Friday, January 30, 2009

REVIEW :: Fantastic Four by Millar & Hitch

by Carlton Hargro

Am I the only one who’s digging the Fantastic Four these days?

If so, that’s a shame because, under the creative guidance of writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch, this is the best the book has been in quite years. In fact, I’d say Millar and Hitch’s run on the book to date is just as good as the classic stint by (gasp!) John Byrne.

What makes the work of current creative team so enjoyable? It’s just clear that these guys get what makes the Fantastic Four work.

From a writing perspective, Millar is able to blend the out-this-world cosmic stuff with the mundane family stuff; of course, a lot of FF writers try to do this. Millar, however, succeeds by presenting the cosmic stuff — like alternate dimensions and dating super-human burglars — as mundane and the mundane stuff — like finding a babysitter and the best way to celebrate your anniversary — as incredible. On top of that, while Millar does make use of classic FF supporting characters and villains, he finds a way to blaze a few new trails and tries out some things that have never been done in the pages of the comic before. And for a comic that’s been published for (at least) 562 months, that’s saying a mouthful.

When it comes to art, Hitch’s ultra-realistic style fits well in the FF; his drawings help to ground the reader and make all the extra-terrestrial/space-faring concepts, characters and landscapes more believable. Is this stuff as good as his work on The Ultimates? Yes … for the most part and on most panels. At the end of the day, Hitch at 85 percent is better than most artists at 100.

Now, all that good stuff taken into consideration, I must admit that I’m not happy with the apparent lateness of the book. But, when the comic does happen to hit the stands, the quality is top notch.

So, in conclusion: I like the FF, and you should, too.

Carlton Hargro is the editor-in-chief of Creative Loafing. For more comic reviews from Carlton, visit


Chuck Wells said...

Byrne's FF is better in my opinion, and not to knock the current creative team too much, but John Byrne wouldn't turn in late work either.

Be glad that you aren't buying "The Twelve". It doesn't look like that series will finish up anytime soon, both JMS & Chris Weston are off playing diva in Hollywoodland.

Industry professionalism gets tossed out the window every time a comic book runs late, and it doesn't mean that the creators are "growing roses" either, only that they are indifferent to their obligations.

But what do fans know?

Robert Ullman said...

Maybe it's just me, but I get really tired of hearing fans complain about the lateness of their funnybooks, as if the artist owes you something. All the artist owes you is a job well done...and if it takes 45 days, or 60, or 120, rather than 30, to produce a job well done, then be patient and suck it up. Do you want quality? Or do you want something that looks hacked out?

Drawing comics doesn't pay very well, and any artist with a brain in his head is occasionally going to chase down work that does. That doesn't make him makes him a realist.

Dustin Harbin said...

There are few people in comics I love more than Rob Ullman, but I think here I need to violate 1/7 of my New Year's resolution and disagree.

We are, after all, talking about "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" or whatever that subtitle is. I think that a monthly comic coming out on time is part of being a monthly comic, isn't it? This isn't like if the new Acme is a year late. This is a comic supposedly designed to ship on a monthly schedule--that's certainly how it's solicited to us retailers, who order it each month.

I myself don't care about monthly schedules that much, EXCEPT when I'm expecting something to come out on that schedule, and then it doesn't. How would you feel if at 9pm this Wednesday, LOST just didn't come on? No disclaimer or apology; you'd just have to sort of HOPE it would air the next week, or the next...

Phil Southern said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Southern said...

I will begin this by clearly stating that Rob Ullman is awesome, intelligent and, I imagine, very sexy.

When I bemoan the fact that a book which has been announced and solicited are late, I am not speaking of artists owing me anything. I am talking about competence, craft, professionalism and working an expected forty hour week. Also, we do pay for these books, so, in fact, they owe us $2.99 worth of (subjective) entertainment.

Can a comic book be art? The answer is "of course". But at the end of the day, Marvel and DC books are works of commercial art, and I would place it in the same category a advertising, poster art, etc. If you want to be an artist, don't draw the Thing for money, cashing a check from international corporations.

These books are on monthly deadlines, have been since, in the case of the FF, 1962 or '63 (I think the first few issues were quarterly or every six weeks). Kirby did it, Wally Wood, Max Raboy did it, Frank Miller used to do it, Byrne did it, Neal Adams did it, Aparo did it, Gil Kane, John Romita Jr. does it, John Romita Sr. did it, Simonson did it, etc, etc, etc. I guess what frustrates me the most are the pencillers and inkers who can produce monthly work don't seem to be getting jobs (and, remember when someone else used to ink these things--I miss that).

I like Hitch's art, but his comics are not better than those that were completed monthly. Different, computer colored to an inch of their lives, but not better. If they want time to tell a story, publish a self-contained graphic novel. Better yet, develop your own intellectual properties!

The realist in me says that if you want to make lots of money, go run the economy into the ground and get $18,400,000,000.00 in bonuses. Oh, wait, that is the posting for the socialist message board. Sorry!

Robert Ullman said...

Well, all that is true, and I can imagine that lateness is horrible from a retailer's standpoint. I think it's the publisher's responsibility to step up and announce that said issue was gonna be late, rather than it just being a surprise on Wednesday morning.

I dunno, maybe it's cause I dig so many books that come out infrequently, but I'd rather wait for good art than buy something rushed or hacked out by a lesser artist. I bought the ALL-STAR SUPERMAN collections cause they gave Frank Quitely time to draw all the issues. I passed on the NEW X-MEN collections cause Igor Kordey and Phil Jimenez and whoever else drew half the book.

I just think that, as a fan, you'd be okay with waiting an extra month or two to end up with a better finished product. In ten years, who's gonna remember how long it took to for the book to come out?

Dustin Harbin said...

I agree 100% on All Star Superman--but I knew better than to EVER think it would be on time. I think I waited for issue 12 to come out before I read the last 4 or so.

But that All Star was always going to be a finite story, whereas FF has been ongoing monthly(ish) since 1961. Who cares if an issue of a 6 issue--or even a 12-issue--miniseries is late? In today's publishing market, it's going to be a book eventually anyway. The pamphlet format works best for books like FF and Amazing Spider-Man, where the monthly serialization is part of the whole experience.

Answer: Rob Ullman should be doing more Marvel comics.

Robert Ullman said...

I can't do 4 pages a month, much less 25!

I think it was that "indifferent to their obligations" line in the first comment that irked me.

Chuck Wells said...

Rob, my comment may have "irked" you, but in your posted response you pretty much said the same thing - from a certain point of view:

"Drawing comics doesn't pay very well, [How would that logic apply to a top seller like FF?] and any artist with a brain in his head is occasionally going to chase down work that does. [Job abandonment, maybe?] That doesn't make him unprofessional [See Phil's list of pros who may not share your perspective.] .... it makes him a realist."

If said creator signed a contract or accepted a paying job drawing comic books for a MONTHLY assignment, then I don't think your argument holds water.

"Old school" comics creators were both talented & innovative, but they understood the dynamics of a paycheck and how to earn one. Too many of today's crop, have fallen victim to the mentality that you've espoused, you know, the whole "We're growing roses" mindset and "the wait will be worth it."

Maybe so, but how does that excuse not honoring the obligation that you agreed to when you were hired for a monthly job. Like Dustin said, its the entire "food chain" that is affected. I was only speaking on behalf of fans, even if some of them are indifferent to shipping delays.

Robert Ullman said...

I'm not gonna get into a whole thing with you, Chuck...Suffice to say I think you're judging the work habits of comic artists on the whole a bit harshly. Sometimes stuff takes longer than you intend...especially when you're producing 23 pages every month, month after month. There are a thousand reasons why.

I also think you're way off-base in pining for the "good ol' days" when guys worked their fingers down to the nubs just so the publishers could treat 'em like crap. But hey, you got your FF on the 13th of every month, so who cares?

Dustin Harbin said...

I suspect that everybody is closer to agreement that the cold language of the Internet would suggest.

If all comics were as good as All Star Superman, I wouldn't mind if they came out once a year. But for regular old comics like Fantastic Four... I think I agree with both of you! I hate it when Mommy and Daddy fight!

Especially over Fantastic Four. This is not the kind of comic that's worth fighting over, I don't think; Carlton's opinion notwithstanding.

Fool's Brigade said...

I loved Carlton's review!

He is also handsome, ruggedly masculine, and exudes a virile musk.

I wish I could be more like him. if only...