Fantastic Four #512
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mark Wieringo
you follow up the death of a main character?
you bring him back, naturally. These are comics, people; get
okay; that said, how do you follow up taking your entire cast
to Heaven, having them pass through the pearly gates just
for the fun of it and find out that God (at least in their
universe) is Jack Kirby, before returning them to Earth like
nothing ever happened?
just act like it's just another page in the big book of the
returned to New York, Johnny Storm can't help but notice a
disturbing trend that's arisen: he and Spider-man have swapped
places in the public eye. Even the bums don't want to wear
the Human Torch t-shirts they find in the dumpster. Desperate,
Johnny meets with Spidey for advice on how to deal with being
a complete loser. In a supreme act of willpower, Spidey refrains
from ripping Johnny's head off and agrees to meet him the
next morning at a "park."
morning, Ben Grimm delivers a slab of rock to former girlfriend
Alicia's studio and finally sees all the statues she crafted
of him when he died. Of course, the only thing Ben hates more
than seeing his own ugly mug is being surrounded by copies
of it, and his delivery doesn't exactly survive his reaction.
Alicia pushes him to tell her what else is wrong, and, naturally,
Ben's upset that Reed got his face fixed when they were up
in Heaven, but Ben had to come back looking like the same
a point, but at least he can take comfort in being more popular
than Johnny (especially after what happens at the "park").
be unfair to draw comparisons between this and, say, Chuck
Austen's pickup on New X-Men
(since Waid was immediately re-hired for Fantastic Four
after finishing his last run) but this is exactly the way
new series writers should follow up a big plotline. First,
establish that, yes, this is still the comic we all know and
love. Second, you kick off some new conflict that dovetails
into the situations of the last few arcs. Third, take a moment
to acknowledge that recent climactic events DID happen and
you're not going to pretend they didn't. After that, just
keep the damn thing going, and you're set to start telling
your own story.
a new writer will come onboard and try to launch things in
"a bold new direction!" or completely ignore the
recent events of the comic and then expect us to love them
for their ingenuity (*cough* John Byrne *cough*). The trick
of the long series isn't to completely reinvent it every time
you switch creative teams but to tap into that core appeal
of the franchise and figure out new ways to work it.
himself (and any writer who would've followed him) a bit of
a hole when he killed Ben Grimm, but he was able to work through
it cleverly. However, he dug himself an even bigger hole when
he wrote the most unapologetic deus ex machina in the
history of superhero comics. His solution of returning to
the tone he started the last run with is both refreshing and
anything else, though, this stuff is freakin' hilarious! Waid's
sense of humor is at full force here, tapping into the comedic
potential of both Human Torch and Spidey without pulling any
punches. I'm not sure when the last time I laughed so hard
at Spidey was (probably not too long ago with Straczynski
and Bendis writing his more popular books) but the sheer number
of times I had to stop myself from laughing out loud so as
not to freak out the people around me is a testament to Waid's
knack with dialogue.
Wieringo isn't just along for the ride and he keeps up with
Waid every step of the way. The art doesn't go overboard for
a laugh (with a couple possible exceptions), but portrays
the characters honestly and realistically. When the story
requires absolute quiet, he gives us absolute quiet. When
it's time for a wall of water to sweep over the scene, he
gives us that, too. You want Spider-man going "incognito"
in The Thing's hat and trenchcoat? He can do that for ya'
Kirby aside, Waid and Wieringo have probably become my favorite
creative team to helm Fantastic Four, but that doesn't
hinder the four page story Paul Smith does at the end of the
issue. The look of it's very retro, yet it's surprisingly
enjoyable for a G-rated short about Sue trying to "get
Reed's attention." Why it's going to have a second chapter
is a bit beyond me, but, hey, if any Marvel book should try
wedging two continuing stories into one series, this is probably
all, they've done right by us so far, haven't they?