In this time of economic crisis the last thing a struggling artist/penniless chump like me should be doing is blowing twenty quid on Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's entire run on Fantastic Four. Sure, I'm a big fan of Millar and Hitch's work, but I'd read mixed reviews about this run and I've only ever been a casual fan of the exploits of Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben. So it was with some trepidation that I approached these issues. If I'm gonna give up food for comics then those comics had better be pretty damn good!
The run is far from 100% perfect. Hitch's art seemed a bit more rushed than usual in places and Millar's writing lacked the arresting blockbuster punch of his usual work. Although, considering these stories contain the construction of a replacement planet Earth, a showdown with a dimension hopping Marquis of Death and an Anti-Galactus, then this should give you some idea of the very high bar of arresting, blockbuster-iness that Millar has set for himself in his other work.
These small niggles only really come to light when the run is compared to other Millar/Hitch projects such as Ultimates. As FF stories in their own right I loved them. The characterisation seemed spot on. Reed was every bit the eccentric genius, and Sue was the matriarch, not just of her team but of the entire superhero community. Johnny is displayed as an attention seeking hothead leaping from one fame seeking project to the next. Being a superhero isn't enough for his ego, he's also trying to set himself up as a rock star and a reality TV star. Ben, the tragic monster, is involved in a relationship with a down to earth teacher that you just know is going to go tits up. It's all spot on. My favourite arc in the whole run involves a visit to a Scottish village for Christmas. The story feels like classic FF, but also contains shades of The Wicker Man and Doctor Who.
The best thing about the run is that despite storylines that contain planet sized body counts and suffering endured for millenia, the whole thing has a lovely, cosy, family atmosphere to it that really suits the characters. Millar seems to have allowed his nasty edge and dark sense of humour to take a back seat and as a result you really get a sense that despite the threats, tragedy and adversity, the Fantastic Four really love their life.
So in conclusion, I enjoyed it, but I know a few people didn't. Perhaps it's because I'm coming to it as a casual Fantastic Four fan? Perhaps there have been far better FF stories that make Millar's efforts pale in comparison? I've heard great things about Mark Waid's run on the title, and I have every intention of checking it out one day. All I know is that I felt it was twenty quid well spent, and that's all I wanted.
I'll finish off with the best theme tune to a cartoon ever!