A CCW Review: Fantastic Four #574

Posted: December 26, 2009 in CCW Review
Tags: , ,

Title: Fantastic Four # 574
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Pencils: Neil Edwards
Inks: Andrew Currie
Publisher: Marvel
Price: $2.99

An old friend of mine, Tim, use to argue with me all the time about comic book artists and their artwork. Tim was of the opinion that the quality of the art didn’t matter as long as the story was solid. He would point to Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil and his other books as an example of story trumping pencils. I would counter his point by saying 1) Comics are a visual medium, if the artwork sucks you might as well just read a book. 2) Miller’s artwork was pretty damn good on Daredevil and if he didn’t appreciate what Miller was doing he was a fucking retard. We never did agree on this subject. Tim would always accuse me of not seeing the forest through the trees or something about me not liking a forest because it had ugly trees or some bullshit. Now that I think about it, Tim was kind of a snotty ass and that’s why I haven’t talked to the guy in years. So what does this have to do with new Fantastic Four book out this week? Well, I think it may be a case of me not seeing the forest through the trees.

Round One with Fantastic Four #574

I have been a big fan of Hickman’s Fantastic Four run so far. It was the first comic I picked up when I started collecting again this year. The first 3-issue story arc “Solve Everything” was a terrific way for Hickman to start his run. The one-and-done follow up “Adventures on Nu-World” was a solid story, though it felt a bit rushed. I was excited to see what would be in store next for the Fantastic Four, so I got me a beer and sat down in my reading chair and…

Wow! What was this? Something was seriously wrong with this comic. Franklin and the other kids look a little weird. Why do their heads have bloated manikin faces? I recognize Leech and Artie, but who are these other odd looking mutant kids at Franklin’s party? Holy shit, that’s suppose to be Power Pack! You have got to be kidding me and why does this artist hate Reed Richards’ face so much? Reed has a five-o-clock shadow, not a hobo beard and a giant chin! Wait! This birthday party goes on for how many pages? I have to look at these ugly kids for almost two-thirds of the book. The last third of the book doesn’t have creepy looking kids but it does have a time traveler and some stuff about Franklin and Valeria having to stop something in the future. I am sure this is setting up future stories for the book, but all of that doesn’t matter because I can’t stop thinking about the fact that Bentley Wittman’s clone kid looks like Pig-Pen from the Peanuts comic-strip. Not only was this the worst Fantastic Four comic I have read this year, this might spell the end of the entire Hickman FF run. Game over man, game over!

Later that night I messaged Jose to let him know what a turd of a comic this week’s Fantastic Four had been:

From: IM
To: Jose

Picked up Fantastic Four #574(ugh!) Chew #7(Terrific!) Detective Comics #860(nice, but I need to reread it again), and I found The Last Days of American Crime #1(I can’t believe what a quality book it was for five bucks!)

I guess I had the biggest reaction to FF #574 and not in a good way. The quality of this book has fallen sharply since the first story arc, and the poor artwork in this issue makes it worse. I can start writing a review tomorrow for any of the books, if you have one you want me to do in particular let me know.

From: Jose
To: IM

Huh, I haven’t yet gotten to FF yet. Is it that bad? Really? I’ll now HAVE TO read it next. Do a review of whichever book you feel will give you the best review, positive or negative. That’s usually how I go about it. Just let me know which one you decide on because I am going to TRY to do a review myself in the next day or so.

From: IM
To: Jose

The art by Neil Edwards is pretty bad, he seems to have a hard time drawing human faces. Reed Richards in particular seem to suffer at the hands of Edwards, looking like a bum most of the time. There is a panel on page six I think where everyone is standing around a birthday cake for Franklin, Reed looks like some kind of horrible manikin. The art really put a damper on the whole Birthday party, which takes up almost 2/3 of the book. the last third is better, but it looks like a set up for the Siege. I am hoping that is not the case.

Right now I am leaning toward doing a review of FF.

From: Jose
To: IM

OK. I just finished reading it. I actually liked it but ya, that art was fucking terrible. One of the only things worse than Bryan Hitch art is someone trying to imitate Bryan Hitch art. The art alone almost killed the book for me

All in all it was a set up issue for future storylines which is fine for me. I think that this is eluding to the Doom War and not the Siege, though I could be wrong. And Franklin got his powers back so that was cool.

Following the last issue with this story I can see where you have a problem with it not living up to the first story arc. To be fair, last issue was all about Hickman cleaning up some shit that Mark Millar left him with. I am glad Hickman resolved that shit Millar plotline right away (for the most part) because I really would rather not deal with it in the future.

I’ll be interested in reading your review.

So, Jose liked it? How was that possible? Didn’t he see all of the ugly kids running around in it. Set up? What set up? I tried to remember anything important that had happen in the comic and I had to admit to myself that I pretty much had stopped reading dialog after the first three or four pages. Could I have been wrong about this issue, did I let the art get in the way of the story? If anyone else had told me they liked this issue I would have laughed at them. Unlike most people I know on the internet, I respect Jose’s opinions on things though. With the idea that I may have missed something important in the comic, I decided to take a second look at the book.

Round Two with Fantastic Four #574

OK, things start out with Franklin and Valeria making some plans of their own on the day of Franklin’s birthday. Valeria has made something special for Franklin and he is worried it might not work. Valeria assures him he will be happy with the results. The birthday party gets underway with the whole Fantastic Four family present, along with Alex, Jack and Katie from Power Pack. Leech, Artie and that ugly gargoyle dude (who’s name escapes me right now) are also attending [Editor‘s Note: That “ugly gargoyle dude“ is none other than the android Dragon Man-Jolly J.]. The child clone of The Wizard is present here also, tying up a loose plot-line from an earlier issue. Franklin had questioned his father on what would happen to the child clone of Bentley Wittman, the clone kid that was the sole survivor of an earlier battle with the Fantastic Four. It looks like Franklin was able to convince his father to take care of the child for the time being. Sue Richards has a rather nice moment with Bentley(or number 32 as he likes to call himself) involving a piece of birthday cake. Reed offers Alex from Power Pack a job working with him on a special project, although no mention of what that special project might be.

After a bit, Spider-Man shows up to entertain the kids, much to the disappointment of Johnny Storm who has some nice dialog with Sue about Spider-Man’s needing to make a dramatic entrance to the party. As the party winds down, Franklin in a bit of twist gives presents out to everyone who came to the party. The presents range from gift certificates, to a key for a room at the FF headquarters for Leech to live in, and a helmet built by Val that allows Artie to once again project his thoughts to communicate. Spider-Man also gets a joke gift from Johnny that I won’t reveal, you will have to pick up the issue to find out what it is.

Later that night after the party is over, FF Headquarters get a visit from a time traveler, who quickly erects a force field to prevent the Fantastic Four from interfering with him. The traveler appears to stun Franklin as he walks out into the hall to see what is going on. The stranger seems to be interested in speaking to Valeria and gives her a rather cryptic message about “The future must be avoided at all costs.” This actually leads to the best part of the book, as future guy gives his message to Val, there is a series of child like drawings in the background that seem to give clues to what the traveler is taking about. I think there are some spoilers there if you can figure them out. By the time Reed gets the force field down the mystery man(who really isn’t a mystery anymore at this point, its pretty easy to figure out who he is) has finished his mission and taken off back to wherever he came from. The book ends with Valeria not revealing her conversation with the traveler to her parents and Franklin apparently regaining something that he had lost. I guess the traveler did more than just stun him in the hall.

Overall my second look at this book revealed a lot of good stuff I had overlooked because I hated some aspects of Neil Edwards art. There is a lot of setting up for future story lines here and some very nice character moments for just about everyone in the story. Hickman is doing a fine job of writing the Fantastic Four as not just a superhero team but as a caring family as well. He is really taking his time to flesh out Franklin and Valeria as major players in this book and not just background material. I should talk about the art for a moment. I had major problems with Neil Edwards art, but in truth, beside his apparent inability to draw children and not have them look like Rugrats, he does a pretty good job penciling everything else and I was surprised to notice he did the pencils on the last issue. I remember liking the art in that issue.

In the end this was another very solid issue of the Fantastic Four and planted the seeds for at least a few future story-lines here. I was very quick to label this book a turd, when I think I was the one being the turd for dismissing it so quickly. The forest through the trees indeed. I hate to say it, but Tim was right about me. I let art get in the way of a good story. I still believe comics are a visual medium, but in the future maybe I need be a little more forgiving.

IM

Comments
  1. JohnnyHorror92182 says:

    Suffice it to say, great article! The latest issue of FF was pretty good…story wise. Yes, I find the art was not up to par, even though I am very forgiving of artwork, I thought it was bad. However, at least Marvel (in their ultimate wisdom ;P) decided to give Dale a break from art chores and get a fill-in artist (albeit a sketchy one) instead letting the book be late while Dale catches up.

  2. generaldark says:

    i thought the art was tolerable but man did he fuck up reed richards face lol.

  3. phil says:

    Greetings IM, my fellow Michiganian. With what you were saying about your friend as it related to FrankMillers’ artwork on DD, myself…I:ve always been onthe fence as far as FM’s artwork goes. While I agree with you that comics are a visual medium, I also believe that during Millers’ run on DD, well, at best his drawing was decent, often it was derivative and ocassionally it was awful. The thing that would save Miller in those days, even when he was unsuccessfully aping Buscema, Adams, Kane, or Colan’s Drawing style, was FM’s prowess as a storyteller which even then was exemplory.
    Anyhoo, I know the primary focus here was about the FF, but I just had the compulsion to speak on the whole whats more important deal that you were speaking of.
    On a semi- related topic, I’m guessing that you are not crazy about the CharlieBrown headed Ultimate Spiderman of late…Hmmm? :-)

  4. Ironmuskrat says:

    Hey Phil!

    Hope you survived the weather on X-Mas here in Michigan, we lucked out here in Pontiac. We only received a Monsoon, not snow =)

    It been years since I really looked at Miller’s old DD stuff. If I had to go back and really look at it now I am sure I would agree with you on Miller’s artwork. What can I say I was young and impressionable back then (Ooooh! Ninjas!).

    As for Ultimate Spider-man, it been awhile since I checked that book out, but I will now just to see how big that head has gotten!

    IM

  5. david says:

    yer the artwork sucked in this, you need both art AND story.

    i like the way the kids were drawn in the last book of “solve everything” arc, the munchikens were so cute there, especially valeria’s angry face…nawwww.

  6. MANACONDA! says:

    its a christmas miracle!

    will jose ever admit to being wrong again? maybe.

    but im still calling this a christmas miracle

  7. Curtis says:

    Very nice, keep it up!

  8. Ya the art was pretty awful but Hickman kept bringing the awesome writing to us. Thankfully we won’t have to deal with Edwards’ art anymore for a while.

  9. just wondering says:

    any care to decipher the 3 panels of “kiddy drawing”?
    My marvel U background aint enough to do so.

    panel 1:
    What are the 4 cities??
    …Atlantis(Namor)?…Attilan(Moon)?

    panel 2:
    Who are the (dead?) characters drawn in the background??
    Do the years on the time line give a clue?
    Who is the future man?? is that even in the drawing?

    panel 3:
    Why 3 dooms in their various poses?
    Whats that box thing in the top left corner of the panel??

    i’d appreciate any help from you marvel geniuses out there…thanks

  10. Deemar says:

    Hilarious Musk

  11. Deemar says:

    The art does effect how I enjoy a book and it was not pleasant reading the current FF

  12. Matthew Guy says:

    Are we planning to do a quick review of Blackest Night #6 on Wednesday or Thursday?

    Please Jose.

    Matthew

  13. Pobra says:

    I also tend to let bad art get in the way of me enjoying a story, for me it’s all about the complete package. But if the story is really good, I can overlook it. And conversely, if the art is really good, I can sometimes get over a bad story, but it’s a little harder. For instance, I really like Romita Jr., but that’s not enough to get me to read kick-ass.

  14. Variant Girl says:

    Hey great review, super indepth and pretty damn funny. I haven’t been reading Hickman’s run on FF, but all in all I’ve only herd good things about it. Maybe I’ll check it out in trade when it is available. I really enjoyed your writing style and I think it fit very well with the tone of this blog site. I also liked the fact that you were very discriptive, all in all awesome job:)

    P.S
    I agreee with you, comics are a visual medium and yeah without it you might as well read a fucking paper back or something. Writing and art what a quirky little marriage, but when it works it’s the best thing ever.

    • Ironmuskrat says:

      Thank you for the kind words Variant Girl. I looked at Jose and your reviews for inspiration when trying to write.

      IM

  15. Dave says:

    The artwork in this issue was beyond horrible. Katie Power looks like a mongoloid. There’s a panel with Sue towards the end where her eyes are completely different sizes. I’m not one to comment on artwork, being terrible at it myself, but good lord! If this guy sticks around, even Hickman might not be enough to keep me around.

    Great review!

  16. Dude says:

    I personally agree with your initial evaluation: the artwork in this issue (and in my opinion, the Nu-World issue before–contrary to your subsequent re-evaluation) Really Sucks, and it makes it painful for me to read. As you note, if I’m just in it for the story, I can go out and read a novel. I don’t see the point to a comic book with bad art.

    I just read the trade copy containing the Solve Everything arc and this one, and it is remarkable how crappy Edwards’ art looks in comparison to the Eaglesham art in Solve Everything immediately prior. The characters in Edwards’ issues are almost unrecognizable, and close-up panels are hideous. In panel after panel, there they are–weird faces, strange grimaces, horrible pinched looks.

    Thank god for libraries. If I’d bought this, I’d be pretty pissed off.

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