For all the contributions that author Mark Waid has made to the Sequential Arts, it has taken a long time for Marvel Comics to give him his just due. Standout renditions of Ka-Zar and Captain America were all but flatly given the heave-ho after relatively short runs in the 1990s (Waid losing Cap twice!), and the work collected in the book featured here was almost cut short by apparent management issues (the same type which cost Marvel its overall best work and finest authors by the late 1970s, crippling the company until fairly recently years).
Thank Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada for stepping in, and setting things right, as he has generally done during his ongoing rededication & refining of the House that Kirby, Ditko, Thomas and Lee built. Because of this, the author of the classic KINGDOM COME and SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT continues to write some of the most inspired FANTASTIC FOUR sagas to be seen in quite some time.
Judge the results by reading this handsome hardcover collection of Waid's first FF stories from 2002-3. With art principally by the astonishing Mike Wieringo and the ever-present inks of Karl Kesel, the visual look is a powerful blend of quick cartoon and classic portrait, giving that feel of something simple communicating an intricate thematic wallop.
One may think of WATCHMEN's Dave Gibbons, and his expertise in this clearly defined, highly elusive area, but Wieringo has a mastery all his own here, and it grows with each panel. The character play in this series, always a crucial necessity for the FF, is captured so thoroughly, so beautifully in each face, in every move, with any emotion to bear.
Then, there's the writing. With Kurt Busiek, Grant Morrison, and Roger Stern, Waid has been a key factor in the resurgence of the superhero as ethical champion by the 1990s, after a period of manic-depressive tedium courtesy a legion of uninspired "realists" pimping off the superior efforts of Alan Moore and Frank Miller in the 1980s. Particularly with Busiek, Waid is noteworthy for reminding a whole generation that superhero comics can be just as pertinent, just as engaging, and just as worthy of diversified, intelligent readerships as the most blatently alternative comic line, or any other literature, for that matter.
Note the influence of such character-diverse, topically-focused perspectives upon the tremendous chronicles of relative newcomers such as Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Darwyn Cooke. Take all this into account, and you begin to see that Mark Waid is a undeniable force to be reckoned with.
Consider his stunning depictions in this book. Waid captures what few, if any, have dared to venture upon; capturing the superhero team as the world-class adventurers and loving, tempestuous, rollicking family unit that the FF is supposed to be. Never has the give-and-take between the Richards, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm been thrown into more roadblocks, tickled with more outrageous wit, challenged by more horrific dead ends, blessed with deeper affection, suffered more stress and scars, or risen to the occasion with greater integrity and resolve than they do here.
From equations gone mad with passions, and childhood pains about to take a nasty spill into the present, we venture into a Dr. Doom story to end all Dr. Doom stories. Anyone needing a reason why the Latverian monarch has been the FF's arch-nemesis -and the Miltonic symbol of Marvel villainy- for over 40 years need only check these pages. Note the suave, imperious nature by which Doom dispenses ultimate betrayal, depraved murder, and unfeeling terror in the name of Class, Compassion, and Honor, and be very, very afraid.
Those who purchase this collection have much more to look forward to. Forays into nation-building, diplomatic blind-siding, and an ultimate challenge of the unknown with a voyage to the heart of.......
Sorry. That would be telling!
Just trust, with Waid's FANTASTIC FOUR,
that the very best is yet to come.
See you for Volume 2!
Good reading to all.
This piece is dedicated to Dwayne E. Muth.
Friend, Brother, Sequential Researcher.
A Collector. NOT a Speculator.
Happy Birthday, Bro!
Keep it true.
Keep it coming.
mfh 8 - 7 - 04