Yes, this review is up earlier than I expected. I picked it up to read the first issue in the set, and just couldn’t convince myself to put it down. Marvel’s first family needed a facelift, but instead we got the familiar characters doing great things. This is definitely worth your precious time.

General Information

Title: Fantastic Four Vol. 1: Imaginauts
Author: Mark Waid
Illustrator(s): Mike Wieringo and Mark Buckingham on pencils, with
Karl Kesel, Mark Buckingham, and Danny Miki on inks
Original Publication Date: April 23, 2003 reprint of material first
published from August 2002 to February 2003.
ISBN: 0-7851-1063-1
Cover Price: $17.99 US, $29.00 Can
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Marvel’s first family shows what made them great in the 1960s by doing
completely different things today. This collects the first seven
issues of Mark Waid’s run, starting with last year’s nine cent issue.

Also included are issue 56, which made Ben’s religion explicit rather
than assumed, and a set of very interesting notes that Mark Waid was
working from.

High Point

“If you can read this you have just violated our contract.”

Low Point

I’m pretty sure the second issue violates canon. We know the Yancy
Street Gang has been picking on Ben, but I’m not aware of any specific
instances when they take credit for the practical jokes.

The Scores

Marvel’s first family, which is already getting a bit stale as I read
Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 2, reads as very new. Mark
Waid is doing a fantastic job; expect a review of “Unthinkable” when
that trade comes out (probably around September or October.) He’s
putting these characters in new situations and letting them run with
it. Issue 500 approaches rapidly (this July) but he’s doing new
stuff. That’s not easy to do, at all. I give it 6 out of 6.

The artwork by Wieringo is well suited to the attitudes in
the text and the stories being told. Buckingham’s isn’t bad, but it’s
not as appropriate. (He draws issues 65 and 66.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is in the traditional Marvel fashion; villains come
and go, but personal lives march on. Even more interesting is the
fact that the villains they face are new threats, and in some cases,
not even really supervillains. The personal lives are handled well,
but they’re not facing Diablo, Doom, Namor, or anybody else you’d
recognize for the eight dozenth time. I give it 5 out of 6.

The characterization of the team is excellent. Franklin is
the only one-dimensional recurring character. (Well, Val is too, but
she’s too young to speak, so that’s allowed.) We see some depth to
all of them no later than the second issue. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is the next category to evaluate, and
it’s based on how emotionally attached to the story I became, and how
effectively the author played with my emotions. Well, when I picked
this up just under two hours ago, I had every intention of stopping
after reading the first stand-alone issue. As you can see, that
didn’t happen. This had me hooked, and laughing out loud on more than
one occasion. I know people like Reed. (Well, I doubt any of them
have the most powerful brain on the planet, but they’re smart.) I
loved the reason Ben asked him to explain the power source in issue
65. I loved the way Johnny operates in a business environment. I give
it 6 out of 6.

The flow was good through most of it. Matching issue 56
before issue 61 was a bit odd, and the end of “Sentient” seemed a bit
off-pace. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is a great collection that makes a very old
team interesting again. The bonus material really adds to the
package. Reading those character descriptions after reading his other
issues was a great way to end the set. Even without the bonus
material, I’d be sold on Mark Waid’s entire run on this title, and
I’ll take a serious look at his other stuff. I give it 6 out of 6.
Technically, it’s not perfect, but the problems are minor enough that
I’d still recommend it unreservedly.

In total, Fantastic Four Vol. 1: Imaginauts recieves 37 out
of 42.