Review by Frank Plowright
The New Fantastic Four is set just after the end of Marvel’s era during which the superhero community fractured over the idea of registering with the government. It split the Fantastic Four down the middle, although wounds were healed in Fantastic Four: Civil War. Part of that was written by Dwayne McDuffie, but this is his first opportunity to run with his own plots.
McDuffie’s big idea is to replace Reed and Sue Richards, who need some time to reconcile, with Black Panther and Storm. It’s a like for like substitution featuring a scientific genius and a (then) wife whose power is greatly under-rated. Proving a point, Paul Pelletier’s sample art has Storm facing off against the Silver Surfer. McDuffie starts by showing that not every Civil War disagreement has been settled, and noting the FF’s Baxter Building will serve as temporary replacement for the destroyed Wakandan embassy.
However, that’s just a little tidying up, and McDuffie heads straight into a meeting with the Silver Surfer and Galactus. It’s something most Fantastic Four writers eventually take on, and the results can be disappointing as they so frequently retread old ground. McDuffie scores by having the dispute take place well away from Earth, by minimising the presence of Galactus, and not extending events beyond a natural lifespan. As a bonus, he restores a hero killed for cheap shock during Civil War. It isn’t the best Galactus story you’re ever going to read, but it’s better than many.
Also good is that while it’s a novelty seeing Black Panther and Storm, McDuffie doesn’t forget the real FF, and the second story concentrates on Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. No, their absence didn’t last long, and it’s a clever battle of wits with the Frightful Four involving another old FF enemy, and leads into another threat from space.
Whether at home or in space, Pelletier is a reliable superhero artist. He lacks a distinctive style, but his storytelling efficiency is its own trademark, and everything that needs to be present is there on the page with action maximised.
As a collection, this is fun Fantastic Four. There’s nothing groundbreaking, but McDuffie slips in some neat ideas, one being novel use of a torrent file, and as their marriage was brief, it’s nice seeing T’Challa and Ororo as the loving married couple. The stories aren’t stretched too far, the guest stars have a purpose, and there’s a pleasing connection between the first story and the last. The Beginning of the End is next.