Monday, August 25, 2008

Random Reviews - Fantastic Four: 1 2 3 4

It's possible that I'm more susceptible to the whims of writer's block than your average blogger.

Living in a
nerdy version of Fred Sanford's house, I constantly trip over excuses not to write... Hey, is that the DVD of Izo that I bought about three years ago and haven't watched yet? What about that copy of The Sun Also Rises that I bought and promptly used to prop up my desktop speakers? And tempting me from my bedside is Batman choose your own adventure book I bought in 4th grade and have read 100 times by now.

So, like a judo master, I decided to use my opponent's strength against him. I closed my eyes, reached into the pile, and said "I AM GOING TO REVIEW THIS THING!"

What I grabbed was Grant Morrison and Jae Lee's Fantastic Four: 1 2 3 4

Reading Final Crisis and the JLA story Rock of Ages it's become pretty clear over the years that Grant Morrison would have a great bit comics-author make-out with Jack Kirby if he could. They're both all about big, crazy ahead of their time ideas, and both sometimes a little weak on delivering those ideas in a story. So when Morrison gets hold of Kirby's most famous creations and uses it to stage a five-dimensional chess match, I get a little nervous.

1 2 3 4 avoids falling into a downward spiral of Morrisonian craziness, though, by letting the structure of the mini-series work for it. Taking place over four issues, each member of the Fantastic family gets 22 pages to take front and center... and by putting Mr. Fantastic's issue dead last.

So any and all discussion of "prime movers," alternate realities, and dimension warping machinery that Mr. Fantastic would otherwise be Morrison's mouthpiece for get put as far away from the reader as possible, and for three issues, we get to read about the characters.

Morrison writes the Human Torch and the Thing relatively deftly. The Thing is made human early on in a "be careful what you wish for" twist. As for the Torch, it's hard to lend depth to a character whose whole shtick is that he's
a one-dimensional airhead. Their parts weren't especially great or boring, but I think even a well written version of either character would seem flat next to this story's version of Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman.

In my favorite part of the book, Sue and her friend Alicia Masters share dinner... for twelve pages. Excessive in any other book, but here one detail makes it work - Sue goes through eleven pages of it completely invisible.

Running to Alicia's apartment to get some time away from being in the Fantastic Four, Sue drinks wine and talks... mostly about Reed. She talks mournfully about being ignored by Reed, how she wishes he would talk to her, and how he seems to "look right through her." That kind of lazy metaphor works here (Looking through the Invisible Woman, haha, get it? Groan.), because it's with Alicia, a woman who is totally blind. When around the one person who can't tell if she's invisible or not, Sue still chooses to be transparent.

Looking for that privacy and some time away, Sue needs to be invisible so she can hide from the one person left who can see us - us, the reader.

All through this sequence, Sue emotes through a wine glass, which artist Jae Lee imbues with tremendous personality. It dips, it rises, it tilts and represents the ups and downs that come from having this conversation about her husband.

So when Namor the Atlantean Sex God shows up at the end of the sequence to take her away demanding "Susan, let me look at you," she drops the glass and becomes visible. Sue doesn't need the glass, or to be invisible - there's finally someone worth being seen by.

It's a great marriage of character, conflict, and something that can only happen in a Grant Morrison super-hero comics, and I ate it up.

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