Over the last five years or so, Marvel has introduced a lot of standout all-ages titles. Since most of the company’s comics have been aimed primarily at adults for years now, it’s nice to see increased consideration paid to younger demographics. One of my favorites of these series is Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. The premise is charmingly out there: an elementary school student, who is also the smartest person on Earth, becomes friends and crime-fighting partners with a gigantic red T-Rex. The comic started out excellent, and has gone back and forth between being good or great ever since. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 5: Fantastic Three collects issues #25-30, which guest star the Thing, Human Torch, Galactus, and more. Is this one of the series’s stronger arcs?
This series hasn’t been very consistent in terms of handling guest stars well, but it does a good job of it here. This arc has one of the most fun alternate Fantastic Four line-ups I’ve ever seen. Sometimes the team’s replacement members feel randomly chosen or lack chemistry with the remaining members from the core four, but that’s not the case here. Writer Brandon Montclare does a good job balancing all the different personalities and rapports. For example, Lunella has a tense relationship with the Thing and Human Torch, but their bickering is more endearing than annoying. Human Torch is especially charming; this iteration of him is air-headed without being insufferable.
With that said, my favorite Fantastic Four member in this issue is perhaps the least well-known: H.E.R.B.I.E. The strange little robot has more personality here than I’ve ever seen him have before, and his rivalry with Human Torch provides a lot of comedic moments. There is also some fun lampshading of the real-life story behind H.E.R.B.I.E.’s creation. This series doesn’t usually veer into meta territory, but it handles such subject matter subtly enough to be funny without hitting the reader over the head.
Much of this volume’s success is due to the strong work of its art team. Tamra Bonvillain provides the colors and VC’s Travis Lanham letters. Natacha Bustos provides the majority of the line-work, although Alitha E. Martinez (line-art, inks) and Roberto Poggi (inks) sub in on issue #26. The line-art throughout is very good; Bustos’s cartoony style captures the characters’ emotions effectively and works well alongside Bonvillain’s colors. The coloration is bright and pops throughout. Likewise, Lanham’s lettering is pleasing to look at.
Unfortunately, this volume’s second half pales a bit in comparison to its first. The villains are downright boring; neither Super-Skrull or Omnipotentis have compelling motivations or mannerisms. There’s no sense that either of them is essential to the story. Rather, they play the generic parts of “the bad guys” without contributing any unique flair or nuance. This volume also features the return of a major character who departed earlier in the series. While it’s nice to see them again, their reunion with the other characters doesn’t receive adequate page-time. As a result, moments that strive to be poignant don’t hit as deeply as they could otherwise.
Overall, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 5: Fantastic Three is a fun read. Several guest characters are utilized well, allowing Moon Girl to bond with opposing voices outside her usual supporting cast. There are a lot of successful comedic moments throughout, and the artwork is pleasing to look at. With that said, the second half drags a bit due to bland villains and a disappointingly handled reunion. Nonetheless, this volume is a fun read I’d recommend to comic fans of all ages.
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