We can’t read everything, right? Just like we can’t see everything or listen to everything. Which is why when it comes to my comic collecting, I have a certain methodology that works fairly well for me. No monthlies are purchased, only trades or hardcovers, and then what I’m reading tends to only fall into the big crossover storylines (unless they’re Avengens related at which point I’m in right away).
That was a bit of a long way of explaining why it took me a little while to finally read Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s run on Fantastic Four, which ran 16 issues beginning back in 2008. Their run, while exciting, wasn’t a core part of the post-Civil War world, so I wasn’t in a huge hurry to pick it up. I’d been waiting for the inevitable Omnibus compilation which was supposed to have hit stores back in February, but since that one seems to be off the schedule I wound up picking up the two hardcovers a few weeks ago. I was eager to see how Millar and Hitch, responsible for the fantastic Ultimates 1 and 2 series, would work together in the regular Marvel Universe. As a writer, Millar’s done some great stuff in regular continuity, such as Civil War and Wolverine: Enemy Of The State. I wondered how his dramatic flare and style would lend itself to the First Family Of Marvel Comics, a series that I admittedly haven’t spent much time with for years.
It was fairly easy getting into the swing of the Fantastic Four because really, not much has changed. Johnny Storm (aka the Human Torch) is a hothead, popular with the ladies. Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) is the rock solid behemoth who has a quick temper and the strength to match it. Sue Storm-Richards (aka The Invisible Girl) is practical and brilliant, but is still often ignored by her husband, Reed (aka Mr. Fanatastic), the elongated man who is the resident genius. For those of us that haven’t followed the FF for years, Millar gets us up to speed quick by reminding us why they’ve stood the test of time.
I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of the run too much, since I believe that if you’re really interested in plot synopsis there are other places to find them. I will say that throughout the 16 issues we meet an old love of Reed’s who factors into most of the run; time travel is a huge aspect of the two major storylines that make up the two collections; and there’s an equal amount of fun family dynamic throughout the big battles.
Working in the regular Marvel U meant that Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch couldn’t be as badass as they had been with their epochal Ultimates run, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Fantastic Four are literally as described and don’t need the violence or the conspiracy bits that made Millar’s Civil War and Enemy Of The State instant classics. Instead, Millar and Hitch bring some fun filled space aged adventure to the series which made it read as something different from the typical dark Marvel Universe storylines I’m used to. I especially enjoyed the appearance of my favourite planet eating deity Galactus.
While the story and art are as good as either creator gets, I will say that it isn’t the classic that the duo’s previous collaboration was, or the other work that Millar has contributed to the Marvel Universe. Partially because the run wasn’t set up to be grandiose or as monumental as those stories, but also because the duo didn’t manage to finish their run without assistance on the scripting and art side in the final two issues. There’s a palpable change in writing and visuals that I couldn’t help but be disappointed with. Seeing as how one has been following the series, it would have been nice for the creators to have been solely responsible for the conclusion of their run, rather than having to hand it off to others for whatever reasons (deadlines, most likely).
While not nearly as dramatic or as compelling as their best work together or apart, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Fantastic Four was still a fun bit of comic book storytelling. If you’ve ever loved the first family of comics, it’s worth your time to pick up the two trade paperbacks out there – World’s Greatest and Master Of Doom. You won’t be disappointed.