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Fantastic Four #534

Posted: Friday, February 3, 2006
By: Dominic Davies



"Shadow Boxing"

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Mike McKone (p) Simon Coleby & Andy Lanning (i), Paul Mounts (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics


The Thing and The Human Torch are confronted by a Grey Hulk who seems to be even more out of his mind than usual. Thanks to the new Gamma bomb, he is once again reliving the experiences that made him the Incredible Hulk. Can the two Fantastic members calm him down (or even put him down) before he reaches civilization? Even Ben Grimm's strength and unique perspective may not be enough to stop the great smashing.

As we move into the second book of Straczynski's next Fantastic Four story, the action starts hot and heavy. What else could we expect from a book featuring only The Thing, The Human Torch and The Hulk? Indeed, the many battles between The Thing and the ole Hulkster have been tales of legend from Marvel's very beginning, and the slug-fests are something I can always enjoy. Underneath all the violence poor Bruce Banner relives all his greatest woes, from the original Gamma Bomb to Betty's death. Straczynski essentially tells two stories: the torment in Banner's mind and the carnage it causes in the real world.

Of course, there's a lot more to the story than that. Obviously, this is a perfect example for some great character development with Ben Grimm, but unfortunately, it fails to lead us down any uncharted territories there either. It seems that Ben is still coming to terms with the fact that he is a stone monster. While yes, I imagine this is something that would be hard to get over, he has certainly had enough time to come to terms with this and we have had many writers and stories already cover this aspect of his life. Of course, that doesn't mean it's not good, it just seems like it's not covering anything new. Stracynski does, however, mix it up by introducing some parallels between The Thing and The Hulk, but the “Monsters understand monsters” theme seems a little heavy handed. A great message, but with Ben essentially spelling it out, not nearly subtle enough to be really effective.

Mike McKone's pencils are flawless, and his sharp and very unique looking characters make the team look as good as ever. I don't care what people say, I love Ben's massive rock eyebrows. They are his best aspect and McKone delivers. Coupled with Coleby and Lanning on inks and Mounts on colors, they supply everything needed to make the great action scenes perfect, including the Hulk's fantastic shadow inducing pecks!

Even without half the team, the latest Fantastic Four story delivers just fine and as usual, it is pack full of the Straczynski wit and charm (including his delightful perchance for making the characters talk to themselves). My main criticism is that while we see a lot of things happening, we have yet to see a very strong story back it all up (something which I believe is usually one of Straczynski's strengths). Hopefully, we will see this in what's to come. But untill then, you can simply enjoy the good ole fashioned biffo.



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