Best Shots Review: FANTASTIC FOUR #5 'a Rousing Success' (9/10)

Fantastic Four #5
Credit: Aaron Kuder (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Esad Ribic (Marvel Comics)

Fantastic Four #5
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Aaron Kuder, Marte Gracia, Erick Arciniega, Michael Allred, Laura Allred and Adam Hughes
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Credit: Aaron Kuder (Marvel Comics)

Pathos and shenanigans elevate the wedding day of Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four #5. An event decades in the making, writer Dan Slott zooms out a little on the couple, providing heartfelt and funny tales of the super-family scrambling to prepare for the day, leading up to a beautiful, truly moving comic book wedding service. Though the promise of “No Galactus” and “No Doom” are broken for the ceremony, Slott’s anthology issue still charms as it sets up the incoming “Victorious” arc on the backs of three ultra-sweet stories centered around Ben and the Richards family as they work to bring Alicia into their fantastic fold. Rendered in three distinctly beautiful art styles, Fantastic Four #5 is the rare “wedding special” that puts heart before superhero action (though there still is a fair share of that too).

The Richards family have a lot on their plate. They have a new headquarters, they are all just newly returned to Earth, and most importantly, Ben and Alicia are finally getting married! Though shelves were already graced with a fun and breezy Fantastic Four Wedding Special, this fifth issue of the core title - and the 650th printed overall at Marvel - is much more explicitly about the wedding. That proves to be a sweet strength for the issue. I know the reception of Dan Slott’s superhero comic books can run hot and cold, but this run of Fantastic Four has really improved since the first two issues and I think a lot of that has to do with Slott’s genuine heart he brings to the title.

Credit: Aaron Kuder (Marvel Comics)

The three stories are relatively grounded in real-world thematics, like how Ben can’t dance, Johnny feeling as if life was passing him by, and Sue’s regret for how she treated Ben before and immediately after the spaceflight. The latter provides one of the issue’s best sequences, rendered in the emotive style of the Allreds. Titled “Change Partners”, Slott and the Allreds give us an engaging throwback story, retrofitting some classic comic books for a brand-new context thanks to Sue’s maturity since then and evolved relationship with Ben. It is really heart-wrenching stuff, but it cuts to the core of the characters’ relationship with one another and their overall dynamic of the team. I mean, it also doesn’t hurt that the Allred’s completely get the era and tone of classic comics and once again display that talent here, but Slott’s script throughout impresses.

The other entries like the issue’s main story “4-Minute Warning” and “Guys’ Night Out” skew a bit more comedic, but that same sweetness and emotional narrative current runs through the both of them in different ways. Slott may have started on shaky ground with the breathless pace of the first issues, but #5 finds him settling into a nice groove of comedy and episodic drama that suits the Four really well. Though “4-Minute Warning” is the issue’s centerpiece, the other stories are neatly stacked against each other, each art team gracefully picking up the baton and running with it through their prospective stories.

Credit: Aaron Kuder (Marvel Comics)

And run they do. I have already mentioned the Allred’s efforts, which give this fifth issue a jolt of vintage spinner rack visuals, but regular series artist Aaron Kuder and the guest-starring Adam Hughes hold their own just as well. Kuder’s pages tap back into that optimistic, expressive energy that he brought to his Action Comics run with Greg Pak, moving from advanced Kirby Tech apartment buildings to an intimate seaside service throughout the main story. Marte Gracia and Erick Arciniega’s colors enrich Kuder’s pencils throughout, giving them just the right amount of sunlight and neon. One of Adam Hughes’ preview pages from this very issue went viral shortly before the issue’s release and seeing it in context is all the more impressive. Along with Kuder and Allred, Hughes’ pages have a clear emotion and comedic timing that just plain works with the FF. Basically, readers should expect to come for the service but stay for the page where Adam Hughes draws various super-hunks losing to Thundra at strip poker.

Spider-Man may not have been able to give his wedding speech but I can confidently call the nuptials of Ben and Alicia, and Fantastic Four #5, a rousing success. Packed to the rafters with charm, heart, and superhero comedy, not to mention some tremendously fun artwork, the Dan Slott era arguably has its best issue to date with #5. I would RSVP as soon as possible.

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