Thursday, 12 April 2018

Fantastic Four: 1234 Review (Grant Morrison, Jae Lee)

While Reed Richards is Deep In Thought, Victor Von Doom tries to dismantle the rest of the Fantastic Four - but is Reed as oblivious to Doom’s machinations as he appears? 

I’m definitely not a Fantastic Four fan but Grant Morrison is my favourite comics writer so curiosity drove me to check out this relatively obscure book from way back when he worked at Marvel before he began his DC tenure. So is 1234 any good? Eh… s‘ok. 

I get the impression that Morrison feels the same way about the FF that I do. Namely, that Reed is the only interesting member of the team and only then when he’s in direct conflict with his inverted nemesis, Doom. Because he so pointedly takes Reed out of the picture from the start, I knew there was more to his story than that he was busy locked in some random experiment and the anticipation of that reveal was what kept me reading. 

As for the others? Without Reed around they don’t know what to do with themselves - Morrison again underlining that Reed is the crux of this team - and what they did get up to was barely engaging. Ben Grimm lives up to his surname by having a very torturous storyline after Doom turns him human again and he suffers a series of physical and mental maladies he wouldn’t have if he’d remained The Thing. Ironyyy… 

Sue Storm’s storyline is almost comical in how romantically cliched it is. She’s not getting her itch scratched because her hubby’s always stuck in the lab and hot pants Namor is hanging around ready and waiting for her to Imperius his Rex. I actually laughed at the panel where he stands practically naked in her doorway and, while staring at his abs, she stutters “Oh god. I… I’m married…”! Johnny Storm doesn’t really have anything to do, he just sputters out when it starts raining and crash-lands at Mole Man’s feet. 

The fourth issue made the book for me (see what Morrison did - four issues for a Fantastic Four book?) not least because Reed and Doom are playing literal 4D chess against each other (another 4 reference)! Doom’s alternate origin was so eye-openingly imaginative that I wish it were his real origin. And Morrison writes Doom really well - not cartoonishly villainous but sinister in an effective, understated way. Doom remains the best character in the Fantastic Four and he’s not even a part of the team! And Jae Lee’s gothic art style perfectly suited the story’s tone of unreal claustrophobia and destruction, helping create an intense atmosphere for the increasingly nightmarish tale. 

Fantastic Four: 1234 isn’t anywhere close to either creator’s best work nor is it a great FF book. Morrison clearly doesn’t have much to say about these characters beyond what’s here or seem to have any deep affection for them but he at least tries to do some compelling stuff with some of this outdated bunch. The book has enough interesting moments here and there so as not to be terrible. That said, unless you’re a huge Grant Morrison fan like me, it’s not really worth bothering with.

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