Review by Frank Plowright
Whether the hardcover editions of Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four are worthwhile for you depends very much on how you see the series. If you accept Slott as a form of showrunner, with other writers contributing their own stories, then these hardcovers don’t have poor content, it’s just that not all of it is touched by the hand of Slott. If you’d prefer each story is by a single creative team you’re going to be disappointed, especially as the art is all over the place.
Let’s start with that. There are plenty of good artists on show here, but none of them seem capable of drawing more than two consecutive chapters, and several individual chapters are the work of three separate artists. Some are more inclined to supply backgrounds than others, which means the style changes from page to page, a condition particularly afflicting what ought to be a five chapter epic. The sample art is from Stefano Caselli, who draws all of Mike Carey’s story of a trip to the Negative Zone (interesting, but slight), and Sean Izaakse, who’s a class act, his pages much improved from those in Vol. 1.
Izaakse draws both chapters of what’s the one unqualified success in this collection. It’s a Thing solo effort rather than a FF story, but the two chapter battle against the Hulk ranks among the best of the many predecessors. It begins with the Thing and Alicia heading away on honeymoon, and has a strong emotional core, a surprise twist and a dark ending. What would also be a standout if not for the ever-changing artists is the six chapter ‘Point of Origin’. It’s one of those stories looking back at a long-established origin and tinkering with it, but Slott handles it sensitively. The revelation comes a good way in, and it’s not anything that changes the fundamentals, but the motivations, and it incorporates ethical arguments that would more commonly be applied to the Inhumans. It’s got some points to make, takes the Human Torch more seriously than has been the case in recent years, twists around satisfyingly and introduces a change going forward. If only one artist could have drawn all five chapters.
Gerry Duggan contributes some thoughts on the Fantastic Four’s relationship with Yancy Street, where Ben Grimm grew up, and where they’re now headquartered. It’s long been established as ungentrified, and Duggan also has points to make, surprises and tailors his story to encompass the assorted artists. It’s okay, but goshdarn it, it’s not Slott.
The collection ends with what’s largely a Human Torch solo featuring a recurring problem for the Fantastic Four with a few twists to keep it original, and a smart solution just when it seems it’s going to slip into the ordinary. It’s attractively drawn by Paco Medina who picks up on the mood.
Overall, these are a fair selection of stories, but next time how about a collection with Slott’s name being all his work?