Monday, April 14, 2014

The Yellow Stick Of God

Some of you reading comics during the early 2000s may remember writer Mark Waid's run on Fantastic Four, when the FF were in their "Imaginauts" phase. Valeria Richards... Johnny becoming the CFO of FF, Inc., as well as the herald of Galactus... the sci-fi masthead... the team laying claim to Latveria... the A.I. falling in love with Reed... the trip to Heaven...

Whoa, back up a sec, you say. The what?

A very interesting run, yes. At times an uncomfortable one. The FF were looking rather--cartoonish, for lack of a better word. Almost caricatures of themselves. Far less serious, though far more family-oriented. I found myself drawn into these stories in spite of myself. I wasn't crazy about the action sequences, with Reed's pasta-like stretching and other distractions; the team didn't look in fighting form, if that makes sense. But the relationships between the characters made for enjoyable, if whimsical, reading.

And there was that trip to Heaven, to recover Ben's soul.

And the Fantastic Four's meeting with the Almighty.

Yes, that Almighty.

It's easy to get the impression from all this that the FF had lost their edge. But surprisingly, Waid kept a tight grip on what made these characters work--and when tension and desperate battle conditions were needed, the FF were there in all the ways that mattered, resulting in some fine stories that rank right up there. Yet it's fair to say that these FF issues were very much under the radar--and that's unfortunate.

For instance, the sequence where the FF meet God comes on the tail end of a very good story that cements the bond between Ben and Reed, though it has the team on the verge of tearing itself apart. But when all is said and done, they're given a last leg to their trip that comes as something of a surprise, to say the least:

Are you?

Jack Kirby as the Almighty. It's a brilliant twist on Waid's part, and a great way to handle meeting "God" without getting bogged down in religious doctrine or dogma. The FF are clearly blown away, and it allows God to steer both their actions and reactions.

Even Reed gets a lesson in humility, thanks to a penciller analogy made by the perfect source:

But this is just a visit, after all, and so it comes time for the four to be heading home.

If this were Stan Lee writing this tale, there's no telling what kind of heady wisdom Reed would be dispensing on their return. But Waid's less-is-more ending makes for a touching conclusion to a story which shouldn't work, but does.



Anonymous said...

Two quick comments

1) I stopped reading comics just in time....

b) Sue, two words - sports bra.

The Prowler (this makes me miss the halcyon days of Iron Man's nose).

Anonymous said...

The artwork's okay but what's annoying is that the lettering is in lower case - that just doesn't look right.

david_b said...

Actuuuually, Sue looks pretty darn sexy, as is.

Hmm, love the concept and how it was handled, will have to pick this up.