Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Mike McKone (p), Andy Lanning (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: While Sue deals with a child welfare officer who has come to question whether the headquarters of the Fantastic Four is a safe environment for children to be raised, Reed is busy helping to develop a rocket that the government hopes will create an army of super-powered soldiers. However, Reed starts to have some second thoughts about this experiment, and an accident that nearly destroys the ship looks a bit suspicious.
Comments: This issue earns itself a higher grade than I would have given it based largely on how successfully J. Michael Straczynski managed to present the argument that the Fantastic Fourís headquarters might not be the best environment to raise children. The scene where Franklin details his adventure in Hell was a bit contrived, as it presents him as being a little slow to understand why this woman has come to visit them given he's standing right there when the woman presents her argument that the children might have to be moved to a safer environment. I realize that this information being offered to the child services officer shoots a number of holes in Sue's claims that her children are perfectly safe, but this scene makes Franklin out to be a little dumb when his past appearances have made him out to be quite intelligent. In the end though I'm quite interested in this element of the story as to a certain extent the child services department has a perfectly valid case, and while Sue wants to dismiss it as bureaucratic nonsense on the final page, I hope it does serve to open her eyes to the fact that her children have been endangered countless times over the years and as such this question can't be easily dismissed, which in turn leaves me quite eager to see where J. Michael Straczynski plans on going with this idea. The plot involving Reed and the secret government project was also rather interesting, and I have to give it credit for its understanding of Reed, as it makes perfect sense that he would get so caught up in the science of the endeavour that it would take him some time to start to wonder about the inherent dangers that this project could produce. As for the plot thread involving the Thing and his new-found wealth, it hasn't exactly captured my attention, as it looks like a repeat performance of the time tested angst that comes part and parcel with the Thing.
Mike McKone is a fine artist, and he's turning in some lovely work on this issue in spite of the simple fact that this issue isn't exactly an artist friendly outing. By and large, this issue is twenty-two pages of talking heads, but Mike McKone manages to make the best of it by offering up a wide variety of facial expressions, with Sue's deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression as she deals with the child services officer being my personal favourite section in the issue. There's also a nice little visual moment where Sue realizes that there might be some weight to the arguments that are being made when she overhears Franklin playing with his kid sister. The art also does a nice job on the panels where the lives of the FF before they received their powers are reflected by the follow up panels where we see the powers they gained. The big action sequence that closes the issue is also well presented. The only quibble that I'd make about the art is the appearing/disappearing freckles on the face of Reed's helper in this issue.
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