So, here we are, at the end of it all. After three months, Marvel finally released X-Men/Fantastic Four #4 and…well, it’s fair to say that it was everything that we had hoped it wouldn’t be.
X-Men/Fantastic Four #4
Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Rachel Dodson (Inker), Terry Dodson (Penciler), Laura Martin (Colorist), Karl Story (Ink Assist), Dexter Vines (Ink Assist), Chip Zdarsky (Writer)
July 29, 2020
Kate Tanski: But to review, Rachel and I started off only slightly disappointed in issue #1. In the second issue, we had, well, more issues–particularly with the pacing and the extreme lack of Johnny Storm (a trend that would, disappointingly, continue). But that issue also led us to the Island of Doom, and a Fantastic Four party don’t start till Doom walks in. It was issue three where we started to feel the let down.
The third act of any story should be the build up–the climax. It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for. And yet…this third act felt like it wanted to be the finale of a first act, in a way. And I do think that Chip Zdarsky is fantastic at the longform serial, but as I wrote in my reviews to The White Trees…the problem with being amazing at worldbuilding and the longform serial narrative is when you only get two issues (or four in this case) to do what you do, and it suffers. And nobody suffered more in this miniseries than Johnny Storm.
Rachel Knight: I know we’re singling out Johnny Storm, who — I counted — has 14 lines in the whole series, but I think it’s symptomatic of one of the big problems in this miniseries on the whole, which is that it feels unbalanced. You have on one side the X-Men, on one side the Fantastic Four, and in the middle Franklin. Ideally the story should have seesawed between these two groups, but I never quite felt that. I think because this was a part of the bigger Krakoa storyline, this always felt very weighted in the X-Men’s favor. I mean, I didn’t count Ben’s lines, but I don’t think he had that many more than Johnny, who might as well have not been in the book at all for all the impact he had on the story. Sue had slightly more presence, but her two roles here are “mother” and “battering ram.” I love when Sue is both of those things! But still. I didn’t feel like the Fantastic Four side of things was able to really hold their own.
Kate: I’m never going to let go of the Johnny thing because for so long Chip was the only person at Marvel writing quality Johnny content and including him in series he didn’t even need to be in just because. That’s a good point re: Ben, though. And you brought up Sue, whose characterization I also really liked even if it wasn’t used well in the narrative, but now I’m thinking about Reed, too, whose role in the plot was to be the bad guy, really–which is really a statement when you think about how Doctor Doom is also in this series.
Rachel: My other big problem was that I feel like the whole book was pointless, which sounds harsh, but this was a book that, when it started, promised big changes for the Marvel universe. I lost 200 zdarbucks, a fictional currency invented specifically to bet on this comic, on this conclusion. Okay, granted, it was a long shot that it was going to end in a Johnny/Bobby and Doom/Storm double wedding on the beach, but still. And Xavier took off his helmet and didn’t reveal himself to actually be evil Ultimate Universe Reed underneath, too, so that was another big loss. All I did with this book was lose. Franklin’s powers aren’t fixed. Nothing is changed with Kate. (Isn’t she still dead in the other X-Books?) Xavier messed with Reed’s head, but the Illuminati does that to each other every other week, so really, minus Krakoa’s new joint custody of Franklin, nothing has actually changed.
Kate: Yeah, I guess the only major change is that the “battle” over Franklin has been resolved to some extent but it was a battle that the Fantastic Four were always going to lose, and it’s something that could have been resolved with like, a real conversation between the Fantastic Four and the X-Men with maybe someone who is both a mutant and also a superhero in their own right outside of the X-Men playing a role to understand that intersectionality. Instead we get male posturing and anticlimatic battle scenes. The one thing I’m taking with me is that Johnny was, when on fire, extremely pretty. And hey, conveniently, all of his appearances make a really nice collage for my tablet wallpaper. Thank you for making it!
Rachel: I love a tiny on fire background Johnny, but only when there are some nice foreground ones, too. Preferably without that awful stubble. Speaking of anticlimatic battle scenes, I found all of the fight scenes in this series very hard to follow, and this issue really took the cake there. If not for the narration I would have no idea what happened in any of them, which I guess would be fine since, again, basically nothing happened except Doom’s private beach got trashed. I think the “joint custody” solution for Franklin would have been more dramatic if we didn’t know from the Empyre event, which started appearing on shelves before this book was wrapped up, that Franklin is still with the Fantastic Four, currently being made to babysit baby aliens. Something tells me he won’t be taking them to Krakoa.