by Taylor Anderson
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
As I read Marvel Two-In-One #2 I realized that I’ve never read a Fantastic Four comic before, which is surprising given how much I love Marvel and their universe. But when I consider it, a Fantastic Four comic is actually somewhat of rarity. It’s been published on and off now for awhile, with its last issue coming out in 2015. This probably has something to do with the Fantastic Four movies, which have done more harm than good to the franchise with their general terribleness. I was prepared for anything in this issue and I’m happy to say I liked it, given the way it hearkens to the roots the series is steeped in (I think).
Ben Grimm, a.k.a. the Thing, has lied to his friend and comrade Johnny Storm about the death of Reed Richards and Sue. He’s told the Human Torch that they aren’t dead, but simply in an alternate dimension. With this lie told, Ben and Johnny set off for Monster Island to find a device that will help them track down their supposedly lost friends. It’s here that Ben and Johnny come face to face with ghosts, or perhaps more accurately monsters, of times past.
Waiting to attack the heroes are multiple goblins, a bizarro version of the Thing, an overweight wizard, and something that resembles a boulder crossed with a large mouth bass. Having not read any Fantastic Four comic before, I have no idea who or what these creatures are, but they definitely have that Silver Age aura to them. They all seem kitchy and the product of an earlier, simpler time in comics. For better or for worse, that’s what I associate the Fantastic Four with and the appearance of these monsters, on Monster Island no less, just seems to ring true for a comic about the Human Torch and the Thing.
I’m totally aware that my assumptions could be wrong and I’m sure all of these monsters have a long and glorious backstory that more well-read Fantastic Four readers could tell me about. However, that seems beside the point in this case. This is kind of a retro issue and the creators of it seem to recognize that. By grounding this issue in its roots, the writers have established something fun.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
While I have criticized Zdarsky’s tone in Spectacular Spider-Man, I think he nails it here. Admittedly, I’m less of a fan of the FF than ol’ Spidey, but I think he really nails the voice of all of these characters. Ben and Johnny, Doom, even Mole Man. This is extraordinarily well written from a dialogue perspective.
The story is good, too. I read it on cold medicine last night, so I couldn’t tell for 100% certain if Grimm was playing dumb to get Doom to leave them alone or not, but it worked great for the story. It added a new piece to pre-FF origin lore (I believe “doof” is new) and was a lot of fun.
The art and color is on point here as well. Cheung draws a hell of a Thing and Torch. The colors were rich and bold. The flashback scenes looked like they could have been from a different art team…
This was a great Fantastic Two comic. Everyone on all cylinders here.
Honestly, I think defining this comic by its retro qualities is kind of inaccurate. While there is always the argument that the mere act of depicting retro elements makes this retro, regardless of the supposed story (kind of like the idea that you can’t truly make an anti war movie that depicts war), I think you could argue that this comic is rejecting retro elements, and instead placing emotional elements and character over retro trivia. This is a comic where the retro elements are a meaningless diversion that doesn’t go anywhere,until Ben realises that the true ‘First Adventure’ is not a retro story, but a brand new, original story that places the focus not on superficial splendour, but on the now expected emotional honesty of this book. The superficial and shallow start is hollow, but meant to be hollow to demonstrate why such nostalgia pulls are less meaningful than a real story of friendship. Again, this issue may fall into the anti war war story trap, and celebrate retro elements by the mere act of depicting them, but I think it wants to critique them.
Though as Scott referenced, the real problem with this issue is the poor connection between the set up and payoff. Not entirely clear about what Ben knew and when, which makes the second half feel this like a payoff than it should.
Still, this comic is great. I love the real commitment to emotional realism in front of everything else, a story where things like a lie to your best friend or childhood prank matter more than all the gisnt monsters in the universe. I think Zdarsky is finally coming into his own, having learned a lot from Star Lord and Spiderman and bringing those lessons together in what continues to be a great comic.
Also, Taylor, I highly recommend Hickman’s Fantastic Four run. Such a brilliant run. One of those true classics that everyone should read. Imagination and potential with every breathing moment, an ideological kick start to the brand that could have taken the franchise anywhere, were it not for the fact they were forced into hiatus before it could really be exploited (though apparently Fraction did a pretty good job of that in FF)