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Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan #1

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Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan #1

Credits

  • Words: Zeb Wells
  • Art: Seth Fisher
  • Inks: Seth Fisher
  • Colors: Chris Chuckry
  • Story Title: Big in Japan, Part 1
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Oct 5, 2005

If you read my coverage of the Marvel panels at Comic-Con, you read that I was hardcore excited about one silly little limited series announced at the Con. That would of course be Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan. Now that the first part of the series is out, I’m beyond lukewarm about the project. What, you might be asking, could have caused my passion to cool so quickly?

Let’s take a moment and examine the exciting parts of this title. Fantastic Four, check. Iron Man, perhaps an interesting pairing. But it takes place in Japan, where those fad-crazy Japanese folk just love those guys to pieces, especially because of their habit of fighting giant monsters. So you’ve got superheroes who are the pop stars of the Marvel U, plus a man in a robot suit in Japan where they eat that stuff up, and yes, of course, they’re going to fight some giant monsters. So far, so terrific. Add that to the limited artwork unveiled at Comic-Con indicating that the book would be done in a manga-pop art style and it seems that while this series ain’t going to win any Eisners, it’s sure going to be a heck of a lot of fun.

And it gets off to a nice start. The FF’s arrival in Japan is a nifty little piece of writing, the dialogue is sharp at first, and all seems on course. Zeb Wells has a good sense of structure, but it turns out he has a lousy sense of pacing. With a good start, the story quickly meanders into some talk-y exposition and takes far longer than a story like this demands to get to the major selling point, namely monsters.

Rants about the Two Titans and their recent fetish for killing the serial comic book off outright in favor of writing for the trades notwithstanding, this is just not the kind of story that cries out for so much exposition. We don’t need to know that the Japanese have a rock-monster totem god type figure that Thing can identify with. We need to see him clobber Godzilla. Am I right? I mean, that’s what they lured us into the tent with the promise of.

All the problems with the pacing cannot be blamed on Wells, however. For a book that costs more than your standard comic book but isn’t noticeably longer or made of diamonds, the advertisements in this book are out of control. I’m not kidding when I say that for 80% of the book, there’s a page of comic, and then a page of ads, another page of comic, another page for an ad, and so on. This comic is so busy hawking everything except Charles Atlas and your very own village of Sea Monkeys that it is darn hard to enjoy a story with any kind of dramatic pacing. I never thought I’d say this, but I would almost prefer that Reed and Sue took a time out from action to enjoy a nice ice-cold bottle of Coca-Cola or remark how much they like Snickers and HeroClix while wrestling a sea beast than have the story totally interrupted for this many advertisements. It kills the reader desire to stay with the story. Only my strong journalistic commitment kept me from just skipping ahead to see if there were any cool pictures to look forward to. That’s how much this start-stop-start-stop advertising took me out of the story.

Art-wise, you’re either going to love it or you’re going to be disappointed. While it’s nice to see Marvel explore a Japanese style beyond the usual Mangaverse stuff, it is awfully cute artwork. Seeing the FF rendered in a world of pastels is definitely a different take on things, and Seth Fisher's style merged with Chris Chuckry's colors strays into definite bubblegum pop territory.

This is a title with so much promise but it’s debuted in such a lackluster fashion and it’s been totally handicapped by a decision to stuff an overpriced book full of ads. I hate to be the one to suggest it, but wait for the trade and see if this improves. Plus, no ads in the trades. *Sigh.*

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