Writer: Joe Casey
Artists: Chris Weston and Gary Erskine
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: A close-knit group of cosmonauts steal an experimental plane and head into space on an unauthorized mission. What they find changes them forever.
Comments: Yeah, I bet youíve heard that one before. But you havenít quite seen it in this way. Chris Weston brings his super-realism, fresh from Ministry in Space, to bear on what was once the simple clarity of fresh discovery by Kirby.
And Casey, making a habit of revisiting the earliest days of Marvelís supergroups (heís already explored the early Avengers in Earthís Mightiest Heroes and the X-Menís formative years in Children of the Atom), crash lands Stan Leeís chipper first family to earth.
Their illicit mission is over before this story begins, and their former colleagues house them in a containment facility. Theyíre kept separated and under scrutiny like the laboratory animals theyíve become. Reed is lost in a seemingly catatonic stupor. Johnnyís on ice lest he explode. Ben is miserable and depressed within a mass of orange rocks and bandages. And Sue stays nude and invisible at all times.
Itís the Four seen not through the hopeful lens of the 60s space race, but through the doubtful and fearful filter that now includes meta-commentary like Warren Ellisís corrupt doppelgangers in Planetary, and a multitude of dystopic sci-fi nightmares that never allow such complete physical transformations to come without an emotional price.
Itís also a bit like Gaimanís iconic re-envisioning of the Four for 1602; that Sue stayed invisible all the time, too, and those four were similarly imprisoned by their foes.
Weíre not sure yet if the other scientists are foes, and no sign of Dr. Doom yet, either. Westonís grim and unidealized version of realism surrounds the Four with an odd array of almost freakish characters. Only Benís lover, a doctor, is allowed to be attractive, and she flees the scene at the sight of him.
Casey is definitely going somewhere with this motley crew of inmates and observers, though itís too early to tell if itíll reinvigorate or simply restate an already overloaded franchise. So far weíve still got depressed Ben and nurturing Sue, but now weíve also got depressed Johnny and a nearly autistic Reed. A fair start, though.
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