“Reconstruction: Chapter 3: Aw, That’s Just Crude”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artists: Paul Pelletier (p), Magyar and Hanna (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: It’s the “new” Fantastic Four of Black Panter, Storm, Johnny and Ben vs. Galactus, his Heralds (the oh-so-of-the-moment Silver Surfer and Stardust), plus the wild cards of Epoch the Living Planet and her chosen protector, Gravity, all trying to survive a confrontation in deep space.
Comments: Can Marvel comics still bring a smile and a chuckle to their readers in these dark Civil War-torn days? McDuffie’s comics can, as he continues to repair the tattered Reed and Sue relationship while using the leftover bits of his recent Beyond! mini-series to keep things interesting for this temporary version of the Four.
I’m all for T’Challa and Ororo being more involved in the mainstream Marvel universe, and, of course, I'm still in favor of them as opponents of Registration (an idulgence of mine that has dried up where the New Avengers are concerned, by the way). Sue and Reed needed some quality time to heal after their rift, and McDuffie is showing the strains as they try to reconnect. Reed has (to some extent) admitted his recent errors, and Sue, always a motherly type, is working hard on forgiving him. That we get to see this rather than have it happen off-panel, without explanation, is a privilege.
Reed and Johnny are still around to give the old-school flavor to the home team, and they’re old pros who’ve already began to work smoothly with new co-leaders, Storm and Panther. There are a few moments of doubt as Black Panther flees the scene surprisingly, but McDuffie is writing the uber-confident master planner Panther here (the commanding liege rather than the demanding tyrant), and they really shouldn’t have worried.
Deathlok in human form is also tagging along (looking old-school but seriously upgraded behind the scenes), and he’s the everyman who witnesses the wonders Black Panther can achieve.
I’d be smiling just for the renewed fate of Gravity, so happy am I to realize that his “death” in Beyond! was really McDuffie planting a seed for later stories. McDuffie makes time to get the dialogue right for all the characters, so the Surfer is as ever diplomatic, Stardust is merciless, Ben and Johnny wisecrack away, and Storm focuses on what’s important. None of it is really all that earth-shaking or epic, but it is sufficiently cosmic, and McDuffie knows his Marvel lore backwards and forwards. The real nature of Panther’s sudden mission has a brilliant payoff that dates back almost forty years. And Pelletier keeps right up with the script with a welcome burst of Kirby-tech when needed.
And that’s the special strength of comics to me. If you don’t know what he and Johnny discuss that leads to Johnny’s delighted bellow of “Cosmic Torch!,” you still get the gist… and if you do, you realize just how clever and observant T’Challa really is. Layers, all handled with fun energy by McDuffie, who provides a nice sense of closure at the end of his welcome first story that addresses this retooled title in a retooled Marvel world, advancing the plot without breaking it and starting all over again.
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