Comics To Help You Forget The Fantastic Four FilmAugust 21, 2015
The latest attempt at a Fantastic Four film has been something of a disaster. Panned by fans and critics alike, with all sorts of lurid rumours about the antics of director Josh Trank and just how much of the film had to be reshot, the film has tanked at the box office.
What is it that makes it so difficult to make a decent Fantastic Four film? While the last two films, Fantastic Four (2005) and Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) weren’t complete disasters, they certainly weren’t very good. Galactus as a giant cloud? Good grief.
What makes these film failures all the more galling is that there are few more important comic properties than the Fantastic Four. They are, after all, the very cornerstone on which the entire Marvel universe is built.
So if you want to cleanse your pallet of naff film adaptations, and get back to Reed and pals embarking on some fun adventures, which comics should you turn to?
The Lee/Kirby run
The Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on Fantastic Four is the most significant run in comic book history. Seriously.
The ideas that come from those 102 issues are unbelievable. It’s not just Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben that we meet for the first time in those issues – it also includes the debut appearances of Doctor Doom, the Inhumans, Galactus, Silver Surfer, The Watcher, Black Panther, the Negative Zone, the Kree and the Skrulls. That’s a hell of a roll call.
It’s not just the ideas though, the comics themselves are great fun. Kirby’s art is just mind-boggling, while each issue is absolutely jam-packed with story.
OK, so some of it hasn’t aged that well. More often than not Sue’s role is to be scared for her “darling Reed” and be a bit helpless. And the politics of that first issue is a little jarring – Ben is essentially bullied into leading the team on their flight into space because he doesn’t want to be “a coward” by letting “the Commies” get there first.
Those reservations aside, you can’t really go wrong picking up any of these comics. If nothing else, be sure to pick up This Man, This Monster, which is Fantastic Four #51, one of the best single issues of all time.
Let’s be honest, the best member of the Fantastic Four is clearly Ben Grimm, the Thing. So a comic series which is just the Thing teaming up with a variety of different characters from the Marvel universe, from Spider-Man and Thor to Adam Warlock and Rom the Space Knight is guaranteed to be fun.
And that’s just what you get with Marvel Two-in-One.
The line-up of creators involved with this series is incredible too: there’s Jim Starlin, Bill Mantlow, Sal Buscema, John Byrne, Frank Miller and George Perez.
If you want to have some fun and enjoy Thing clobbering a whole range of villains, you cannot go wrong.
The Hicktastic Four
I’ve just finished reading Jonathan Hickman’s run writing the Fantastic Four and FF from 2010 and it may be the best run of Marvel comics that I’ve ever read.
Hickman does a fantastic job crafting a massive story, but with all of the usual elements of family and friendship that define the Fantastic Four as a group. It’s exciting, it’s hilarious, it even had me close to tears at points.
The writing of Doom and the kids of the Future Foundation is a particular highlight, while the climax with Future Franklin includes a genuine ‘punch the air’ moment.
The ambition in the storytelling is a delight – the fact that seeds are planted here which are now playing a significant part in the Secret Wars event, spanning the entire Marvel line, is extraordinary.
Hickman works with a variety of artists on this run, each of whom did a sterling job. But for once it is the writing rather than the art that makes it stand out.
This run is everything that superhero comics should be.
The Fraction/Allred FF run
OK, I admit this is cheating a little bit. When Matt Fraction took over writing duties for the Fantastic Four, he had two comics to worry about – Fantastic Four and FF, the latter looking at the weird and wonderful kids who make up the Future Foundation, a school set up by Reed Richards in the Baxter Building.
And it’s this comic run, with Mike Allred on art, that is just unmissable. The original Fantastic Four head off into space on what is ostensibly a family holiday, but leave a team of replacements to keep the earth, and the schoolkids, safe. It’s a motley group – Ant-Man (Scott Lang), She-Hulk, Medusa, and Johnny Storm’s girlfriend Darla. But even though it features none of the original four, nor their actual kids, it’s a beautiful representation of just what the Fantastic Four are all about.
As with the Hickman comics, the strength here is the sense of community, of a group of people with genuine affection for each other. It’s funny, it’s sweet and it looks gorgeous. What more could you ask for?