Fantastic Four by Waid & Wieringo: Smaller is better
Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four is probably my favorite; but, I just finished reading the Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo FF omnibus, and I’ve got to tell you—it’s a contender. Whereas Hickman’s run is a sprawling epic with lots of interwoven threads, Waid and Wieringo (with help from some other artists) provide a more intimate, ordinary look at Marvel’s First Family, and in a time when many comic arcs run on for a year or more, I find these slices of “family time” refreshing.
Did I say small?
But it’s not as though Waid and Wieringo left out the crazy adventuring and bizarre escapades that make the FF the FF. This run brings major changes in the status quo for mainstays Dr. Doom and Galactus, power swapping, trips to hell and back, and more. But we also get to see the inner workings of Fantastic Four, inc., Johnny taking up more responsibility in the family business, and tender moments between Ben and the kids. These close-ups don’t feel forced, either—Waid deftly presents what life would actually be like for the FF: an interconnected series of moments, exotic or ordinary, but all fantastic.
One of this run’s greatest strengths is Wieringo. He took a few breaks along the way, but his aesthetic and storytelling are a big part of this book’s identity. You can’t say the same for any one artist on Hickman’s run. You might expect Wieringo’s cartoonish character proportions to somehow undermine scenes of gravity and tenderness, but on the contrary—exaggerated expressions and poses only serve to further emphasize the emotions of the moment. And when his aesthetics are set loose on the more imaginative aspects of the FF’s life, I’m transported. I’m taken into worlds that are foreign and alien, and yet never beyond the protection of my four fantastic tour guides. It is at once exciting and safe, a place of thrills and comforts that I am sure to revisit again and again in the years to come.
The back of Fantastic Four by Waid & Wieringo is chock full of creator commentary, sketches, and other goodies, and I’m looking forward to sifting through all of it. This is gravy, as far as I’m concerned, but it’s good gravy to have available. It’s nice to peel back the veil from a beloved creative work and see what the dynamic was like for the people making it.
Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re new to the FF, it’s filled with easy-to-read arcs, and plenty of familiar and fantastic moments that will give you a sense for what the First Family is all about. And for long-time fans of the team, it’s a great big getaway with some of our favorite people around.