Grotesque Anatomy
Friday, May 07, 2004
  A Marvel U Review: Fantastic Four #512
Rounding out my review theme for the week (What? You didn't notice I was reviewing something from a different Premier publisher every day?), we come to Marvel.  I don't buy much from Marvel these days, but I was tempted to try out Fantastic Four #512 due to the guest appearance of Spider-Man.  Not because I'm a Spider-Man completist (I think the last Spider-Man comic I purchased was ASM #500) but because I've always been a sucker for Spidey & FF team-ups.  (I still have fond memories of such comics as MTU #100, the PPSSM #42 - FF #218 crossover, WHAT IF? #1, and the inspired UTOS 1996 Annual.)  I think part of the reason why these team-ups work is because each member of the FF parallels a certain aspect of Spidey's personality:  Reed, the dazzling scientific intellect; Ben, the irrepressible sense of humor in the face of overwhelming odds (with occasional lapses into self-pity); Johnny, the hotheaded, youthful impulsiveness; and Sue, the moral center, especially when it comes to matters of family.

So far in the first half of this two-part arc we only see Spider-Man interact with the Torch, so that's the aspect of Spider-Man's character that's played up the most (although there's an obvious touch of the Thing in Spidey's portrayal here considering he bickers lightheartedly with the Torch and wears one of Ben's oversized trenchcoats).  Your enjoyment of this issue will therefore depend on how entertaining you find the antagonistic friendship-slash-rivalry that exists between the two heroes.  Personally, I thought Waid had a pretty good handle on Spidey, whose jokes have always been somewhat self-consciously corny, but his take on the Torch seemed a bit off:  Yes, Johnny often acts arrogant (especially around Spidey), but I don't think he's really that self-absorbed or oblivious.  Waid's characterization of Johnny feels forced, as though it's all engineered to set-up a couple cheap gags.

The fight scene at the end was pure nostalgia:  Spider-Man and the Torch fight Hydro-Man (an obvious Sandman stand-in, thereby calling to mind MTU #1) while a certain wingless villain mastermind lurks in the shadows.  Why do I have a feeling at least two more villains will be showing up next issue?

As a surprise bonus, this issue also features a short back-up story illustrated by Paul Smith.  The story (also part one of two?) focuses on Sue's efforts to make Reed jealous so that he'll spend time with her.  It's pretty lightweight but I found it cute and charming nonetheless, especially since the couple are shown diffusing any resentment or ill will towards each other through a shared laugh.  Nice to see an optimistic depiction of marriage that isn't based on some unrealistic "happily ever after" sentiment.
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Iron Fist

by John Jakala

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