Note that this review omits the second half of issue 543, the 45th anniversary issue, as it has nothing to do with the Civil War.
Title: Fantastic Four #538-543
Authors: J. Michael Straczynski wrote issues 538-541. Dwayne McDuffie wrote issue 542 and the portion of issue 543 included in this review.
Illustrator(s): Mike McKone on pencils, Andy Lanning, Cam Smith and Kris Justice on inks, and Paul Mounts on colors.
Original Publication Date: These issues have cover dates ranging from August 2006 to January 2007.
Cover Price: Issues 538-542 are all cover priced $2.99 US. The Canadian prices drop from $4.25 to $3.75 with issue 540. Issue 543 was cover priced $3.99 US or $4.75 Canadian.
Past comic reviews can be found here.
The Fantastic Four also need to deal with the results of the Civil War, and it hits the team hard. We also find out why Reed is so strongly in support of the Registration Act.
Issue 543 was also the 45 anniversary issue, and includes two backup stories (one written by Stan Lee) that are fun little tales that tie into the history of the characters. These two stories have nothing to do with the Civil War or its implications on this team, and are of a wildly different tone and style. As such, I’ve decided not to include these stories in this review.
Issue 542. We get great motivation for Reed, interesting conversations with Reed and Johnny, and a nice use of the Thinker.
The heroes of France. Not only are they so clearly the JLA, which Marvel already has in the form of the Squadron Supreme, but the descriptions don’t match what they do! (The guy who can’t slow down can be seen standing still. The guy who talks to the Thing about prowling the Louvre is not the one who was described as prowling the Louvre.)
This feels original in the sense that the team has rarely been this divided. It’s happened, but not to this degree, and not lately. I give it 4 out of 6.
The artwork from McKone is not bad. We get a number of reused poses, though. (Just take a look at Ben while he’s eating; would the art tell you he was chewing? Doesn’t the speech balloon showing he’s chewing come across as inconsistent with the art?) I give it 4 out of 6.
The story is here, and remarkably consistent given that McDuffie took over from Straczynski earlier than originally planned. This, even more than Spider-Man, doesn’t read on its own very well, though again, it’s a strong complement to the main Civil War. It’s also a nice complement to the Amazing Spider-Man set, as it depicts two of the same scenes from a different perspective. I give it 4 out of 6.
The characterization is great. I’ve already voiced dissatisfaction with Reed’s depiction in the main Civil War story, and didn’t feel the first proposed reason for his decisions was enough to get Reed so strongly opposed to Sue’s position. The reasons in issue 542, including his reluctance to reveal those reasons, are definitely the Reed I know. This works very well when it comes time to bring the entire story together when it’s all said and done. The rest of the team, particularly Ben, have been shown consistently and clearly in character from the beginning. I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response was good, but not great. This was an interesting companion piece to the main event, but it doesn’t stand on its own as well as the Spider-Man set did. I give it 4 out of 6.
The flow is fairly good. We see the degradation of the relationships between team members, and bring it all together quite smoothly. It jars a little bit when it moves from Ben back to the rest of the team, though. I give it 4 out of 6.
Overall, this is a nice crossover, but it doesn’t work on its own. I give it 4 out of 6.
In total, Fantastic Four #538-543 receives 29 out of 42.
Civil War Review Checklist
- New Avengers:
- Amazing Spider-Man
- Fantastic Four
- Civil War 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, complete
- Amazing Spider-Man #532-538
- Black Panther #18, 22-25
- Blade #5
- Cable/Deadpool #30-32
- Captain America #22-24, 25
- Civil War: Battle Damage Report
- Civil War: Choosing Sides
- Civil War: The Confession
- Civil War: Fallen Son
- Civil War: Frontline #1-11
- Civil War: The Initiative
- Civil War: The Return
- Civil War: War Crimes
- Civil War: X-Men #1-4
- Civil War: Young Avengers and Runaways #1-4
- Daily Bugle: Civil War Edition – This isn’t really in a reviewable format. It’s essentially what a newspaper would look like had it been published in the Marvel Universe timeline between Civil War issues 2 and 3.
- Fantastic Four #538-543
- Ghost Rider #8-??
- Heroes for Hire #1-3
- Iron Man #13-14
- Iron Man / Captain America Special: Casualties of War
- Moon Knight #7-9
- Ms. Marvel #6-8
- New Avengers #21-25
- Punisher: War Journal #1-3
- She-Hulk #8
- Thunderbolts #103-105
- Winter Soldier: Winter Kills
- Wolverine #42-48
- X-Factor #8-9
They still don’t know what to do with Reed…
I’ve heard that it’s easy for a smart actor to play a dumb character, but hard for a dumb actor play smart. I think the same must go for writing for super-genius characters… Not that the crew at Marvel are idiots, but I don’t think they’ve really thought this bit with Reed through. While the bits with the Thinker were cool (though Reed still seems a little more pompous than usual), the implications are pretty staggering.
Unless they plan on re-using this particular thread in the FF series, the idea that Reed can predict the movements of all society with this darn well better come back in future story arcs. Because that’s a pretty huge plot device to just bring in once and then chuck. It ought to have a a noticable long-term impact both on what Reed does and how he thinks. And I say that as and old-school Asimov fan.
Although I gotta say, Suzie’s entrance at the end there, and the other characters’ reactions, were probably my ‘high point’.
Re: They still don’t know what to do with Reed…
Larry Niven has said that the hardest thing for an author to do is to write a character who is smarter than the author. I think that’s the main problem. Mark Waid did very well with this; Waid’s a bright guy, and he wrote situations that limited Reed’s time to think, but always had Reed think of the solution. That’s probably the only way to write it: if a character is smarter than the author, the author has to give him/herself a lot more time to think about the problem than the character gets. I think the equation is a better solution than the Uncle, but the problem with that is that if Reed did find an equation with that result, he wouldn’t have worked on anything else until he found an acceptable solution. Had this been a discovery by Reed during the Road to Civil War, then it might have worked, as the SHRA would have presented itself as a solution before Reed could come up with something better.