Comics Review: Fantastic Four, Top Ten, Generation Hope, Uncanny X-Men

Start here before FF
Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman # 1 – Volume 1
I’ve always been a Fantastic Four fan, but it’d been a long time since I last read F4 when I picked up FF. Being as this was a of a new title, I was very confused about what in the world was going on with the Future Foundation. I knew what’d happened to ellicit the name change, but that’s about it. Well, if you read this book, it will all make sense. Right from the beginning you meet one of the future members of the FF. And later on you meet almost all of the rest of them. This TP also introduces the Reed Council which is the whole reason for the the first FF story arc. Hickman is like Marvel’s Grant Morrison. If you really want to understand FF, you are really going to need to AT LEAST read his run on F4. By the end of this TP, almost EVERYTHING from FF had been setup. I’d say, about 15-20% has yet to occur.

This book, and the first arc in is are both called Solve Everything. Mr Fantastic has always been a very well-conceived character, a perfect example of Stan Lee’s creativity. In the old comics, the geniuses were almost always mad scientist types in the vein of Dr Frankenstein. With Reed we have an idea of what would happen if that person turned to good rather than evil. Many great authors have explored what this means for Reed, but none has done as amazing a job as Hickman. I think that’s mostly due to Hickman’s great story-telling skills. But a small portion can be attributed to our modern sensibilities. With each passing decade it’s become more palatable to have heroes with issues. During the Great Depression and after World War II we wanted perfect heroes. It’s no coincidence that Superman is the boy scout he is. But now we’re OK with our characters having flaws, we demand it.

Reed’s flaw is that he has a desire to fix everything. He’s a genius. I think he’s canonically the smartest person within the Marvel universe if not the smartest entity. But he is not a god. And it’s his hubris that ends up setting into motion the events that will lead to the problems going on in the current FF book. In fact, a scene in this TP shows Reed and another Reed from the council using some special construct of space/time to be as gods and fix a dying star. And with this power comes corruption – even for Reed – as he ends up doing things he doesn’t agree with. I can’t say more without spoiling some great scenes.

Additionally, although Reed wants to be a great father and appears to be doing a better job of it than his father, his exploits often leave him abandoning his family so his thinking room. This falls most heavily on Sue. While she is a strong woman on her own, she is still human and still have wifely needs. And I don’t just mean sexual needs. Reed becomes emotionally distant and you can see that hits her very hard. While they’ve had their rough patches, when they’re together they’ve always seemed as the most loving/caring pairing within the Marvel Universe.

This book is my introduction to Valeria. When I was last reading F4, the first family only had Franklin. I think this artist did a much better job conveying her age (3 yo). Important especially since that’s part of the reason why she acts so impulsively. She has greater intellect than her father with none of the maturity to match. In the FF book she looks closer to 5. Maybe she was artificially aged somehow – it IS a sci-fi book. Or maybe you’re just supposed to know. I didn’t know she was as smart as her dad so I thought she was older from the way she spoke.

Speaking of sci-fi, I am enjoying the fact that Hickman doesn’t have too much fighting. The book is more of a hard sci-fi book. While it’s fun to see them tango with a monster here and there, I have often enjoyed the sci-fi aspects of F4. Anyway, there’s enough comic book fighting in the other books I regularly pull.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The only thing I didn’t like visually was that Reed seemed a LOT more buff than usual and it threw me off a little. It looked like both he and Johnny had been juicing. I’m anxious to check out the next book and see what else I learn that helps me enjoy FF.

The Other Side of Watchmen
Top 10 # 1 – Book 1
Moore does another deconstruction book. Last time it was what super heroes would be like in the real world. All of them, other than Dr Manhattan, are essentially variants of Batman. That is to say they don’t have super powers, they are just masked and, in some cases, caped super heroes. And Moore explores the kind of crazy people that would have to be to want to be super heroes.

In Top 10 Moore flips the premise on its head. Instead of super heroes in the real world, imagine how it would be if the entire world was made up of super heroes. That’s not a 100% accurate depiction because Top 10 is really just a super hero ghetto of the real world. In a hilarious breaking of the fourth wall, there are suddenly tons of super heroes in the 30s and 40s. After the war, the world doesn’t know what to do with this glut of super heroes, so it puts them into the city of Top 10. What results is a bunch of hilarious jokes both in what the characters do and in the types of ads and other background items.

And by creating this great world, Moore takes the boring old police procedural and gives it super powers. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it given that I didn’t like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen nearly as much as I liked Watchmen. Turns out to be a very fun book.

As far as the story goes – it’s boiler-plate police comic. The main character is new to the precinct and gets matched with the gruff old dude who just lost his partner and doesn’t want to talk about it. The magic comes in how Moore takes that cliche premise and gives you, if not gold, then silver. I will anxiously await my chance to get to read the second volume.

An Allegory Without Being Preechy
Generation Hope # 9 – Better
This is a good issue that puts Gen Hope in the real world as well as giving some more character growth on Zero.

SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content.
The issue is also clearly about Mutants being an allegory for gay. Specifically, in this case I can’t help but think of the kid who committed suicide because his room mate filmed him doing gay things. It was tragic and you feel the same way here. Gillen does a great job with a series of non-dialog panels near the end that convey everything they need to. A good issue and makes me happy I have this book on my pull list.

Could’ve been a bit better
Uncanny X-Men # 541 –
It didn’t suck, but it could have been a bit better. At least there’s some fan service with Greg Land’s Emma Frost. There’s also a nice twist or two. But I’m not dying to see how this ends. I’m only reading this because it’s part of Uncanny and I’m reading Uncanny. Although I enjoy Gillen’s writing in general, I feel that most Fear Itself books have fallen a bit short. Also, I guess this stuff takes place before Schism. No need to pick up this book unless you’re following all of Fear Itself or following Uncanny.