The GeeksverseFantastic Five TPB Flash Back Review 1999

Fantastic Five TPB Flash Back Review 1999
Published on Thursday, September 13, 2012 by

A new line up, a new attitude, a new decade…the Fantastic Five roll the universe into a new generation of Marvel heroes. Fantastic Five was a short lived MC2 universe title. The cast had already been developed in Spider-Girl, building on the history of the Fantastic Four but moving into a new generation.The line-up of Marvel’s first family looks familiar at a glance, Thing, Human Torch, Ms. Fantastic, and a robot but it s a whole different team. The notable addition is that young Franklin Richards is now a teenage member of the team. The team is led by Johnny “Human Torch” Storm. Franklin and Johnny are joined by Thing and a new alien Ms. Fantastic. Reed Richards is also a part of the team as a brain in a robotic shell..or is he?

Franklin Richards is the character that I am most interested in in this entire title. Franklin “Psi-Lord” Richards is usually trapped as a young kid in the Marvel Universe. It seems like every time he starts to age he is sucked into a time warp, retconned, or a major event makes the reader ignore him. It is nice to see him  as a young man. He is similar to Johnny Storm from Spider-man’s Amazing Friends. Franklin is a fun loving, wise cracking hero until it is go-time and then he gets down to business as a telekenetic mutant.

Franklin is a character that appears throughout the run of Spider-Girl’s solo title. While all of the Fantastic Five show up in the pages of the younger web swinger, it is the young Franklin that becomes her friend. Franklin is a few years older than May Day Parker, but who can tell under the mask and tights? The friendship is also pointedly reminiscent of Spidey’s Amazing Friends. It is a fun pairing.

Reed Richards transformation is important to the entire mystery of the five issue run of this comic. The story that the public, and Spider-Girl, knows is that Reed and Sue were harmed on a mission that no one talks about—but that everyone knows. Sue died. Reed is physically shattered. Franklin is left with nightmares. In Spider-Girl’s title that is all that the reader finds out. In the team’s book the mystery of what happened is important to the story arc. Reed’s brain is supposedly encased in a floating robot…but he has a spare…and when that design proves inefficient he builds a new body. It leaves a particular marvel villain asking, “where is Reed really?”

My favorite part of this entire MC2 universe is that the calender is moving forward. Franklin has grown up, Reed and Sue are out of commission, the Thing is physically disfigured but they don’t talk about it, and life is moving forward. Instead of being bogged down by continuity and mired in a problematic storyline that only appeals to fan-boys and life -long Marvel maniacs, this universe builds yet allows new readers. This is a comic that allows entry for new readers to jump aboard. This is a great way to build characters that can build to readers of all ages and truly construct an all ages tale.

Fantastic Five #1 page 1This is the way the Marvel world should be charted. This is the way of the future…even though this is an abandoned project that struggled to find an audience on the already crowded comic shop shelves of 1999.

Instead of having a full series and a long run, this comic only enjoyed five issues before it was abandoned. It was not tossed away. Instead these characters stuck around the edges of the Spider-World in the Spider-Girl title. The Spider-Girl title barely hung on for 100+ issues with sales only slightly high enough to keep it in print. Always on the verge of cancellation, Spider-Girl made use of the Fantastic Five and Avengers Next but they were definitely on the sidelines.

Ron Frenz was the drawing force behind Spider-Girl, but was not the artist working on the other related projects. Paul Ryan did the penciling duties on this comic. He did a great job evoking an all ages style that reminds life long readers of older comics and presents young readers with an appealing package. Al Milgrom on inks and Bob Sharen on colors help round out a visually pleasing comic. I might be biased because this has that “Marvel look” that I know from my own childhood, but I don’t think that is incidental.

This is a fun story arc. While I respect the MC2 world written by Tom DeFalco and ultimately think it is what Marvel should be doing, I can’t speak too highly of the dialogue in this series. The monologues and exposition isn’t as snappy as it is in Darkdevil, The Buzz, or Spider-Girl. It’s a functional set of balloons but not as rolling. However, the arc is well plotted.

Overall this is a book that you probably missed but should check out. This can still be found in the $7.99 digest trade at comic shops and book stores. Used copies of the trade and the single issue floppies can be found in plentiful supply despite the poor sales. This is an accessible comic from the late 90s that more people should be reading. This arc reads well along side of Spider-Girl but can be enjoyed by itself.

 

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