie. I’ve been reading FF for about a decade now, and the only time I remember FF being really good was the Mark Waid run. So maybe it’s not all that surprising that Millar and Hitch haven’t been hitting this one out of the park.

But I’ve got this nagging feeling that the story just isn’t very good. Look at this issue, for example. This was the end of “The Death of the Invisible Woman.” Well, last issue we found out that the villain was the Invisible Woman from the future. So was anyone really expecting this arc to end with the death of the present IW and not the future one? Speaking of predictable endings, sticking the time refugees in the back-up world that was conveniently introduced in the last arc was such an obvious solution to this problem. And what about the reveal that The Hooded Man was actually Wolverine? Where did that come from? I hadn’t noticed any hints that The Hooded Man was anything other than some random guy from the future. A reveal is only as good as the buildup or the outcome. There was no buildup and the outcome is that we’ll probably never see this character again. Woo frakkin’ hoo.

So is it just a bad story? Hitch’s art was impressive as always, but without a good story it’s just a series of pretty pictures. I think I may just be tired of Mark Millar at this point, the same way I grew tired of Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis and Grant Morrison.