“Rising Storm: Part One”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mike Wieringo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Plot: Sue struggles to control her brother’s powers (now her own, thanks to Reed) as the family rushes to retrieve Johnny from Galactus. As the now-Fantastic Three arrange for transportation and prepare for deep space travel, they reminisce about Johnny’s antics and remind themselves why they’re willing to rush into danger to save him. In space, the stoic Devourer of Worlds sends Johnny into battle against a being determined to gain revenge against the world killer. Johnny fends off the assailant in a most brutal manner and he questions just what Galactus is doing to him.
Comments: One of the best aspects of Waid and Wieringo’s FF run is every story is crisp, clean and clear. Too often, otherwise high quality books suffer greatly from oblique stories (Morrison’s JLA and New X-Men) or obscuring artwork (Maleev and Daredevil). Waid consistently provides spot-accurate characterization with quality cliffhangers. Wieringo provides bright and clean art that rightfully matches the congenial family atmosphere and world full of shiny, futuristic gear. Unfortunately, such stories will be in short supply as the duo prepares to leave the title. Fortunately, their final major story is off to a strong start.
If another writer had contrived the idea of switching the powers of Johnny and Sue, I would scorn the idea. Waid skillfully uses the idea to advance the story rather than let it be a cheap gimmick. Johnny’s abduction by one of the most powerful entities in the Marvel Universe nicely extends the switcha-roo without resorting to hackneyed tricks. “Oh no! Captain Nefarious destroyed the Frazimistatic Beam! We’re stuck like this FOREVER!” The trick also allows Waid to bounce Johnny’s youthful petulance off Galactus’s stoic countenance. The Big Purple has exhibited a wide range of personalities over the years from enigmatic to downright chatty. In this case, silence is golden, letting Johnny babble uselessly and humorously.
Humor has always served Waid well during his FF run. Beyond the jokes’ regular funniness is an underpinning of affection the characters have for each other. The smile on Sue’s face during the flashback to Johnny’s upbringing and the Thing’s nervousness as the Torch smoothly and kindly helps him through his first date with Alicia acts as a force multiplier for the humor. Wieringo earns equal credit for this. His pencils provide that soft touch necessary for those brief, but important, emotional moments.
Aside from Johnny’s brief rumble with the angry alien, action is non-existent in this issue. And that isn’t a bad thing, given the new (if temporary) status quo of Johnny and Sue's experience. It’s interesting to see Sue struggle to contain the flame power her brother does easily. Being a Human Torch isn’t as cool as it seems. It’s doubtful that Galactus wants Johnny as his permanent herald. For one, he seems to be amping up his powers to highly lethal levels (perhaps to use said powers against anyone still using the alien cloaking device). Also, Big G usually communicates more with his heralds. While he might consider the Fantastic Four insects, I’m sure he has no problem recognizing the insects that stung him worst. I doubt he’d depend on his most effective foes to discover adequate sustenance for him.
Final Word: Waid and Wieringo delivered an excellent Dr. Doom story awhile back. With the FF’s second-most iconic foe in their sights, they’re set to repeat. Too bad this is their last go-round with Marvel’s First Family. Hopefully it’ll be their best.
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