Saturday, June 25, 2005

Good luck, mate

Fantastic Four 527

In my fanboy dreams, Quesada sees the error of his ways and appoints me Chief Bendis of Marvel Comics. I immediately implement a hundred-day shock plan to improve the Marvel Universe. This includes

- Giving back Genis-Vell, Adam Warlock and Howard the Duck their own series
- Resurrecting Hawkeye
- Speeding Mary Jane Watson into her pre-destined role as ex-wife from hell
- Having Wolverine eviscerate himself by accidentally snikting himself wiping his arse after a particularly violent bowel movement

The problem with the Fantastic Four, is that I have absolutely no idea how I would move this series forward. Not one suggestion, despite three decades of reading it. The FF is that kind of series.

Part of it is their personalities. Johnny Storm is an irritating knobhead who behaves in a way no teenager has behaved since Herman's Hermits were in the charts. Reed Richards is a bendy physics teacher - bendy is fun but it doesn't stop him droning on about electrons. Sue Storm - well, the problem with Sue Storm is that I have a blonde elder sister called "Sue". No matter how attractive the likes of Chris Claremont tried to make her, thinking about Sue Storm in a sexual way gives me the same queasy, soiled feeling I get from reading Geoff Johns' Avengers run.

Which leaves the Thing. A long time ago, he was my favourite Marvel character. I was forced to revise this opinion after reading his catastrophically awful solo comic, when he became a professional wrestler. And anyway, his hostility towards Reed has long since mellowed, leaving him as a lovable, gruff uncle. Pleasant enough, but lacking the conflict which great characters always have. Past it, really.

The Waid years passed affably, Galactus and Doctor Doom duly trounced. There was a great internet kerfuffle when Wade got fired and rehired. Or perhaps he quit and got rehired - the details just don't stick in my mind.

Writers and editors come and go, but this book is in a glacial decline. It has an antiquated, cosy feel. If Earth has a major problem, Reed always fixes it by inventing a machine. From initial plans to prototype to working device in four panels. Sexless and thrill-less, this is a little bit of 1961 limping into the 21st Century. I wouldn't want to see it go, but the whole concept looks doomed, and I have no suggestion how to rectify matters. Is it at all possible for these characters to aspire to greatness again?

Which brings me to Michael Straczynski, newly installed as writer on the FF. I respect Straczynski, despite his responsibility for "Sins Past", a Spider-Man story which stank badly enough to rupture your nasal cavity. Judging from Fantastic Four #527, he's going to put some effort into this book. This was a warm-up episode, with little of consequence to report, but it happened in a well-structured and promising manner.

Give Straczynski a chance. He's got a tough job, but he may do it pretty well. I'll report back on this one in a few months.


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