Overview

Fantastic Four #543

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Fantastic Four #543

Credits

  • Words: Dwayne McDuffie, Stan Lee & Paul Pope
  • Art: Mike McKone, Nick Dragotta & Paul Pope
  • Inks: Andy Lanning, Cam Smith, Mike Allred, et al.
  • Colors: Paul Mounts, Laura Allred & Jose Villarrubia
  • Story Title: C'mon, Suzie Don't Leave Us Hangin'/If This Be… Anniversary/A Day at the Races
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Mar 7, 2007

It’s a double-sized issue as Marvel’s first family reach their 45th anniversary. But, after the events of Civil War, is there even a team even left to celebrate?

Warning. This review contains spoilers about the FF’s lineup so if you don’t want to know anymore stop reading now.

While 45 seems a fairly arbitrary number to squeeze an anniversary bash from, there’s something fitting, post-Civil War, about an issue of Fantastic Four that commemorates the team’s past while simultaneously looking to the future. Mr. Fantastic’s machinations at the side of Tony Stark ripped the FF apart and nearly destroyed his marriage to the Invisible Woman. The rebuilding of both team and relationships begins here.

In the main story Dwayne McDuffie does a fine job of examining the effects that Reed’s actions have had, emphasizing the FF as a family first and foremost. A television documentary provides the framework for the issue with a potted history of the Fantastic Four and plenty of cameos from interviewed friends and foes alike. Most interesting is Dr. Doom’s short appearance where he manages to claim the moral high ground on Reed Richards, making the reader realize just how questionable Reed’s behavior has been these last months.

McDuffie’s characterization is top notch throughout, never forgetting the special bond that unites this team but also never shying away from the possibly irreparable damage that Richards’ perceived betrayal has caused. While nothing is forever in comics, you feel throughout that the FF will be dealing with the effects of Civil War for a long time to come.

The big change this issue sees Reed and Sue temporarily disappearing into the sunset to try and repair their marriage and the Black Panther and Storm joining the team. As an old ally, T’Challa’s inclusion makes perfect sense. While some may feel Storm’s place on the FF is an odd fit it feels quite logical in the circumstances. Now if only someone could explain how Franklin and Valeria have jumped in age so drastically between issues? It’s like something out of a really bad daytime soap where a child character is replaced by an actor several years older than the previous incumbent of the role!

Mike McKone’s pencils are perfectly serviceable but lack dynamism and the story looks a little static as a result. New artist Paul Pelletier comes on board next month though and should give the new era of the Fantastic Four a strong start artistically.

The first backup story sees FF co-creator Stan Lee write a self-referential tale of original foe the Mole Man attacking New York. Played for laughs, with retro-styled art for the sake of it, this is largely forgettable stuff. That said though, it wouldn’t have felt right if Stan hadn’t contributed to the issue.

In the second backup Paul Pope provides a wonderful focus on the Spider-Man/Torch relationship that perfectly catches the tone of their childish rivalry. While Pope’s gritty and highly stylized art may not entirely suit the FF you are so quickly swept away by his storytelling skills and knack for characterization that it really doesn’t matter. A real gem to round out the issue.

It’s rapidly becoming a cliché to say this but this issue really is a great jumping-on point for new readers or those who haven’t read Fantastic Four of late. McDuffie has the most important qualification for any great FF writer: he realizes that first and foremost this is a book about family and, while that family may be going through a tough time at the moment, creatively at least, their future looks to be in very safe hands.

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