Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fantastic Four #573: Smash it up.

No matter what weaknesses are inherent in his writing, at least Mark Millar puts a bit of bloody thought into his comics. His recent Marvel work has a grand masterplan simmering beneath it all, a personal continuity that has been offered to hundreds of thousands of readers.

The baby Hulk in the Wolverine story grows up to be the future Hulk who tries to beat up the Fantastic Four, where a human supermind from 1985 pits his imagination against an immortal worldkiller.

Built on a weird and conflicted reverence for the classic action beats that sees Millar strip stories down to lame insults and brilliant momentum, before building them back up again. He has got a lot of flack for an eagerness for super-degradation but that’s all part of the charm. His Captain America can be an arsehole, but he can still be a noble, valiant and admirable arsehole.

So the way a key part of Millar’s grand plan was so fundamentally fucked over in one issue of Fantastic Four was fucking genius.

Beneath an Alan Davis cover of alien waitresses and devious Gatecrashers, Fantastic Four #573 sees Jonathan Hickman tear up a bit of Millarworld, scatter the pieces into the wind and come up with something new.

The story is helped by the shameless Hitch homaging by Neil Edwards and Andrew Currie, which carries a lot of the superficial appeal of Hitch’s work, but is less consistent, with a slightly clumsy flow.

But Hickman’s plot is an even bigger homage. Some of Millar’s creations are summarily dispatched, including the hope of a Nu-Earth – devastated by page one.

There is some overcooked sentimentality – a Franklin Richards scene would be sweet if it didn’t try so hard – and some stylized hyperviolence – brain-squishing and head pulping. This could be a Millar comic if the reader was drunk enough, especially since it ends on a undeservedly triumphant note that the Scottish lad excels at.

Hickman is off somewhere new, and leaves the Millar plan behind. And that’s how it should be, all new creators on the World’s Greatest Comic have to walk that fine line between playing tribute to the past while taking the Fantastic Four something new, and sometimes that involves a bit of smashing shit up.

Break it down, build it up. Start it again.

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