Back in 1990, for three glorious issues, the Fantastic Four were replaced by an unlikely combination of fan-favorite heroes.
Very little happened in the story — there wasn’t a lot of room for it — and it had no lasting effect on the Marvel Comics continuity, yet for some reason, it’s been canonized in the collective memory of comics fans in a way that few other short-lived team-ups have been. It’s had its own trading cards and video game Easter eggs. It’s had a handful of reprintings (including a single-issue treatment last week and an Epic Collection next month), even though the whole thing can be picked up on the aftermarket for a surprisingly reasonable price.
It’s no surprise that, in this week’s New Fantastic Four #1, editor Martin Biro admits to having never read the original story until recently, despite having that same mythical respect for the story. If you caught me at my most cynical, I’d say that not many modern readers have read Fantastic Four #347-349, if only because the idea of the New Fantastic Four was more exciting that the actuality of the New Fantastic Four.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that this new miniseries is a mistake. Legend Peter David taps into the same whirlwind, how-did-we-get-here energy that the original story had, forcing the New Fantastic Four back into action without them quite understanding how or why. It’s that zany energy, like a shrugging ‘why not?’, that sometimes produces the most memorable of comics crossovers.
This first issue promises just that: something memorable, if ridiculous. Even the characters themselves are aware of how off-the-wall the situation is.
There are some holdups – the book implies itself to be a direct follow-up to that classic first story, but it seems like David forgot how much of a blank slate the Ghost Rider of 1990 was. Here, Danny Ketch is wisecracking instead of exhaustingly morose, and he seems to have supplanted his Rider the way that Johnny Blaze is depicted as having done.
Yeah, I know, I know: what a tedious and minuscule nit-pick. It’s just that we’ve been reading a whole lot of Ghost Rider, what with this being his anniversary.
Artist Alan Robinson does his best to channel Art Adams’s iconic look on the characters, which is appreciated for the strange celebration the book seems to strive for, but is by no means necessary; his artwork is clean and meticulous, sharper and higher quality than some of these homage comics might receive.
New Fantastic Four #1 makes no promises beyond its elevator pitch: Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man, and Wolverine walk into Las Vegas. Luckily, it exceeds its own simplicity and delivers something playful and self-aware.
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