The Rec List: 10/02/09 (3)

Fantastic Four #571Earlier in the week, I agreed to read and review two comics that were kindly (and not so kindly) recommended to me. During the first half of my review, I discussed what I expected from each book and the role I felt that each book had in the marketplace. Next up? It’s time to crack open some comics!

The artwork in Fantastic Four #571 is simply lovely and is wholeheartedly dedicated to telling Hickman’s story. I only had one minor issue with Eaglesham’s pencils, so let’s get it out of way first. Due to Eaglesham’s preference for a bulkier and more muscular Reed Richards, it took me a couple of pages to figure out that the Reed Richards who is the main protagonist in the story is actually the Reed Richards from the 616 universe. Multiple universes thrown at me right off the bat? I’m no stranger to superhero comics. I can handle that. A Reed Richards without a slender swimmer’s build? Well, that I’m not used to. But a few panels in and I could figure out who was who just fine. And Eaglesham’s choice didn’t stop me from understanding the story. It just made me blurt out “Oh, that’s our Reed!” about a third of the way into it. I’m not the type to pay much attention to recap pages.

The depictions of the Fantastic Four’s home help to illustrate the idea that the Richards are a normal family that happen to do extraordinary things. There are no never-ending lushly carpeted halls as in the Avengers’ Mansion or wildly-colored space-age furniture. Save for a few robots petering around in the background, everything about the Fantastic Four’s family life is decidedly average and middle-class. The furniture would look right at home in an Ethan Allen catalogue. Rooms are tightly packed and cluttered with household items. Eaglesham does a fantastic job depicting the image of the classic American family that has been consistently reinforced from the days of Leave it to Beaver to the days of Malcolm in the Middle.

And as with any good Fantastic Four artist, Eaglesham seems as comfortable with the colorful and cosmic as he is with the average and American.

Ah, I have one more possible issue with Eaglesham’s pencils! Everyone appears to be related! While this is wonderful in a book like Fantastic Four, I have to wonder if Eaglesham would run into problems with guest appearances from other Marvel characters. Everyone seems to have a square shaped face and a cleft chin.

Mounts’s colors are great. I love the fact that everything good in Reed’s life—his family, his ability to help people—is depicted in warm hues. The pinks, browns, and yellows make it seem as if the positive aspects of Reed’s life are awash in sunlight. And when Reed is upset or conflicted, blue or purple dominates the scene. Whether done on purpose or not, it’s a nice touch.

Unfortunately, Hickman’s story did not reel me in as much as the art did. And I’m frustrated by this because I have no idea why it didn’t! Hickman is a talented writer who provided me with everything I would expect from a good Fantastic Four story. He hit every possible beat. Exploration of the self? Check. Exploration of the family? Check. Exploration of the cosmos? Check!

I do believe the problem is not with Hickman or his work, but with me. Six decades in and America still isn’t tired of examining and discussing the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant middle-class nuclear family. But I? Am very tired of it. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that America should stop examining and discussing it. It shouldn’t. Because it’s an important aspect of American society. It just means that I’m going to stop listening in when it’s done. Because it is extremely boring.

Set them in the ’60s? I don’t care. Give them superpowers? I don’t care. It has been done so many times that there is no way a writer can bring anything new or novel to the table with the subject. But what a writer can do with it is serve up a very solid and satisfying chunk of nostalgia for his readers to enjoy. The problem is that I’m not nostalgic for it.

I do believe that the same goes for superhero tales as well. Unless the classic superhero story is distorted through humor (ex: Empowered) or violence (Ex: Blackest Night), or deals with a character that I have a longstanding affection for (ex: Wolverine), I’m just not interested.

How do you fix this? You don’t. Because it’s not a problem. Fantastic Four comics sell well. Fantastic Four movies do well at the box office. Many people have a longstanding affection for these characters. I’m just not one of them.

One last thing, can I just say that putting a quote from the interior of the comic on the cover is a brilliant idea? Because I really think it is!