Best Shots Review: X-MEN/FANTASTIC FOUR #2

X-Men/Fantastic Four #2
Credit: Terry Dodson/Rachel Dodson/Laura Martin/Joe Caramagna (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Terry Dodson/Rachel Dodson/Laura Martin/Joe Caramagna (Marvel Comics)

X-Men/Fantastic Four #2
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Karl Story, Ransom Getty, and Laura Martin
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Credit: Terry Dodson/Rachel Dodson/Laura Martin/Joe Caramagna (Marvel Comics)

X-Men/Fantastic Four runs into the Civil War problem in a semi-solid second issue. Neatly divided into three character sects, Team Yancy Street (Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny), Team Krakoa (Krakoa’s Quiet Council plus one Scott Summers), and Team Franklin (Franklin obviously, along with Valeria, Kate Pryde, and the Marauders), #2 starts to try and flesh out the stances of all three. But while Chip Zdarsky finds a heartfelt charge in the scenes with Franklin, Kate, and newcomer to the series “Uncle” Doctor Doom, the adults of Krakoa and Yancy Street still come across very pig-headed and aggressive. Echoing back to the false ringing stakes of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Carol Danvers’ side taking back during the days of Civil War.

The artwork of the fan-favorite Dodsons also suffers here in X-Men/Fantastic Four #2. Though the main pencils have the same expressiveness and loopy layouts that readers would expect from the team, the inks of Rachel Dodson, Karl Story, and Ransom Getty make the pages look unfocused and messy in parts. The rich colors of Laura Martin thankfully keeps some of the most frenetic action together, like a nighttime showdown between the Marauders and Doom. They also lend an unearthly quality to the council chambers of Krakoa and the new exterior of “Doom Island”, but it isn’t enough to distract from the messiness of the inks. Though it isn’t exactly a full sophomore slump, X-Men/Fantastic Four #2 certainly could stand to be a stronger follow up.

Credit: Terry Dodson/Rachel Dodson/Laura Martin/Joe Caramagna (Marvel Comics)

Franklin Richards is missing and his family suspects the worst. Picking up moments after the debut issue’s Doom-filled cliffhanger, writer Chip Zdarsky starts the hard work of contextualizing the stances of all parties involved. With some characters, it works. Especially on “Doom Island” where Zdarsky continues to sequelize the cult classic X-Men vs. Fantastic Four, swapping out Kate for Franklin as Uncle Doom offers to help “fix” Franklin under the supervision of Val and the rest of the Marauders. Not only is this a wonderful attention to FF and X canon, but Zdarsky also starts to delve into the national politics between Marvel’s fictitious nation states, using Kate and Victor Von Doom as de facto diplomats from their respective nations, expounding on mutant and Latverian international policy.

Zdarsky attempts to extend this same political drama to the adults of the story, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do much to help. Instead it actually highlights their boneheaded concerns and emotional reactivity. For example, extending the “Marvel Misunderstanding” from the opening, Sue is convinced that Professor X and Magneto are hiding Franklin on Krakoa, so she tasks Reed to start planning a unilateral incursion into Krakoa, ignoring the political fallout of Marvel’s first family essentially declaring war on a whole nation. The House of X doesn’t fare much better. Though Chip adds a fun, droll charm into the Quiet Council by attempting to set Scott Summers as the voice of reason between Erik and Charles, the two are still too focused on finding and recruiting Franklin to have any real pathos behind it. Both sets of adults are still thinking of Franklin more as a power set and less like a person or son, maybe aside from Sue, so it makes it hard to get behind either faction. Of course, this could be the intention, allowing the characters actually talking to Franklin shine forth a bit more for his eventual choice, but for now it’s hard to root for anybody besides Franklin and Kate.

Credit: Terry Dodson/Rachel Dodson/Laura Martin/Joe Caramagna (Marvel Comics)

Thankfully X-Men/Fantastic Four #2 still looks good. To a point, at least. As I said above, the pencils here in this second issue are still technically good. They bring a real humanity to the overall action as well as a “classic comics” tone that fits in well with the Fantastic Four. The colors of Laura Martin also hammer home that tonality which shifts wonderfully throughout the various settings of this second issue. All that said, however, the inks of the issue threaten to mess it all up. I’m not sure if it’s the varying sizes of the ink lines or the rushed look of certain scenes, most noticeably in the opening establishing scene of Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben commiserating against a barebones background, but it looks very muddy. The colors and pencils do what they can to keep the visuals together, but I can’t help but wonder how much better it would look with a stronger set of inks.

So, all told, X-Men/Fantastic Four #2 is 1/3rd of a good comic. The emotions and sense emanating from the Doom Island characters is right in Chip Zdarsky’s wheelhouse with an added dash of his tonally sound Marvel 2-In-One run. But the “grown ups” of the series still can’t get out of their own way, further escalating the conflict needlessly. Couple that with the rushed, slightly muddy look of the artwork in patches and you have a good, but not quite great follow up issue.

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