Bento Review: Fantastic Four Season One

Comic Bento’s theme this month was “Elementals,” and first up is a retelling of the Fantastic Four’s origin.  Yeah, see, they had earth (Ben), air (Sue), fire (Johnny obviously), and water (Reed).

But how was the rest of the book?

Fantastic-Four-and-there-costumes

This book was actually a lot of fun.  Stan Lee and Jack Kirby may have invented these characters, but they didn’t appear fully formed into the characters we know and love today.  Originally, Ben Grimm was written as am angry guy even before he turned into a living pile of orange rocks.  Stan wrote a letter where he actually saw Ben as the villain of the group.  Clearly that characterization didn’t last.  Likewise, Sue started off as basically a damsel in distress, like a lot of the various female heroes hanging around in those days.  1960s sexism is very evident in those early stories.

Remember:  in a letter column answered by the male members of the team, when a letter writer asked Sue be removed, the best defense Reed could mount of famous, powerful women in history to compare Sue to was Abraham Lincoln’s mother.  That…that’s not cool.

But here, the story can depict the team in something similar to their most familiar personalities.

Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa actually addresses the sexism in the volume, too.  Told to stay behind on a first mission since Reed wasn’t sure how much abuse Sue’s forcefields could take, Sue instead opts to follow in a second Fantasticar and actually saves the day herself.  She then compares her treatment to being like a character on Mad Men.

And therein lies the biggest problem with the book.  While the story was fun and zippy, with the Fantastic Four dealing with the Mole Man and then an angry Namor (Doom is relegated to a quick cameo where he remarks Richards finally did something mildly interesting), and doing so in a unique manner where they try talking first, the very things done to modernize the FF’s origin will be the very thing to make the book dated in the future.  The classic Lee/Kirby origin is not without its problems in that regard, between the sexist treatment of Sue Storm and the Cold War references, but it holds up relatively well.  Will future readers even know what Mad Men is?  Probably not.  Marvel’ll just have to do all this again.

Oh, now I get it.

The artwork by David Marquez has a nice look to it, the right amount of cartoonish exaggeration and detailed facial expressions.  Little notes, like how Johnny’s hair is often on fire, make for some nice visuals.

So, with that in mind, let’s give this one eight out of ten space tourism trips that go horribly, horribly wrong.

NEXT BOOK:  Next up we have a Valiant mini-series trade where a bunch of its heroes need to deal with a kidnapped geomancer.  Be back soon for Book of Death.

tomk74

Defender of the faith, contributing writer, debonair man-about-town.

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