The cover of the latest Fantastic Four trade paperback may say volume 4, but don’t be fooled as it also contains two one-shot stories released outside of the main book. Fear not though, since the two one-shot stories are excellent, the main Fantastic Four is a two-parter drawn in incredible detail by Sean Izaakse, and all around this is a great look at why we love the FF. This collection also offers a wide range of types of stories, from fight-comic, to science exploration, to mind-bending weirdness. It has everything you want from the first family.
This volume includes two issues from Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four series, featuring Thing fighting Hulk on his honeymoon, Fantastic Four: 4 Yancy Street by Gerry Duggan, Greg Smallwood, to Mark Bagley, to Luciano Vecchio, to Pere Perez, and finally Fantastic Four: Negative Zone by Mike Carey, Ryan North, Stefano Caselli, and Steve Uy.
Opening on Slott’s story, this is a nice followup to the big Ben and Alicia marriage. There’s a ticking clock on this story since Thing has an annual transmutation that allows him to be human for a brief period, enabling him and Alicia to start a family. Reed Richards even gives Thing a special watch counting down to when he is flesh again. As with any superhero vacation, things turn bad when Hulk pops up. Slott is quite good at humanizing Thing on the trip, allowing you to connect with the character even if it’s fantastic. For instance, at one point he gives out a signed headshot of himself as a tip to the concierge attendant. It shows how Thing is kinda cheap, but also a bit prideful of his superherodom.
A lot of your enjoyment of this two-part story is going to be thanks to Izaakse’s sharp art with color by Marcio Menyz. There are eight or so pages devoted to the Thing and Hulk fighting in the first issue alone, and Izaakse does a good job showing how super strong and burly these characters are in the fight. They’re thrown across the island, smash into things to create rock slides, and generally take a pummeling. It’s also all rendered at night which adds a certain horror element to the battling. Oh, and Thing’s Hawaiian shirt is out-of-this-world good. There are some interesting effects with the sky that make the tropical island go from angelic to haunting. There is a stand out double-page splash of Thing getting punched well worth the price of admission. Sketches of this double-page splash are in the back of extras, too.
Following this two-parter is Duggan’s tale opening with a sentimental story about Thing’s often overlooked older brother. We get the full flashback to start and it comes back around quite well. Through his life, we can see Yancy Street is a neighborhood that is tough and some don’t survive it. Others, like the Thing, are made into diamonds because of it. We see the type of person Yancy Street makes via a kid who Thing has a run-in with. He’s a bit of a brat and he’s tagged the memorial wall to Thing’s brother. That isn’t going to fly!
From there this issue kicks off with the Thing learning some well-to-do landlords are doubling people’s rent and using some muscle to kick folks out. That gives the art team ample time to draw the Thing clobbering his way to victory. The narrative does a good job explaining why people who live on Yancy Street are cut from a different cloth and the issue ends with a cute final page too.
The art is excellent throughout the book. Smallwood’s art plays around with the Kirby-style contraptions in Mr. Fantastic’s lab while Bagley gets to do a lot of the action scenes infused with his kinetic and detailed style that suits it. The opening scene detailing what happened to Thing’s brother is also well done, with an old school color style and aged paper look that suits the flashback. The use of color, by Smallwood and Erick Arciniega, is something else too. The scenes in the Fantastic Four headquarters are bright and positive, reminiscent of the old school days of comics.
If you’re getting sick of the Thing fear not, as the collection ends with Fantastic Four: Negative Zone which opens with a fabulous science fiction story. We find out Reed wants to clean up some bacteria he left in the Negative Zone but soon he finds out it’s sentient and it has evolved to the point of being a direct threat to the team and Earth itself. Carey writes each of these characters well, speaking and acting as you’d expect. The ideas within are quite interesting and how they tie into the Small Pox epidemic will make you think. Stefano Caselli’s art is excellent too and while Thing has a slightly different look then we are accustomed to, the weird vibes from him and the rest of the team are well rendered.
I can’t get over how well this collection comes together since it’s made up of four different stories. I’ll admit it does lean heavily on Thing, but the final one-shot gives us a quintessential Fantastic Four tale you’ll adore. Pick this up to be reminded how great this series can be from its action to its science-fiction sensibilities.
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