Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four, Vol. 1: Family of Heroes

Review Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four Volume One Family of Heroes Jeff Parker Akira Yoshida Caylo Pagulayan Juan Santacruz Marvel Mr. Fantastic Invisible Woman Human Torch Thing Cover trade paperback tpb comic bookWriters: Jeff Parker and Akira Yoshida
Artists: Carlo Pagulayan and Juan Santacruz
Collects: Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #1-4 (2005)
Published: Marvel, 2005; $6.99

The first volume of Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four is fortunate enough to avoid the biggest pitfall of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man’s earliest issues – that is, it tells brand-new stories rather than simply rehashing old ones. Sadly, Jeff Parker doesn’t ever hit the same groove that he did in the one issue of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man that he wrote (which, by contrast, was a lot of fun), and parts of this book are actually pretty boring. The fact that Parker only co-writes the first two issues – with Akira Yoshida, whose writing typically falls somewhere between average and mediocre in quality – is probably a big part of the problem.

There are a few bright spots, though. Parker comes up with some pretty clever ways for the Fantastic Four (especially the Human Torch) to use their powers in the fourth issue, which is by far the best of this collection. But even so, the pacing is off and emotional development throughout is shallow at best. Most of the book consists of the team getting their butts kicked by whatever villain they happen to be fighting, and their means of ultimate triumph in each situation don’t seem very well thought out. In one of the stories, there are a couple of completely random panels where Dr. Strange comes out of nowhere to fix everything that’s gone wrong before disappearing just as quickly.

I might be able to look past the underdeveloped stories to some extent if the action scenes themselves were well-done, but they’re really not. The bad guys chosen for the book aren’t all that exciting – in the book’s four stories, we get Annihilus, Diablo, a group of mischievous Skrull kids, and a renegade Sentinel robot (on loan from the X-Men, apparently). There’s no Dr. Doom, no Sub-Mariner, no outer space or time travel adventure. If this had been my first Fantastic Four book as a kid, I doubt I could have summoned the interest to read the next book in this series.

The digest format doesn’t do the art any favors either. The pencils are fine, if nothing extraordinary, but the coloring is just awful. Everything looks incredibly dark, which is a serious problem when you’re trying to decipher art that’s already been greatly reduced in size. Making things worse, most of the stories take place inside dark, drab buildings, which isn’t in keeping at all with the bright, generally cheerful atmosphere I associate with the Fantastic Four. Overall, it makes for a pretty dull reading experience.

Although this book didn’t impress me, I’ll probably give the next one a chance the way I decided I would for Marvel Adventures Spider-Man. Future volumes in that series look to be a significant improvement on the first, and with Zeb Wells and Fred Van Lente eventually coming on as writers for this title, I still have some hope. Writing for children and adults at the same time is no easy task, and any series aiming to do so is bound to face some growing pains; my hope is that by the next time around, this series will have gotten past them.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5


  1. Great review Marc. I buy a lot of FF stuff, but even I drew the line when perusing these collections. Is this the lowest rating you've ever given?

  2. Yeah, this HAS to be the lowest rating you've given thus far, right Marc? Hmm, then again, I can remember you scoring the MA Spidey digest pretty low as well... Anyway, I have to say that I am GLAD I've(for the most part)avoided these Marvel Adventure books... The two Marvel Adventure titles you've reviewed here really don't seem very appealing...

  3. The thing is, I've read a handful of later issues of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and they were really fun. So I'm pretty sure there will be a shift in quality for these series at some point, I'm just not sure when. It's hard to tell without actually reading them, since there just aren't that many reviews of the material out there.

    And now that you guys mention it, this book does tie with the first volume of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man for lowest rating so far! I actually wasn't going to even bother reviewing it, but this week has been incredibly busy for me -- I've been helping my parents move, and I'm moving myself in less than a week(!) -- so I thought a short review of a short book was better than no review at all. Next week's may or may not be on the shorter side as well, but hopefully I'll have time for something a little more substantive.

  4. Ouch, I was expecting a little better of a score but this makes me wanna run away if I ever come in contact with this TPB. Great review though Marc, I love that you mentioned the stories taking place in more of a drab settling since the Fantastic Four usually are out doing things in daylight or in space or more "out there" as you mentioned. I have to ask, in what ways were the powers used creatively in book four?

  5. I was also curious about how their powers were used creatively. After reading this review(which was very well written), I will avoid this series like a plague. So I would greatly appreciate if you gave an example of any saving graces this series possesses. It is a pity the Four were subject to such mediocrity...

  6. Thanks for the comments guys, and sorry if I've kept you waiting. As it turns out, moving can be hard and time-consuming work! The big double-move is also the reason why I'm at a bit of a loss when it comes to answering your questions -- I can't go back and look at the book right now, since it's actually been packed away somewhere!

    From what I remember, though, there was a scene where Sue freaked some people out on a subway by turning just her clothes and skin invisible, and another where the Thing tried to use his skills as a pilot while riding Dragon Man through New York City. I'm pretty sure the Human Torch did something interesting too, but what it was exactly escapes me. Either way, they were really just a few unique moments in a book full of completely uninteresting ones. Since I'm having trouble remembering them now, I have the feeling that they might not have even stood out to me so much if the book had been better all around.