Fantastic Four: Season One by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Fantastic Four is the title that launched the modern Marvel universe, but it’s also the most dated in a lot of ways. After all, it’s based on the idea that a mad scientist tried to beat the Russians into space and took along his girlfriend and her kid brother for some reason. The members have catchphrases like “Flame on!” and “It’s clobbering time!” Hell, they billed themselves as The Fantastic Four. How do you make that work in the 21st century?
God knows it’s been tried. There was the complete overhaul of the concept in the Ultimate Fantastic Four that tried to pin the wacky sci-fi elements to a more grounded reality. Meh. Fox first tried to make it work on screen with two movies that stuck close to the original idea. Both sucked. Then they went the ‘realistic’ route and coughed up a grim and dark furball that, while kind of interesting in places, still sucks.
What Marvel has done here is probably the safest and blandest attempt, but it also may be the only way to play it. Because it’s still tied to the regular Marvel comics universe they couldn’t completely upset the apple cart. Instead they stick to the old core story and just update the parts that absolutely didn’t work anymore. For example, the doomed test flight now comes from Reed’s rushed attempt to be the first to set up a space tourism business to fund his other projects, and the goofy names come from focus groups and branding efforts.
The results are….fine. It’s a Fantastic Four that’s still very close to the original, but it’s been dusted off and given a fresh coat of paint. It also does a nice job of retelling a couple of their early adventures with the team first facing off against the Mole Man and one of his giant monsters, and then they meet and fight Namor. I particularly liked how the whole idea that the FF are celebrity superheroes is played up.
So this is just an update with nothing all that new and groundbreaking, but it’s a solid piece of work. If Marvel ever wrestled the film rights back from Fox and made their own FF movie it’d probably look a lot like this.
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