“Fantastic Four” #5

By | December 28th, 2018
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

It’s time for Ben Grimm, Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew, the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing to tie the knot with his lady love, Alicia Masters. But ‘ol Benjy from Yancy Street has been around the block a few times. He’s seen superhero marriages get interrupted by villains, aliens, shapeshifters, and retroactively sold to the devil. Dan Slott and his murderer’s row of artists know how this sort of story works, and they know that you know how this sort of story works. So ultimately, this is an issue about expectations, where the conflict naturally arises from your familiarity with the genre conventions. And I for one, got got.

Cover by Esad Ribic

Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Aaron Kuder, Michael Allred, and Adam Hughes
Colored by Marte Gracia, Erick Arciniega and Laura Allred
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramanga

The wedding that’s been years in the making…Ben and Alicia say “I do!” No bait. No switch. Not a dream. Not a hoax. And we swear, not a single Skrull around. This is really happening! From the book that brought you the first, best and longest running super hero marriage in comics, we give you…the wedding of Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters! Featuring an untold tale of the courtship of Ben and Alicia. A bachelor party that only Johnny Storm could throw. And a very special ceremony brought to you in the Mighty Marvel Manner.

Thisis a super-sized issue, with a lot going on, but all of thehappenings boil down to two main conflicts. The first is Ben’sfamiliarity with the perils of superhero weddings. That’s why he’smaking his a small family affair. He’s got a few ground rules: nosupers, no speeches, and no shenanigans. Spider-Man is of courseinsecure, and tries to break all three.

Thesecond main conflict, as is almost always the case in “FantasticFour” stories is that Reed Richards is being a jerk. This isn’t asurprise, but it still doesn’t sit well. Reed is Ben’s best man,but he’s neglecting every part of his responsibilities, fromplanning the bachelor party to making sure his son doesn’t hack offhis hair and dye it pink right before wedding photos. Fantastic fansknow how this is going to go- at the last second Reed is going topull through, learn a lesson, and prove that he’s not as bad as heseems. But Slott lays it on really thick. I thought for sure therewas no way he was coming back from this one.

Then the two stories come together. Chaos does indeed make it to the wedding just as Reed’s neglect reaches its peak. And ladies and gentlemen, I have no qualms in saying that I did not predict how this issue’s disparate threads were going to come together, and by the time the gang was shouting “Mazel Tov,” my heart was swelling. They really pulled this one off.

Andspeaking of that Mazel Tov, let’s talk Judaism in comics for asecond. I’m Jewish, and I know I’m not the only Jew who felt like2018 was especially rough. Despite the fact that most of the majorsuperheroes were created by Jews, very few of them are in anysignificant way. You’ve got Kitty Pryde, she’s a great one. AndMagneto, but he’s firmly rooted in a very specific tragedy. Andthen you’ve got… Wiccan? Peter Parker in the Into theSpider-Verse movie? Kate Kaneover at the distinguished competition (wait, does this mean thatBatman is Jewish?). My point is, we the Jews deserved a nicecelebration to close out this year, and seeing Ben Grimm put a kippahon his Golem-like brow, stand before the rabbi that bar mitzvahedhim, and step on a glass, it was just what I needed. The wedding wasexactly what I, a Jewish, F4 loving comics fan in 2018 wanted, andneeded.

The rest of the issue rambled far and wide, and was a wonderful celebration of the Thing and his fantastic family. Mike Allred, one of our greatest artists (and Dan Slott’s best and most iconic partner) writes a story that’s half Sue teaching Ben to dance and half a re-telling of the F4 origin. I would take note of how well done the origin is. Without really retconning anything, it stays fresh by putting the focus on Ben, and specifically his sweet relationship with Sue. It re-purposes famous moments and lines wholesale (“He’s turned into a- a- some sort of Thing!”) but new narrative captions show how far the characters have come since 1962. With new art and new context, the familiar story feels refreshing.

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Allredand Slott continue on with a sweet telling of the courtship of Aliciaand Ben. Allred gets to draw groovy 60s fashions (his favorite thing)and sends Ben and Alicia to a petting zoo, which is very sweet. Infact, Alicia’s blindness comes up a few times throughout the storyas a welcome reminder of how she experiences the world. I especiallylike when Sue tries to turn invisible to spy on Ben and Alicia’sdate- but Alicia immediately figures it out, and politely offers herhospitality. Invisibility doesn’t matter at all to Alicia.

Insome ways, Alicia’s old characterization is an unfortunate relic ofthe era in which she was created and the values of the men whocreated her. She’s endlessly sweet and accommodating, to saintlikelevels. She’s gentle, sensitive, domestic, patient- she’s thequintessential good girl. (Though I really, really likedthe face she made when Sue was describing male strippers to her) (“Soyou’re saying clockwise?” “Aaaaand now counter-clockwise!”“Ooh!”). It’s a testament to Slott’s compassion and deep lovefor the characters that Alicia feels like a full, three-dimensionalperson. She’s nice because she chooses to be and again, this beingthe holidays at the end of a rough year, some radical niceness isjust what I needed. Kindness is cool.

There’sso much more in this 70-page issue. Adam Hughes drawsthe night of Ben’s bachelor party, an epic night involving a jankybus, the return of superpowered wrestling, strippers in cakes, thosestrippers turning out to be villains, and Thundra the Femizon being apro poker player. It’s goofy, high concept, full of belovedcharacters (Rocket Raccoon tries to win Thor’s Uru arm in poker!)and action packed. Historically, I haven’t always been the biggestfan of Hughes, whose pin-up style has not really been to my taste,but his work here is fabulous. A lot is asked of him, drawing gods,monsters, and men in various states of dress and undress, and he morethan delivers.

Andthen I take a look at the cover price. There’s a lot of great comicin this comic, but eight bucks is a lot to ask for. I don’t know ifI’ve got a good feel on value. What I do have a good feeling on isstory. Since leaving “Spider-Man,” Slott is doing some careerbest work with his new books. He’s matched up with a stacked artteam, and everyone turns in career-best work. This is supposed to bea seminal issue. It’s supposed to feelimportant.This is how you achieve that.

Final Verdict: 8.6 – Supers, speeches, and shenanigans ensue, and the sweet wedding of Ben and Alicia ends up being one of the best superhero weddings of the decade.

Jaina Hill

Jaina is from New York. She currently lives in Ohio. Ask her, and she'll swear she's one of those people who loves both Star Wars and Star Trek equally. Say hi to her on twitter @Rambling_Moose!