I was surprised to find out Mark Waid and Neal Adams have never worked together. Both have been titans of the industry for decades, but they’ve never crossed paths until now in Fantastic Four: Antithesis. With Waid’s classic ability to write good superhero tales paired with Adams’ iconic, in-your-face art style, how can this book go wrong? Plus, it isn’t tied into current continuity, so it can tell its story on its own terms. Sounds like a win-win for comic book fans. Marvel even put out a trailer for this comic, that’s how big a deal it is.
This book is a reminder of how comic books are a unique form of entertainment because of how over the top and melodramatic they can be. The Fantastic Four are one of the weirdest groups of heroes thanks to their powers, and Adams expertly draws them in the opening action scene of this book to convey that. Even The Thing, who is weird in his own way, is depicted even weirder thanks to his big open mouth and huge teeth throughout the book. Adams has a weighted style that can make Mr. Fantastic’s elongated arms that much more real, or Johnny Storm’s flames that much more tactile. Adams is one of the only artists in comics who could do a close up of all four characters, just their heads, and make it look cool and dramatic. It’s bold, for better or worse, and it’s entertaining because of that.
As far as the plot of the book, Waid sets up a fun action scene at the start with Annhilus to help remind us of the team’s powers and relationship, throws in some family stuff, and then kicks off the big conflict displayed on the cover. It pretty much has everything you’d want out of a Fantastic Four book, showing off their powers, having them detect and fight a problem scientifically, and reminding us of the quirks of their dynamics between one another. It also manages to remind us this is a team that deals with threats in a different way. When an asteroid, or some kind of missile, is launched at the city, Mr. Fantastic has a plan. But, it’ll take all four of the members to pull off the technological feat.
The family elements work well and are as classic as you can get with this team. Johnny and Ben teasing each other with practical jokes, Reed and Sue’s sex life being in conflict due to Reed’s inability to drop a project, or how Sue is a mother to Val and Franklin first much of the time are all on display here. Of course, part of the problem with the dynamics of this team is they can’t diverge much from what we know and thus grow or change much. That makes them almost like a sitcom family with usual parlor tricks that show off their personalities. We’ll see if the conflict Silver Surfer brings will change that, but it does make the book feel a bit old school and derivative.
As a longtime Fantastic Four fan, Fantastic Four: Antithesis is the meat and potatoes story we want. It doesn’t change anything, but gives us the comfort food we crave when we like our superheroes as traditional as possible.