Fantastic Four #4
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Stefano Caselli, Nico Leon, and Erick Arciniega
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
The Fantastic Four return home just in time to face some Baxter Building bootlegs in the breezy Fantastic Four #4. Downshifting from the multiversal stakes of the previous arc, Dan Slott delivers a refreshingly personal FF tale in order to reestablish them on the 616-Earth. Neatly rendered by the combined efforts of the always solid Stefano Caselli and the sketchy but emotive linework of Nico Leon, Fantastic Four #4 might not be the auspicious return to Earth that fans might expect, but it is a fun, lower-stakes throwback to a more “celebrity” focused era of the Fantastic Four, grounding them after years off-planet.
Half a universe away, Reed Richards and his family prepare to send their “extended family” home after the battle with the Griever. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Wrecking Crew has decided to throw away decorum and finally rob the choice, never-robbed jewelry store across the street from the Baxter Building. While these events might not sound like they have much in common, they provide a perfect narrative example of the kind of Fantastic Four Dan Slott is aiming to write.
After three issues of the crazy super-science emblematic of the modern FF era, this issue settles into a quieter track that may resonate with fans of the title: earnest family drama. Slott burns through the extended cameos with the “extended family” early, neatly wrapping up dozens of characters that have been associated with the FF in one way or another. While I’m not really happy to see the Alex Power and the Future Foundation kids get shuffled back to space, Slott’s desire to pare down the roster is understandable in order to truly sell his more focused take.
This is where the New York scenes come into play. Artist Nico Leon picks up the artistic baton for the issue’s back half, bring the First Family back to NY with wry fanfare with the sun-baked colors of Erick Arciniega. Faced with the new corporate-branded Fantastix, the Four blunder through a publicity stunt, unfortunately timed with their return. After the patented “Marvel Misunderstanding” between the two teams, Val uses her smarts to see through the ruse and logic then wins the day. In a lot of ways, Slott’s lower-stakes story reminds me a lot of the Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Marvel Knights run with the family. That might not be the kind of galactic scale and dazzling science fiction that people might expect from the title, but it is a welcome and established change of pace for the family.
For this new(ish) grounded direction, Slott has perfect partners in Stefano Caselli and Nico Leon. While I would have liked for Caselli to handle the issue’s back half set piece as it would have given the issue a little more pop, his emotive, heavy lined style handles the large cast well and gives everyone a distinct look and emotional state. Nico Leon’s style is a bit leaner and doesn’t look as filled out as Caselli’s pencils, but he handles the issue’s finale well, bringing that same grounded, street level look that made his Ms. Marvel so engaging to Marvel’s First Family. Neither of them make their new blue uniforms look any better, but that might just have to be something I accept and move on from. But my sartorial complaints aside, the pair, along with colorist Erick Arciniega, bring the FF home with style.
Back planetside with a new home and a thinned-out roster, the Fantastic Four are poised to make their mark again on the 616-Earth. They just plan to do it from an apartment building and not a super high-tech laboratory. They have done it before, they can do it again, right? You have to start somewhere, and Fantastic Four #4 is a step in the right direction.