Wednesday, March 07, 2007

FANTASTIC FOUR: THE END Marvel Comics, 2007

Relevant Content Week comes to a gripping conclusion with this look at a shinier, happier corner of the Marvel Universe.

There’s a lot to like about Fantastic Four: The End, British artist/writer Alan Davis’s six part tale of the “final” adventure of Marvel’s first family of super-heroics.

For starters, it’s written and penciled by Alan Davis, a modern comic book master who can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. Seriously, the guy could draw a 12-issue miniseries called Alan Davis’s Greek Diarrhea Vacation and I would still buy it. Mark Farmer brings his usual smooth inks to enhance Davis’s pencils, and John Kalisz’s coloring work on this series has been the cat’s ass.

Fantastic Four: The End is the latest of Marvel’s The End titles, which all chronicle the last tales of a given hero or group at some point in a non-canonical future. In other words, it’s an Alternate Reality Where Everybody Dies.

So far these books have been very grim and dramatic. Downers, even. The Punisher: The End made me want to crank “White Rabbit” and electrocute myself in a bath tub, and NFL SuperPro: The End gripped me with a sweet sorrow I have not felt since reading The Prince of Tides. Yes – the book is Pat Conroy Good.

Thankfully, Davis’s Fantastic Four: The End takes a different tack. It’s a little more upbeat. Although the story takes place in the aftermath of a family tragedy and the sundering of the mighty FF, there’s still a lot of fun shit going on. If you can stuff the Imperial Guard, Namor, The Mole Man, Annihilus, Ronan the Accuser, The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. in space, The Inhumans, Kree, Super Skrull, She Hulk, a female Dr. Strange, tons of super villains, and a couple of alien armadas in one mini-series? You’re doing something right.
In this futuristic tale set after the apocalyptic “Mutant Wars,” Reed Richards has transformed Earth and the Solar System into a high-tech utopia with his incredible technology. He’s wiped out disease and prolonged human life with the “Methuselah Treatment” and enabled man to survive in space with PEGs, Personal Environment Generators.

But there’s been a cost. Reed monitors and tinkers with the world from his huge orbital satellite base, immersed in work, but very alone. The Fantastic Four broke up years ago after a disastrous fight with a monstrous final version of Dr. Doom. Reed’s wife Sue has gone on an extended archaeological expedition –

--which is code for Atlantean Booty Call!

Sue heads down, down into the deep searching for ancient artifacts, and if there are any half-naked Spock-looking bad boys swimming around, so much the better, am I right ladies?

Actually, Sue doesn’t get any. She’s still loyal to her husband, the one with the flexible body parts. It’s a beautifully inked and colored scene, though.

The whole thing is beautifully put together and very slick. The coloring doesn’t bury the art work, and as usual Farmer’s inks are the perfect compliment to Davis’s smooth pencils. Davis and Farmer have got to be one of the all-time best penciller/inker teams in comics today and I will fight anyone unarmed and smaller than me who says otherwise.

Plus, the story is pretty enjoyable. It extrapolates a possible future based on Reed's technology that's interesting and recognizable - non-canonical stories like FF: The End great places to explore ideas like that. The narrative suffers from a wandering focus and a fuzzy through-line in the first few issues, but it's coming together nicely towards the end.

If you're one of those people (like me) who bitches and moans about the direction the Marvel Universe is going in the wake of Civil War, keep in mind that there are still people out there creating great comics like Fantastic Four: The End. Go check that shit out!

Thus ends Relevant Content Week! Drive safely everybody!


Siwatu Moore said...

Dangit! Does this mean no review of Captain America #25?

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Wait wait wait wait wait wait hold it. I only have one question and I know it's on everybody else's mind, too.

Is HERBIE in it?

Unknown said...

I'm getting dizzy. Your review of "Thunderbolts" spun me 180 degrees against and now this review of "FF-The End" whips me back around in happy lockstep. An Alan Davis Production always provides more concentrated comic book bliss per page than entire books by other creative teams.

As you say, there is a LOT of stuff in a few issues. Davis rivals Perez for squeezing in characters by the truckload. And he knows his comic history. A SHIELD command center isn't filled with nameless agents, he sticks in faces like Contessa Valentina. That's the beauty of mediums like comics and cartoons. You can use any character in the background without being forced to give them a speaking part.

I'm eagerly awaiting Issue #6..

Anonymous said...

I heard on the radio that they killed off Captain America today, and I had to sign on to the Long Box to cheer me up. What is Marvel coming to?

John said...

Bully for Relevent Content Week! Well done, Dave. Very enjoyable. (Wailing guitars and all. Booyah!)

Anonymous said...

I'm a huge Ms. Marvel fanboy, and Davis gains MUCHO Points for the cool Mar-Vell outfit. SNAZZY! No one draws costumes like Alan Davis.

Anonymous said...

It's been a great week, no question. I always hope the next theme week will be Boob War Week II, and I'm always disappointed when it isn't, but Relevant Content Week was fine and dandy.

Anonymous said...

You need to review Captain America #25 for relevant content week!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Alan Davis is amazing.

I love how he draws Kirby machinery and technology, not necessarily just as an homage to the King, but as the design sensibility of Reed Richards.

I, too, can't WAIT for #6!

Tim F.

Anonymous said...

So, basically Reed Richards becomes the High Evolutionary.

Fair enough, but can Mister Fantastic beat Galactus in a fist fight?

Unknown said...

It is a shame that relevant content week has ended - because I have this strange feeling that something might have happened to Captain America.

I don't have any evidence to go on, I've just got this feeling... maybe you could dig through the trade journals a bit, maybe ask an insider if he does anything interesting in the latest issue?

West said...

I ran outside and read my issue, right quick, once I saw that you'd written about the final installment.

I agree with much of your Davis/Farmer praise, but this book didn't seem to live up to its name.

It wasn't really focused on the Fantastic Four any more than the Avengers and it was hardly their end.

Much like JLA: Another Nail, this was really pretty, but not a very well-crafted or novel storyline.

Anonymous said...

I remember John Byrne's idea for Fantastic Four: The End- The Thing dies, so they're the Fantastic Three.

Seriously. There was more to it than that, but you couldn't call it "The End" by any real stretch.

Arkonbey said...

Davis/Farmer rule! I was actually going through my old Excaliburs last night and remarked to my fiance* how amazing Davis and Farmer are together. I so missed them after Excalibur jumped the shark. I had no idea that this FF series was out there and will so pick it up on my monthly trek to the Incredibly Small Comic Store In Rural Vermont Run By A Strange Old Guy! Thanks, Dave!

(*I have to brag that when I mentioned this to my fiance, she herself was reading Daniel Torres' 'Triton'. Not only is my fiance cute and a talented painter, she's also a comic geek!)

Anonymous said...

Sue heads down, down into the deep searching for ancient artifacts, and if there are any half-naked Spock-looking bad boys swimming around, so much the better, am I right ladies?

Oooooh yeah.

If Sue doesn't want him, I'll gladly take him off her hands.

Anonymous said...

Alan Davis can get me to buy pretty much ANYTHING!

I'm loving FF: The End, but I have to say, that after seeing this and his recent "Stan Lee Meets Doctor Strange" that if ANYONE is gonna get hold of a Dr. Strange book in the future, I'd give my right nut for it to be ALAN DAVIS.

That man knows how to draw him some DOC!


McGone said...

You are so lucky, Campbell! I am bigger than you and I carry a crossbow with me at all times, but I totally agree that Davis and Farmer are one of the all-time best penciller/inker teams in comics today! That was a close one!

Anonymous said...

I actually had to go check that there wasn't really an NFL SuperPro: The End. I just don't know with you, sometimes.

That said, I'd be all over a Masterworks: Barbie Fashion.

apk said...

what's wrong with me? i like to think that i've got pretty good taste in comic book artists (ie: Liefeld, Turner: NO, Cassady, Harris : YES!), but i've just never been able to get into Alan Davis. I really hated all of his X-Men stuff over the last few years...

Anonymous said...

I loved this mini from beginning to end, having enjoyed anything Davis touched in the past. Beyond the astoundingly good artwork, the optimistic ending was an absolute triumph over (1) the depressing precedent set by previous "End" stories and (2) the dank and dreary current Marvel universe.

In addition to that, it was wonderful to realize that Davis (as the writer) is an honest-to-goodness fanboy extraordinaire, after pulling out characters from every nook and cranny of F.F. history and presenting them here in the context of a giant "family reunion" if you will. However, like he did in the "Nail" books, Davis pulled the whole thing together with a compelling story that elevated it beyond the "continuity travelogue" this kind of thing can easily become (Loeb and Lee's "Hush" comes to mind as an example).

The final pages were pure joy, as the reunited Four mingle with...well...pretty much the entire Marvel universe of characters, simultaneously recalling the closing minutes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and It's a Wonderful Life. And that doesn't happen often in a comic book, let me tell you.

With stuff this good, I didn't blink an eye at the cover price. Here's hoping Marvel gets Davis onto something else...quickly! He truly is one of the treasures of the comics biz.


PS: That last shot of Galactus? Pure gold.

Anonymous said...

Bravo - I ain't felt this good about the end of a comic book since Peter David's Young Justice ended.

Yay for sunniness!

PS: When is NFL SuperPro: The End coming out in hard back?! ;)