Fantastic Four #525–526 + #551–553 and #544–550 by Dwayne McDuffie & Paul Pelletier and Karl Kesel & Tom Grummett
I like the Fantastic Four: stories about exploring the edge of narrative imagination and about family appeal to me. However, creators don’t always get this mix right, resulting in some less than stellar stories for ‘The World’s Greatest Comic’. The recent team of Waid and Ringo got it right (I didn’t care much for the JMS stories), and I was interested in seeing how Dwayne McDuffie handled them.
These two books collect a large chunk of his recent turn on the book (as well as an old-fashioned two-parter from Kesel & Grummett about switched dreams and Diablo). McDuffie is paired with Paul Pelletier, a competent artist with a nice style who is suited to the FF. The first story is a fun yet ultimately inconsequential tale about Doom coming back from the future, where Reed has created a utopia (‘Plan 101 – Fix everything’); Doom wants the credit for it, so wants to stop Reed. We get this FF fighting the FF of the future, which is fun, and McDuffie has a very good handle on the characters and their relationship dynamics, but it almost seems an apologia for Reed’s behaviour in Civil War.
McDuffie shakes things up with the ‘new’ Fantastic Four, with Black Panther and Storm as the married couple in place of Reed and Sue while they are on a second honeymoon. In this story, McDuffie throws in a lot of things into the mix: Deathlok (now cured), The Watcher, Eon, Silver Surfer, Galactus, the Frightful Four, Dr Strange, Eternity, and even Gravity (after McDuffie killed him in the limited series, Beyond!). There are nice touches, such as Panther on the Silver Surfer’s board, lots of good jokes, King Solomon’s frogs and plenty of pop culture references (e.g. Shaun of the Dead, Grey’s Anatomy).
The stories are cosmic, big, appropriate for the Fantastic Four, although not perhaps for Black Panther, and they are fun without being pointless. It’s not world-shattering but it’s enjoyable. I don’t know if this is the start of the next big run on the FF, after the likes of Byrne and Simonson, but at least it’s better than JMS.