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Fantastic Four #504

Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Howard Porter (p), Norm Rapmund (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens at a meeting between the Secretary of the United Nations, and the ambassador of Hungary, who is upset that the Fantastic Four look to have laid claim to the nation of Latveria, in direct violation of numerous international laws. Nick Fury soon arrives to plays devil's advocate by making it clear he's rather pleased by the actions that were taken by the Fantastic Four, as he believes they have prevented the region from de-stabilizing. We then look in on the four heroes, as we see Ben, Sue and Johnny are all questioning Reed's rather high-handed actions, as he hasn't let them in on what his plans are up until the moment that he's busy carrying them out, and this doesn't sit well with them as the normal method of operation is for Reed to at least pretend that he's acknowledging the insight the others offer him. After taking the team out into Doomstad to show them the rather unsettling place where Doctor Doom sent citizens of Latveria that proved difficult, we see Sue decides enough is enough and she puts her foot down, refusing to follow any orders Reed makes until he does a better job of explaining why they should. By way of an explanation Reed leads the team into the most secure section of Doctor Doom's castle, where after they make their way past a barrage of security devices, Reed is able to offer up the proof that reunites the team.

Comments:
This issue has Reed Richards asking the fairly simple question of why hasn't the Fantastic Four ever taken steps to destroy Doctor Doom's power base in Latveria when the villain was presumed dead, trapped in Dimension X, or similarly incapacitated for long enough for them to have done so. Now the simple answer is that after Doctor Doom was defeated most writer were already moving on to the next adventure, and the simple truth of the matter is that so are most of the readers. I mean is simply doesn't do to look too closely at what happens to the villain after they've been sent to jail, or vanished in that fiery explosion as in their minds readers are already waiting in line at the next ride. There's also the simple fact that if writers made a regular habit of what Mark Waid is doing than every time they wanted to use the character of Doctor Doom, they would first have to explain how the character rebuilt his power base so he could once again threaten the Fantastic Four, which would quickly have every subsequent writer giving the evil eye to their predecessor on the book, as it means having deliver exposition before one would be allowed to play with the villain. Still it's a valid question and Mark Waid is doing a very engaging job of answering it, as when one really steps back and looks at this story it is simply an extended epilogue of the previous adventure.

By this point I do believe every Fantastic Four fan has managed to stumble across the news story that Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo are staying on the book, and with the Ultimate Fantastic Four getting prepared to launch, as well as a third title Fantastic Four title that was originally intended to be Mark Waid's replacement team, it certainly looks like Marvel's first family are on the verge of oversaturating the market. However, while previous attempts at expanding the line beyond just the single monthly title haven't exactly proven the Fantastic Four are capable of supporting three monthly titles (four if the Human Torch is still alive and kicking in the new year), the presence of the fan favorite team on the main book, and the fact that the Ultimate line of titles has been regularly churning out titles that grab and hold onto top ten sale positioning, the only weak link in this chain is the third by an untested writer (when it comes to writing comics), and I must confess that I'm curious enough to see what was seen as so impressive about this writer's take on the FF, that Marvel had been prepared to toss him to the lions that were the FF fandom. The best thing that could happen it that we'll have three solid, and hopefully different takes on the FF, just in time for what I hope will be a kick butt popcorn flick starring everyone's favorite family of super-heroes.

I can't say I've ever been a huge fan of Howard Porter's work, but I must confess his efforts during these guest-issues certainly leave me decidedly less concerned about the news that he's slated to be the next artist on the Flash. Now there are still some trouble spots as Sue is sporting a rather manly looking face, in addition to her eyes which look a little too big for her face in some panels. However, the moments where the art is very impressive outweigh the moments when it's decidedly less so, as there's a wonderful double-page shot of the Fantastic Four laying waste to Doctor Doom's little execution house, and even more impressive was the big reveal shot of what the good doctor had hidden below his castle. There's also a fairly solid little sequence where we see the Fantastic Four get to show off their powers as they move through the various security features that Doom had in place. Also call me a sentimental old softy but I have to say that the four panel scene that closes the issue was a very enjoyable little homage to the classic moment from the original issue, though it is interesting to note the order in which the others displayed their acceptance of Reed's explanation for his rather risqué plan. I am a bit concerned about the coloring that was used on this issue though as it feels a bit flat in areas of the issue, though the fire effect when the FF discover Doom's guillotine was rather impressive.

Final Word:
This issue offers up a wonderful Reed Richards moment where the character is allowed to break out of the pattern that has long been established, and actually take some real steps toward ensuring Doctor Doom never threatens his family again, by effectively removing his ability to do so. Now since he's not leaving the book I won't take issue with the fact that by having Reed essentially dismantle Doctor Doom's power base in Latveria, any writer that follows is going to have essentially rebuild what Mark Waid is busy taking apart if they want to present Doctor Doom as a viable threat. Than again following on the heels of what was a fairly solid Doctor Doom encounter perhaps it's actions like this that are needed to give this rivalry the kick in the pants it needed, as when Doctor Doom does return he'll have to attack them from a position that he's never faced them from before, and that is as the underdog. I'm also enjoying the global-political ramifications that were being bandied about in the early pages, and I hope we see more material like this in the ensuing chapters.



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