Fantastic Four: True Story TPB

Fantastic Four: True Story #1–4 by Paul Cornell and Horacio Domingues

I really enjoyed Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain and MI:13 very much, and was sad to see it prematurely cancelled. Along with Leonard Kirk, he created a really good comic book that was exciting, emotional and funny. I really wanted to buy this Fantastic Four mini-series when it came out, but I couldn’t justify the increased price, and I knew it would be collected eventually (and I would get lucky and pick it up in a sale). I’m glad to finally have it in my hands because it’s a really good little story (even if the mystery is ruined by the image on the back cover, which gives away the villain of the piece).

Apart from Cornell writing the book, I was looking forward to this because it uses the same idea – Cornell didn’t steal – as Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, a really good collection of books where the central character has the ability to pass into the world of books, where she becomes a member of Juris Fiction, the police force that looks after the world of literature. And, yes, it as good as it sounds.

In this story, there is something wrong with the world of fiction, and the Fantastic Four have to enter literature itself to find out what it is. They even name their fictocraft The Jasper, in honour of Mr Fforde (‘Fforde with two “F”s? How appropriate.’), and enter fiction with the help of Willie Lumpkin, the most well-read human they know. Once inside, their guide is Durante Alighieri, known as Dante, who takes them to Sense and Sensibility, allowing for the line ‘Reader, I clobbered him’. The comic is obviously thick with allusions to literature but not to the extent of putting people off, and there are lots of jokes – Cornell is a very funny writer, and a smart chap, too.

The art by Domingues is an unusual mix of the European and rather cartoony styles, which takes a little getting used to, but the art and storytelling are good. It’s not the most obvious choice for a Fantastic Four book, perhaps, but it somehow seems right for the story, with the strange mix of the comic book and the different ages of literature.

The best aspect of this book is the charm and sense of fun – roping in different characters from literature to help, explaining pieces of book history (such as the influence of Ivanhoe on Robin Hood), having Johnny save the day with his shallow literary senses (‘Is that Lindsay Lohan?’), even comic book in-jokes (‘Keep imagining these fables working together.’ ‘I’m willing’em, I’m willing’em! ‘). It’s just a delight from start to finish – Cornell has crafted another fabulous little comic book.

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