Rating: 4/5 – Bidding Farewell to the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo
My first experience with the Fantastic Four was my first experience with comics. As an adolescent perusing the book section at the local Costco, I came across a multi-pack of comics and although I didn’t know much about superheroes or funny books, I decided to pick it up. There was just something about the orange “thing” being smashed in the face with a crowbar that piqued my interest. To this day, I don’t remember any of the other comics that were part of this pack, but I’ll always remember Fantastic Four #355. Almost a quarter of a century after my fateful trip to Costco, “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” comes to an end (yet again) with issue #645, but the wonder and love of comics the Fantastic Four sparked in me so long ago will “fourever” remain.
Since my return to comics a couple years ago, I’ve sampled various runs of the Fantastic Four to try and recapture the feeling the book gave me back in my youth, but they just couldn’t compare. I’d all but given up on these cosmic-powered superheroes until I picked up the first five issues of the latest incarnation for a dollar each. Written by James Robinson, I thought it captured the essence of the Fantastic Four in a brilliant first story arc that brought the reader up to date on a half century worth of history while seemingly fracturing the family. Through various trials and tribulations, the rest of Robinson’s run set out to explore who the Fantastic Four are at their core and why they’ve managed to stick around for so long. Most importantly, Robinson made the book fun again! His story culminates in this final issue with a no-holds barred fight between the Fantastic Four and forces set on enslaving the world. All in a day’s work for this team. Since this is the final issue, I expected gloom and doom as a result, but Robinson surprised me by staying true to the very thing I’ve come to love about his run – that ultimately, this isn’t a book about gloom and doom, but one about a family that can accomplish anything as long as they stick together. I also expected a big change in the status quo or some kind of revelation, otherwise why would Marvel end one of its flagship books? We didn’t really get any of that, but the ending was satisfying and in many ways felt like a new beginning for Marvel’s first family.
In addition to the main story, there are four short stories in this oversized final issue written by several Fantastic Four alums, including Tom DeFalco and Karl Kesel. Each story focuses on one of the four members of the team and expertly captures who they are as individuals. Both touching and humorous, I thought these were a perfect addition to the issue and a great tribute to these timeless heroes. Other Fantastic Four alums chimed in with their favorite Fantastic Four covers. As mentioned in my introduction, mine will forever be Fantastic Four #355. It’s a cover etched in my memory and one of the first books I sought out when my passion for comics was rekindled.
This oversized issue was illustrated by a throng of talented artists that provided a range of fantastic styles. Duties were shared on the main story between the penciler, Leonard Kirk, and various inkers and colorists. They all worked extremely well together to provide art that was bold, bright, and consistent throughout. As with the writing, the art masterfully captured the essence of the Fantastic Four. The backup stories all had their own styles that I thought worked with the tone of each. It was great to see each artist’s take on the characters and it made think how neat it would be to have a monthly Fantastic Four anthology book to showcase various talent and keep these characters alive. Is anyone at Marvel reading this? Make it happen.
Is this really the end of the Fantastic Four gracing the racks of our local comic shops? I have my doubts. The Fantastic Four were the first heroes to usher in the Marvel Age of comics, soon to be followed by many other heroes still published today. The story certainly didn’t indicate a finality and if anything, the future seems brighter than ever for this fantastic foursome. But for now it’s pretty clear that we won’t be hearing from them any time soon and this final issue packed plenty of stories to tide us over until they eventually return. When they return, I hope the new series takes a cue from this final run and remains about wonder, fantasy, fun, and family.
Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
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