When it comes to artists, John Romita Jr has always been one of my favourites. It’s likely because he was the guy that was drawing Uncanny X-Men back when I was first introduced to Marvel’s merry mutants all the way back in 1985. I followed Romita over the years, and loved it when he was drawing Daredevil during the original Inferno, and later when he was working with J. Michael Straczynski during JMS’s Amazing Spider-Man run.
Truthfully, I couldn’t help but feel a little betrayed when JRJR leapt over to DC for the spell over the last decade, and I didn’t really keep up with much of his work their (though I will say I read and enjoyed his and Frank Miller’s Superman: Year One, and I don’t care what anybody thinks, damnit!).
After some time at the Distinguished Competition, JRJR has returned to Marvel and he’s done so in a big way – illustrating the double (triple??) sized Fantastic Four #35 (Legacy #680), which celebrates the FF’s 60th anniversary. Romita JR teams up with now-longtime FF scribe Dan Slott for an issue that brings back one of the gang’s most dynamic villains, Kang, who has teamed up with a few of his variants (Loki fans will be familiar with that term) to try and take down the team once and for all.
First of all, it’s worth noting that Slott has really been doing a great job on this current Fantastic Four series, and he’s managed to put it on my regular read list. The voices are all spot on and the storytelling has taken surprising turns; Fantastic Four is a title that effortlessly veers from fun to serious; Slott clearly loves the family dynamics of the book, and it’s clear he’s playing the long game with his set ups.
As for the work of JRJR, well, it’s so nice to see him back working in the realm where I think he simply excels. As a fan, I did start to feel at times that he wasn’t as invested on some of the titles he was illustrating throughout in the 2000s for Marvel, so I’m guessing he needed the break. Nobody draws New York City or Marvel characters like John Romita Jr., and throughout Fantastic Four #35 it’s clear he is back in top form.
Along with Slott and JRJR, this issue features some fun back-up stories courtesy of Jason Loo, Mark Waid, and Paul Renaud, respectively. Waid and Renaud’s story, “Stars” in particular, is extremely relevant, as it offers a revised take on the FF’s original story, one that I’m guessing is going to be canon for the foreseeable future.
Ultimately, Fantastic Four #35 is a perfect celebration of Marvel’s first family on their 60th anniversary, while also serving as the return of legendary artist to the fold.
Welcome back, JRJR!