Once again, Kate and Rachel team up to review the X-Men/Fantastic Four miniseries, otherwise known as The Continuing Saga of Why Isn’t There More Johnny Storm, Chip?
X-Men/Fantastic Four #3
Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Rachel Dodson (Inker), Terry Dodson (Penciler), Laura Martin (Colorist), Karl Story (Ink Assist), Dexter Vines (Ink Assist), Chip Zdarsky (Writer)
March 25th, 2020
This review contains spoilers for X-Men/Fantastic Four #3
Kate: I’d like to start by giving kudos to Chip for actually answering my callout tweet for the last issue, wherein I asked that very question.
And all joking aside, I think that’s been the major issue with this series to date, including this current issue. There’s a LOT to juggle, and he’s only been given four issues to do it in. And maybe that was okay if you were Chris Claremont, but in this day and age, the pacing of this series is really a distraction. Rogue and Johnny were on a team together but their one interaction doesn’t mention that at all. I like these characters. I like the kind of character interaction that Zdarsky typically excels at. And yet! I am denied the major reason I’m a fan of Zdarsky’s writing at all. Being a Chip fan (some might say Stan), I’m inclined to blame editorial for this decision and making this a problem, but it’s also fair to say that whatever the constraints are, the end product isn’t as good as it should be, and that’s a disappointment.
Rachel: The pacing has definitely been really frustrating for me as a reader. I’m a big fan of the original Fantastic Four vs X-Men series, which was also only four issues long, and it’s easy to see where Zdarsky has been drawing his inspiration beyond just the fact that both the X-Men and Fantastic Four are here and fighty. Like Claremont’s FF vs X-Men, the goal of both groups is to fix the powers of a young mutant (originally Kate, now Franklin), doubt has been cast on Reed’s motivations, and also Doom is here to gleefully make everything a hundred times worse. But in comparison to the original mini which reads like a saga in its own right, 4X’s pacing feels simultaneously like it’s rushing by and like it’s made of molasses. Things happen at a fast pace, particularly the fight scenes which I’ve been finding hard to follow visually since the first issue, but the actual events have been stretched across three issues like taffy. With only one issue left to wrap up this plot — which will supposedly have long lasting consequences for the Marvel Universe — I don’t see that improving.
I didn’t really miss Rogue and Johnny interacting (partly because I don’t really think their friendship was ever that well fleshed out to begin with) but I am annoyed that Rogue and Ben engaged in a brief scuffle in this issue and there was no callback to their kiss from Fantastic Four vs X-Men #2. It’s a good kiss!
Kate: That’s fair! I think for me it’s just like, that’s SO recent and they seemed to really go hard with the two of them being close friends but all relationships have been pushed aside in the favor of these frankly awkward and forced battle scenes. Why do we need battle scenes at all? And maybe it is an issue with these particular battle scenes but every one reminds me of the airport fight scene in Captain America: Civil War. Or really, the fight scene in Batman vs. Superman. There’s something fucked up if you think the coolest thing about these characters is wanting to see them use their powers against each other. And I know that’s a society thing, but it’s just such a let down that I really wish that there was more subverting of this trope happening.
I think my favorite part of this issue was Doom! Which isn’t really surprising, because Zdarsky gives good Doom. (Shoutout to Marvel Two-in-1 that gave us the best AU Doom like, ever). In the span of like, 5 pages Doom gets to insult Magneto, Charles, AND Reed, and it’s a glorious thing to see.
Rachel: Despite my complaints, this issue was probably my favorite one so far and it’s because of all the Doom. Zdarsky has a great handle on what makes him so fun to read, and I especially loved his ongoing custody battle with the Richards family and his “anything you can do, I can better” attitude. Parent your children? Doom can do it better. Found an island? Doom can do it better. Wear a cape? Do you even have to ask? This issue was especially fun because while we know Doom and Valeria have a special relationship, his interactions with Franklin up until this point have been pretty much limited to chucking his the kid into hell, you know, as you do, so it was really fun to see him acting as an uncle — a sinister uncle, but an uncle — to both kids. This is the first time Franklin has ever called him Uncle Victor! My heart. He’s definitely getting invited to the Fantastic Four Thanksgiving now, because it’s an old Latverian saying that family means never having to say you’re sorry for siccing giant robots on the X-Men.
One of the other highlights of the issue for me was Emma calling Sue “the Dior of surprise.” That’s such a good line. I knew that we were going to hit a point where the X-Men and the Fantastic Four had to cooperate for the greater good, because of course, but I have to admit that most of it left me cold.
Kate: The Dior line is SO good. Also the part where Emma possesses Johnny? It’s a single panel but it gives me joy.
And the last panel with the giant robots is an excellent cliffhanger. As much as the internal pacing of each issue is frustrating, I think where each issue ends is actually pretty good, in terms of cliffhangers at pivotal moments. But I still don’t know how it’s going to be wrapped up in a single issue.
Any predictions on how Zdarsky is going to pull this off?
Rachel: It’s going to be revealed that Doom traveled back in time and invented all giant robots, so actually the Sentinel program ripped him off, just like with the Von Doom particles. Kidding (maybe). As much as I really want this to end in a surprise Iceman and Human Torch beachfront wedding officiated by Magneto, I think it’s pretty clear that X-Men and the Fantastic Four are going to have to put aside their differences in another way and team up against Doom. I’m mostly interested in whether Doom will be successful in restoring Franklin’s powers — considering Slott shoehorned Franklin losing them into the main Fantastic Four title and then failed to do anything interesting with it, it would be pretty funny to see it resolved elsewhere. Maybe with the return of Franklin’s powers will also come the return of his “get along” puppy eyes from Claremont’s Fantastic Four vs X-Men?
That Johnny and Bobby beachfront wedding would solve our Johnny page time problem though.
Kate: Preach! Bobby and Johnny are LITERALLY ON THE COVER of this issue together! And frankly, if the title of your comic is X-Men/Fantastic Four, there better be some slash fodder.