Monday, November 9, 2009

Requiem for Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four

From a fan's perspective, it's comforting to know that some books will NEVER be cancelled - as long as there's a DC Comics, there'll be Action Comics, and as long as the courts stay on their side, it'll star Superman more often than not.  As long as there's a Marvel Comics, there'll be Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America and Fantastic Four titles - their flagship books.  While this may lead to a lull in creativity or a stagnation of character traits, the part of me that views these creations as old friends (in a very loose sense) can find solace in knowing that month after month, I can still pick up these titles if I so choose.  If I'd quit collecting comics for 20 years, chances are I could walk into a future comic shop (or perhaps I'd just think my way inside) and grab the latest issue of Fantastic Four.  I'd probably have a pretty good idea about what was going on, too.  This doesn't always extend to satellite books, though.

A few months ago, Fantastic Four Giant Size Adventures came out as a one-shot issue.  I was a little curious as to why Marvel would put out this book when Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four was an ongoing title, though I soon surmised that this was because MA:FF had been cancelled.  This is a shame because the book was consistently solid, and more often than a few times it was the best Fantastic Four book on the shelves.

Much of my praise goes out to writer Paul Tobin, who took this book - aimed at a younger audience as are all the titles under the Marvel Adventures banner - and told good, self contained stories without dumbing down the characters to make them more accessible.  Though every story had to be finished in 22-or-so pages, the characters still retained their spark, the essence of who they were and what made them such likable fictional characters.

It was obvious, at least in my opinion, that Tobin's favorite character in the book (perhaps in the entire Marvel Universe) was the Thing, which was right up my alley.  Often the books would read as "Marvel Adventures Thing and his pals the Fantastic Four", and don't let anyone tell you that was a bad thing - having Ben Grimm get all the best lines and the most scenes gave me a pretty good idea of how I'D write the book if I had the chance.

The last issue of the series, #48, ranks right up there with some of my favorite Fantastic Four stories of all time.  Galactus transports the team to the end of time, where the world-eater awaits the end of the current universe and the beginning of the next - an event that he and only he will survive.  As he prepares for the inevitable, Galactus employs the FF to fend off various iterations of contemporary super villains, as they could disrupt his plans.

As the team holds off the desperate schemes of the villains and returns to their own time, they are confused as to why a being as powerful as Galactus would have needed their help in the first place.  Reed Richards realizes that this was Galactus's way of saying goodbye, of getting to see the closest thing he's had to friends one last time before the end.  Mr. Fantastic looks Galactus straight in the eyes, shakes his hand, and says, "I'll miss you, too."

It's stuff like that that most writers miss, and it's stuff like that that I appreciate the most.

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