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.

General Information

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.

Premise

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.

High Point

Issue 542. We get great motivation for Reed, interesting conversations with Reed and Johnny, and a nice use of the Thinker.

Low Point

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.)

The Scores

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.

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