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
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.