Sunday, October 08, 2006

Review: Fantastic Four #540- A Bunch of Contrived Crap

FF 381
Originally uploaded by Heidi Meeley.
After several months of predicting the worst for Reed and Sue, it is with great sadness that Comics Fairplay must announce it's clairvoyance to be dead to rights.


Fantastic Four #540 showcased a nine page fight that made a 41 year marriage splinter. Tell me how that is right? I just can't justify it.

Number one problem: The dialogue was contrived and cheesy. Sample 1:
Reed: "We have to talk."
Sue: "I think we're a little past talking now, don't you think, Reed?"

Sample 2:
Reed: "I'm doing this for the same reason I've done anything Sue! Because it's the law Because it's right!"
Sue: "It's not right, can't you see that?"
Reed: "Damn it, listen to me.."
Sue: "NO!"
Reed: "Can't you understand, Sue?"
Reed: "I'm doing this because I'm trying to protect you!"
Sue: "Protect Me?"
BAM! Invisible tube crunches through entire building.
Sue: "Do I look like I need protecting, Reed? Do I?"

As a reader, I can't reconcile myself to their emotions. It feels very cut and paste, without any heart. Making Sue out to be a badass while Reed tries to justify his lack of balls is disheartening to say the least.

Number two problem: Tying the story into Amazing Spider-Man #535 to make the pieces fit just makes it seem forced. The ending here and in that issue- using some random uncle of Reed's involved in the 1950's Congressional Communist witch hunt- is really reaching. Why haven't we heard about this guy before? Reed has been through so much adversity before, that it is strange to me that we are just now hearing about said uncle.

When Reed decided to take over Latveria from issues #503 to #508, where was this concern for following government orders? Back then, Sue felt it was wrong, and Reed was the badass. How did we go through such a 180 degree personality turn since then? In that story arc, Reed pretty much told the U.S. govenment to shove it.

Number Three Problem: Ben going to Canada seems like a desperate last resort. As the most sane person in this Civil War mess, I appreciate his refusal to take sides, but it is disapointing to me that they would take him out of the game. I also can't imagine that Ben would let Sue and Reed split without more then a question. This is a family, after all?

Number Four Problem: Where were Franklin and Valeria? Did Reed and Sue just shuffle them off to the moon with the Inhumans? I can't imagine that their children wouldn't be more important to them then that. How do the kids feel? Who is caring for them? I refuse to accept the fact that Sue and Reed would just ignore them and fight it out. Sue would never cause the property damage she did knowing that her children would be exposed to it. It just doesn't ring true.

Conclusion: Breaking up a marriage for the sake of artistic license stinks. Hey, let's break up the Fantastic Four so that Civil War can be more dramatic! The readers will eat it up with a spoon. They're just a bunch of Marvel zombies anyway, and we know what is best for them.

I wish this Civil War crap would get over with. I also wish that J. Michael Straczynski's tenure would end much sooner then it is. It is a shame to have a great artist like Mike McKone draw such drivel.

Once again Marvel is driving me away from a book I have loved for years. I am not going to pretend to like it.


Ragnell said...

I sincerely hope the children aren't headed to the Inhumans. They're at war with Earth because of what happened in Son of M, aren't they?

John Holland said...

I haven't read an issue of the Fantastic Four in a long time, now I know it's going to be an even longer time. What made the Fantastic Four great was that it was a family. Tear the family apart and it's just another dumb superhero group comic.

Have you noticed that all the supposed to be genius' in the Marvel Universe all seem to support the hero bill. Was that supposed to make us think it was the right thing? Couldn't any of these genius oppose it?

To me this is the worst aspect of the whole Civil War storyline. They made the characters fit on which side they wanted them, even if meant ignoring their previous history. Iron Man I can take being on the side of the bill, Reed I just don't belive.

Elayne said...

"a nine page fight that made a 41 year marriage splinter. Tell me how that is right? I just can't justify it."

Because it's NOT a 41-year marriage. Not in comic book time. Only in metatextual time, which is part of the disbelief readers know they're supposed to suspend whilst reading.

That said, I think Reed's story about his uncle - repeated verbatim (albeit with different visuals) in JMS' other book Amazing Spider-Man (yes kids, you too can be paid twice for the same exact dialogue!) - is particularly contrived. But that's what you get with JMS' writing. It's the same as the writing of Aaron Sorkin or Joss Whedon. Once you grasp their patterns, the artifice isn't hidden, seeing the seams is supposed to be part of enjoying the experience.

I didn't have a problem with Sue's departure scene, nor with Ben's CO status, I thought that was pretty well within character for both. However, I did have a problem with no mention of the kids, particularly so soon after the "child services" storyline JMS did.

Heidi Meeley said...

Ragnell- that is a good point. The Inhumans would not be up for babysitting at this point.

Poor Franklin and Valeria! Where were they? Locked in a room, unattended, where they wouldn't bother the adults?

Give me strength!

Heidi Meeley said...

John- this storyline definitely makes a case for staying away from the title. It is so sad, knowing that a great team of characters is being treated in this manner.

Good point about the geniuses being behind the bill. That is odd. I guess that Marvel wants us to believe that if the smart guys are behind it, it must be right?

I just absolutely hate the entirety of Civil War at this point in time.

Heidi Meeley said...

Elayne- I do concede the point on that the marriage is not truly a 41 year old union. In real time, I am guessing how Sue and Reed have been married around 10 years.

At any rate, it just didn't do such a solid union any justice.

The "Uncle" story didn't resonate with me at all. It didn't fit Reed's backstory, but evidently it is supposed to make sense to us. I just don't buy it.

I had never really thought that way about JMS' writing. I just knew that I wasn't a fan. Everytime I read a press release saying that JMS is writing a book, I cringe. It means that he is going to take artistic license with the characters without a care for the known history and personality of said character(s). I am glad you pointed that out.

The kids being absent in this issue really disapointed me. I would have thought that because they are such a big part of the "family" part of the book, that their reactions and precense would be mandatory.

Thank you for the good points!

Carl said...

My dealer Scott remarked upon the Wednesday that Civil War #4 came out:

"It's brought more people back to comics and got new people looking for those issues. It's made the industry more money and got more interest in anything in years."

I just looked at him and said:

"Yep, the gawkers that slow down to look at accidents on the highways and the speculators that hope they can turn around and sell the book for $30 dollars in a few weeks or months. Vultures and hyenas, that's the people I want in my comic book scene, sure."

It's like you can't reach some people about this. When the Star Trek Franchise killed Spock, I almost almost quit that fandom. But rumors were right away, he was coming back. Then they destroyed the original Enterprise, really, really hurt. But then.... they killed Captain Kirk. I still went to the movies and Trek conventions, but did I go out of my way to buy and support anything after Kirk's death? Not really. Maybe one or two books a year as compared to watching all the shows, buying products from books, comics, action figures to DVDs. Unless it's the original show, I really don't care anymore.
The same is happening to me at Marvel. Unless The Punisher finishes the series and they start over with *the survivors*, I really don't give a damn about the mainstream (which means the 8 characters that BMB and Joe Q. like) Marvel Universe. Make Mine Marvel? Naaaaaaaaawwwwwww...

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting is that I like EVERYTHING that's happening and find it believable...all the Civil War titles are selling better than any of the titles have sold in a long time but the DC biased blogging community continutes to do nothing but rip them apart. I guess I can add your blog to the "me too" pile. Generally I like your blog but you just jumped on the Civil War bashing bandwagon. Not that I'll stop reading your blog because I still enjoy it...I just don't particulary agree here. Sorry if it comes across as harsh but it's true. Vive' la Revolution'

James Meeley said...


While it's fine for you to enjoy Civil War, I find it very insulting that you just assume a person's dislike of it is mere "DC bias." You don't know my wife. You can't read her mind. Don't come off saying what you think is "true", when you have nothing to back that up.

I myself was a huge "Marvel Zombie" back in the early 90's. Yet I take even greater issue with Civil War than my wife does. So, you can hardly nail me for "DC bias."

You say they are selling so great, but what does that mean? Retailers are ordering it, not that readers are buying it. But even if they are, so what? How many are enjoying it? The Death of Superman got huge sales, too, but you hardly see it hearlded as a "comic masterpiece", do you? How many people do you think will stick around after the "event"? This the books will still have these numbers when it's over? I highly doubt it. Marvel's used the media to get people to notice this, but such short term stunts are nothing new. So, using sales to justify a crappy story doesn't fly.

We can spend all day going back and forth on why we feel like we do, but there is one point that cannot be questioned: Marvel is allowing the characters to be twisted into whatever the story needs them to be, not making the story conform to the characters they use. And that is simply a sign of poor wirting craft.

Maybe Joe Q and company actually believe this is the Marvel universe people want, but as far as it goes for my wife, and even moreso for me, they are dead wrong.

Maybe instead of trying to psychoanalyze someone over what they feel, you could simply just enjoy the story yourself and leave that out of the equasion. You like the story, fine. Tell us why. But don't question our reasons for not liking it and chalk it up to some silly notion you have about a "DC bias" in the blogging community. It's rude and insulting. And if that's all you got to offer a disussion, then you'd do well to simply opt out of it.

Sorry if that came off harsh, but it's true.

Heidi Meeley said...

Chris, I am really surprised to find that someone thinks I am pro-DC, anti-Marvel. You caught me off guard with that.

Flat out: I am not enjoying Civil War. BUT...

That does not mean that I don't enjoy other Marvel titles.

Marvel Titles I like!
Captain America
New X-Men
Ultimate Spider-Man
Ultimate X-Men
Ultimate Fantastic Four
Uncanny X-Men

Those are the titles that really stick out for me. I buy and read them regularly.

As for DC, right now I am enjoying several titles LIKE:

Detective Comics
Birds of Prey
Teen Titans
Secret Six

In my mind it is pretty even. If I have given more space here to Marvel, it is because I feel passionate about my opinion.

I really don't like Civil War, and that is my right, just as it is your right to enjoy it.

Most surprising is the fact that you would think I am a Marvel basher. I don't agree at all. I like to think that my arguments for or against an issue have been thought out, and are not just a chance to be snarky. Have you noticed that I have expressed a great deal of displeasure about the lateness of Wonder Woman? Did you get an opportunity to read my Virgin Comic review? I try to keep a balance.

I appreciate your comments, and the fact that you plan to still stop by.

Carl said...

Welp, I do have a certain bias I'll admit up front, I've found that the more stable universe is DC. And they have tried to clean up their universe several times to make it easier for the average person or newbie to jump in. Just The X-Men books alone.... please, I've listened to people that have read the books since the '80s talk for 30 minutes about all the various plots, changes due to time travel or what have you, trying to bring someone new up to date.
And yep, I have an even more huge bias when someone takes beloved characters and pulls "out-of-character" puppet strings to sell books. My friend Gene noted the first thing out of the box during Avengers Disassembled/New Avengers was that Bendis ignored that they "cured" Scarlet Witch's mental problems years before thus making her whole attack on the Avengers bogus and untrue. And so you have a best-selling New Avengers based on a false foundation. That might suck in the newbies but alienates the years- long fans, the ones that will be (or would have been) around the next 30-40 years of Avengers. That's the bias I have, against companies pulling stunts and tricks for boosted sales that won't last in that universe's history until the next set. And yes, I have such a DC bias that wear a Punisher tee-shirt almost every day, have a Punisher belt and my last tee shirt I bought was a classic Avengers...

Heidi Meeley said...

Carl- it is definitely all about preference. I have periods of time where I go through my Vertigo boxes and read Sandman, Preacher, The Invisibles, Fables, and Y The Last Man.

After that, I will want to read my Fantastic Four run, or check out classic Justice League of America. Other times, I just want to read a trade paperback like Watchmen or Squadron Supreme. Then it is back to a book like Powers....

The point is that I go through different moods- sometimes it isn't comic books at all; sometimes I like to read about British or French history, or pick up an autobiography.

I guess Chris hit a sore point for me: I don't like to be pigeon holed. I never have.

I liked your comments Carl. Thank you for always sharing the good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Please read again..."DC biased blogging community" refers to the general bias towards DC that most (not all) of the comics blogs have. Not you in particular. I believe several other blogs in the past have done articles on the fact that bloggers tend to lean more DC if not go all out anti-Marvel. I was simply saying that you've jumped on the anti-Civil War bandwagon with the other me too'ers.

As for this: James: "You say they are selling so great, but what does that mean? Retailers are ordering it, not that readers are buying it." Now that's simply silly to even say that. Retailers try to buy the number that will sell so they don't have leftovers right? Numbers are still up so people are buying. Normal people I talk to who are reading it, enjoy it. The only people I find not enjoying it are comics bloggers, which confuses me and I'm sure there's a bit of social commentary there but I'm not qualified so I won't tackle that.

All I keep hearing and reading is that people believe that Tony and Reed wouldn't act the way they are and Peter Parker would never this or that. Why wouldn't they? Both of these characters have taken on a mission that they believe is right. They have become Crusaders. Any time someone follows an idea based on faith it leads to problems.. ie: the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition (you weren't expecting...never mind..sorry), Muslim Jihad. All of these work out so well don't they. They were/are all lead by extremists who believe so strongly in their viewpoint that they won't listen to reason. Once someone has a belief and is given the power to force that belief on others...they will, regardless of who they have to force it on. I've lost several friends over the years to extremist beliefs. When I couldn't be converted...I was shunned. That's how people are when they are fighting for a belief....they are never the people you knew again. People always have and always will give up anything and everything based on do you think cult leaders get so many converts??? I've seen isn't their winning smiles. Peter is a really just learning how to follow and be a part of a team and he's learning real quick that sometimes the team you thought was the best...isn't.

So I don't see a problem with how people are acting. I also never thought Tony Stark would fight naked in France with another guy either but he did. X-statix #24...someone wrote about that one yesterday and I thought it was hilarious and out of character but I don't remember people screaming about that.

I personally think that "some" people who seem to hate the series also hate change. They want status quo. I like change. Hate the new spidey outfit but at least it was a change. Wolverine an Avenger? Tired of Wolverine but it was different. Clone Thor...not another clone..not really change there just another d@mn clone. House of M...didn't enjoy it much but it caused change. I enjoy change. Marvel needs it or it becomes stale and static and the stories stay the same and who really wants that?

Didn't mean to offend..sorry.

Anonymous said...

Change is not the problem. But as one of those that bought Marvel only through the Money troubles of the 90's and love the characters, I have a problem with stories that turn a blind eye to the core attributes of these characters. I read CW because I know it will be a change. I am buying more DC than Marvel because I purchase what i am enjoying more.

I am not against change. I like JMS on Amazing Spidey, infact he writes New Avengers and Civil War better than the two beloved guys that have those properties.

Carl said...

Welp, I can understand an adaptation to new a situation, but after 30 to 40 years of established behavior, especially super-heroes that make life and death decisions every day, I find it hard to believe they would act against what makes up their character. We have an unique view into their lifes, we see them in a way no one else in their lives can, even their thoughts. Perhaps if they were regular joes that we couldn't and lead another layer of their life we couldn't see, I could understand this. These guys and gals can't lead triple or quadruple or more lives 'cause we see every aspect of them. So, it's not like they could have joined a cult, lead a secret extra life or could suddenly turn gay or something, 'cause we would have seen it. Unless the author cheated of course, like JMS with the Gwen Stacy twins in Spider-Man. That didn't ring true and I quit the book.
I guess what I am trying to say is we have set patterns of how these characters act since their beginnings. We've seen them in crisis mode from the threat of destruction of their home town, family and friends up to the several attempts to destroy the entire universe. So, what's the factor here that bothers everyone? We've had hero vs. hero and their teams vs. each other time and time again. But this time, since we are cursed with "reality" based TV and endless gritty shows pretending they are closest to reality, now it's in our comics. And if these events take place and are allowed to stay in the Marvel Universe and not erased, they should be pretty damned permanent too. If I was Cap, I'd never forgive nor forget what Iron Man and the others did. And Reed has let his marriage and family fly apart blindly serving the government, which we've never seen happen before. And apparently him and Iron Man stole and raped Thor's genetic property; I can't imagine when the Thunder God comes back for real he will be happy with the two for that abomination and abuse of his DNC.
At least a death finally made Spider-Man wake up, I was glad to see. He's a grown-ass married man at least in his 30s, unless he's the Ultimate version that showed up in the regular MU, he should stop acting like the teen-age Parker.
Welp, I know that unless someone spills the beans about another death, I doubt I will read CW#5, my 'bias' against a bad story and sock puppets pretending to be "The World's Greatest Heroes" and such, well, it's too much for this fanboy...

James Meeley said...

I was simply saying that you've jumped on the anti-Civil War bandwagon with the other me too'ers.

Actually, Chris, she hasn't. This very entry links to other ones where she not only predicted the Reed/Sue break-up but stated she didn't want that to happen. She didn't "jump on the bandwagon", she's been involved in (and against) this all along.

Maybe now you see why it's wrong to question the motive of the person, rather than tackle the issue being made?

As for this: James: "You say they are selling so great, but what does that mean? Retailers are ordering it, not that readers are buying it." Now that's simply silly to even say that.

No, it's not. It's fact. The sales numbers are not of how many readers are buying, but how many retailers order. The two do not always equal each other out, which is why using sales figures to say something is "good" is a very hollow and misleading thing, which is what you did.

And I noted that the higher numbers are the "rubber-neckers" who will stop for any car crash (as Civil War is). But will they be around after it's over? Probably not, if history and past events like this prove out. Add that, to alienating so many of the long time readers (like my wife and I) and you see that numbers could go LOWER than before the event started. I doubt that's the outcome Marvel would be wishing for. But it's one that can become a real possibility, when you use stants to suplant a lack of good and consistant storytelling.

All I keep hearing and reading is that people believe that Tony and Reed wouldn't act the way they are and Peter Parker would never this or that. Why wouldn't they?

Because of 40-something years of character development, that was a stardard long before Mark Millar stopped wetting the bed.

These characters aren't just some hollow cyphers, to be filled with whatever the story demands of them. They are character icons, who are known the world over. They are expected to act in certain ways. Ways that their actions in Civil War do not jibe with.

I know from your blog you really don't seem to have any care or interest in the past. But that doesn't mean those who do are wrong or "DC Biased."

I like change. Hate the new spidey outfit but at least it was a change. Wolverine an Avenger? Tired of Wolverine but it was different. Clone Thor...not another clone..not really change there just another d@mn clone. House of M...didn't enjoy it much but it caused change. I enjoy change.

No, it's not change that people dislike. It's change simply for the sake of doing so. You can have change, but have it make sense and be consistant with established cannon and characterization. But when you chnage things, simply to shake things up and nothing else, the change is hollow are meaningless. And that is what people are against as far as Civil War goes.

Again, you obviously don't care if a change makes sense. You just like the exitement of the shake up (that is, going by what you say above). That's fine for you. But it doesn't mean a person who doesn't agree with that has something wrong with them.

Marvel needs it or it becomes stale and static and the stories stay the same and who really wants that?

Then, maybe it's time for them to try something new and not just alter what we know in weird and out of character ways. Of course, that would take TRUE creativity on Marvel's part and I don't think they have it in them anymore.

I noted at your blog the chnages in Darkhawk in Runaways. That was good stuff. They changed him, but in ways that made sense and didn't go against the established history of the character. Of course, that's a lot trickier to do, than simply shake the tree and watching the leaves fall. Civil War is the "easy way out" to create change. It's not done to advance the characters, but done at the expense OF them. THAT, my friend, is why people don't like it. That is what people are taking issue with. And that is why, although a change, it isn't (nor will it ever be) a good one.

Normal people I talk to who are reading it, enjoy it.

And again, you use insults to lessen the people who you don't agree with. The very thing I noted to you yesterday. Not enjoying Civil War doesn't make one "abnormal." It means you simply don't like longstanding characters, being altered in ways that make no snese, simply for the sake of "making a change." You'd do well to learn this.

RedheadFangirl said...

I can appreciate your passion regarding Reed and Sue's marriage because it echoes the same character-essence problems I have with the Peter Parker unveiling (and the venom (heh, pun) of the Marvel editors and Joe Q regarding his and Mary Jane's marriage.

Sometimes a bombshell will get people talking; sometimes it just drives them away.

Heidi Meeley said...

Chris- I will try and keep my response here tonight short and sweet.

While I appreciate the fact that you are enjoying Civil War, and that it is your right to do so, I have not been thrilled.

I take issue with you saying that I am jumping on a bandwagon. I don't see it that way. You see, I can't blog about something I don't feel passionate about.

I don't blog for hits or to court others; I blog because I have something to say. If others agree, that is fine, but it is alright to take an opposing view as well. I figure if I put an opinion out there, I have to be able to listen to others as well.

It is funny. I started doing comic reviews for 4 Color Review in the summer of 2000, and went on to start my own blog in July of 2004. I have always felt like more of a leader then follower. To have you mention that I am joining in really perplexes me.

At any rate, I am glad you are enjoying Civil War. I am sure Marvel is happy their sales are up. I just don't happen to like the direction that the book is taking certain characters, so I choose to spend my dollars elsewhere.

No offense taken, by the way. I do find your avatar to be quite unique and interesting though. Is that a general feeling? :-)

Heidi Meeley said...

Palladin: Your quote I have a problem with stories that turn a blind eye to the core attributes of these characters. really resonates with me.

I think that it is the essence of my problem. Reed has always been compassionate as well as brilliant. For all of his emphasis on creating new inventions and discovery, at the end of the day he is a family man. To see him so isolated and cold really troubles me.

As for JMS, I loved his Rising Stars and Midnight Nation, but I am not especially fond of his Marvel work. Isn't it funny what draws one person may repel another?

Thank you for your thoughts!

Heidi Meeley said...

Carl, from day one you have said that you didn't like Civil War. You are voting with your dollars to not buy the book, and that is your right. I plan to do the same also.

I would rather buy the new Punisher then Civil War: Frontline, so that is what I will do.

Take care!

Heidi Meeley said...

Redlib- that is true. I don't know whether to close my eyes to avoid seeing what Reed and Sue are going through, or just face it head on!

I don't mind change, and think it is natural. God knows, my life changes every day! I just don't have to like it.

About Peter and Mary Jane- that is another relationship I am watching closely. Let's cross our fingers for that one.

Anonymous said...

I'll just end it here and agree to disagree. I do enjoy the writing here and I realized that I'm not trying to piss people off and apparently I have. I'll just leave it at I enjoy it. As for the Avatar...just something I started using a while back and I find it fits my mood most of the time.

Heidi Meeley said...

Chris- I appreciate the sentiment. In a way, you spiced things up.

Take care!