04th Sep2020

‘Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Mark Waid | Art by Neal Adams, Mark Farmer | Published by Marvel Comics

Amazingly, I don’t believe I have yet reviewed an issue of Fantastic Four during my time reviewing for Nerdly. I have reviewed issues that feature the FF, or solo turns and guest appearances, but never them in their own book. Which is odd, as I’ve had an affection for the Fantastic Four going back many years, having read and collected them since the late 1970’s. For me the Bronze Age FF and the John Byrne were the high points, though in terms of influence nothing can match Lee and Kirby’s initial run. So this was a perfect excuse to review an FF book, as it also had attached a favourite writer in Mark Waid, a huge favourite artist in Neal Adams, even a great inker in Mark Farmer. The stars have seemingly aligned just for me. Let’s take a look.

We start with a lovely tribute to Joe Sinnott, who died at the age of 94 this year, and who inked Fantastic Four first way back in 1962, and then worked on virtually every issue from 1965 to 1981, an incredible run that I remember the latter part of. Nice touch Marvel. The title page also makes it clear this is not the current Fantastic Four continuity, but ‘a new story from a classic era’, which let’s face it is Mark Waid and Neal Adam’s forte. If you want classic interpretations of your favourite characters, these are the go to guys.

So, what’s Neal got to start with? How about a gorgeous full page Annihilus panel, followed by a gorgeous double page FF in action spread? Yep, that’ll do. Seems Reed and the team have been dealing with strange rifts that have been opening up all over New York, one of which Annihilus popped out of. He’s soon despatched, in essentially a James Bond style pre-titles mini adventure. Fun start.

Now for some scene setting and ‘greatest hits’ moments. Franklin is here, still young, Valeria is alive but still a baby (and Neal Adams, as great as he is, still can’t draw believable babies), and Agatha Harkness is the FF babysitter. Johnny and Ben are at their practical joke playing on each other best, and Reed is still spending all his time in the lab to Sue’s, er, frustration. This is definitely taking me back to a time and place I loved.

Just to reinforce that, the alarm sensor goes off and a strange object is hurtling towards Earth, evading Reed’s satellites and best efforts to stop it. Time to utilise the FF’s best weapons, Reed’s brain and the family dynamic teamwork. Using all their abilities in tandem they manage to divert the flaming ball away from Manhattan. So, just what is it? Turns out, it’s a who. That ‘who’ is a severely beaten up Silver Surfer, still currently it seems the Herald of Galactus. He’s come for help, but as Reed points out, why didn’t Galactus help him? The answer shows just how high stakes Waid and Adams wanted to go with this story. Galactus is dead, and whatever killed him is loose and free in Space. Well that’s not good.

A really fun start to what promises to be a great story, one in which old school storytelling with a modern polish really works well. Mark Waid’s script is pitched perfectly, capturing the classic FF essence, hitting all the major character beats and ‘you’ll smile because you’ll remember this’ moments. Great dialogue too. Neal Adams art is gorgeous to look at of course, though Farmer’s inks seem a little heavy at times, suggesting he did finishes over Adams looser layouts and rough pencils. Still undeniably Adams though, a ‘widescreen’ artist before the term had been invented. His art is so stylish, so large in scale, so epic, you just stare at the panels sometimes. This later work is perhaps not as perfect as his younger days, but still oozes pure class. I love the main message. Yep, they all have great powers, but their true power lies in being a family, because families stick together.

I can only see this book getting bigger and even better, now Waid has done his scene setting and nods to the past, and Adams has got to draw some great panels and scenes, and that makes me even more excited for the next issue. Waid and Adams always raise the ante, so we are in for a treat.

**** 4/5


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