You are warned, here be spoilers.
I’m weird. I enjoyed the Hell out of Fantastic Four during the Civil War event, and the first few issues after it. My attention eventually wandered, and I stopped reading it. But I’ve seen this issue recommended in a few places, and I do like the FF, so I picked it up.
The writing is fantastic. The art is great in places, awkward in others.
The elephant in the room is how heavily muscled Dale Eaglesham draws Reed Richards. For me, I’m not sold on the look. From a balance standpoint, Reed isn’t the muscle on the team; Ben is. It upends the aesthetics. Reed ends up looking like Nick Fury. Chris Neseman on Around Comics compared Reed to Alan Moore’s Tom Strong, but that’s just it – Reed isn’t Tom Strong. Also, when Reed is drawn doing his stretch thing, the transition from muscle-y non-stretched parts of him to is all the more jarring. Johnny is also drawn as heavily muscled, but I buy that with him. And since he doesn’t do much of his fighting by punching, he’s not stealing Ben’s thunder the way Reed potentially is.
There’s a famous Rob Liefeld picture of Captain America, where it’s clear he started out drawing a pure side-view, and ended up drawing him in in quarter-profile. Well, there’s a shot in here of Reed where we get a side view where we can see a fair amount of his back and his chest. Eaglesham’s done Liefeld one better.
And then there’s Sue. My online folks assure me that Sue’s waist-to-hips ratio is believable, but she’s also drawn with the face of a 12-year-old girl. She has two kids, the younger of whom is 3, but she looks – on her face, at least – barely pubescent.
There is a fair amount of good in the art. There’s a full-page panel near the beginning of the issue that depicts the chaos of the FF fighting some giant robots – and Reed’s head and shoulders are visible here, but his hips and legs are way over there; the effect is kind of awesome. And Eaglesham made the Thing’s superhero panties into boxers, which is just a touch more dignified on him.
The writing, however, is wonderful. There’s a bit where Reed tells his kids about one of the FF’s adventures, and when he tells his daughter he hopes “the part about the bombs didn’t scare [her],” little Valeria replies, “Dad, I know that you rebuilt the entire top of the building to act as an interdimensional panic room. I wasn’t afraid – Franklin and I were fine. Besides, I’m three years old – I’ts important for me not to spend time thinking about things like that. ‘Night!” Brilliant.
Someone – I want to say Tom Katers – likes to say “The Fantastic Four isn’t just about a family arguing. It’s about a family arguing in the Negative Zone or something.” Case in point here – Reed doesn’t sneak out to get drunk, or visit a mistress. No, he sneaks out to play with an interdimensional portal that lets him consult alternate timelines – which he promised Sue he wouldn’t do anymore. And when this portal leads Reed to make contact with an interdimensional council of Reed Richardses, well, that officially crosses the line into awesome. There’s a panel that shows a few dozen variations on Reed Richards, including one where his right arm has been replaced by what appears to be some sort of high-tech cannon – an arm-cannon, if you will. I like to think that he’s that universe’s Mega Man.
The art is iffy, but not enough to put me off yet, and the writing’s wonderful. I very much intend to keep reading.