Fantastic Four: Life Story #1
Writer: Mark Russel
Artist: Sean Izaakse
Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 is one of my most hyped issues of the year. Following the wonderful Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley, we’re gifted a new series from Mark Russel and Sean Izaakse. Russel is one of my favorite writers, and Spider-Man: Life Story is one of my favorite mini-series of the last few years. Naturally, I had high hopes for this. I won’t pretend my expectations were entirely met, but there are things to enjoy in this book.
This book, despite sharing the gimmick and title with Spider-Man: Life Story, differentiates itself in a few ways. The most immediately noticeable difference is that Spider-Man chose to explore a snapshot of a time within its designated decade, while Fantastic Four delivers a more broad stroke of the decade, with multiple time skips spanning from 1961-1969. I can understand the choice to move in this direction, and I certainly don’t want to criticize the book for taking a different path, yet I find it to be overall less compelling. This less specific approach doesn’t leave room for much exploration of character. The benefit of Spider-Man: Life Story’s structure was that it allowed the reader to see development of the world and character over such long spans of time, but in Fantastic Four’s case there isn’t enough time spent in one time to even get a good grasp on the characters, much less how they grow throughout the decade. Perhaps I’m speaking too soon and the following issues will demonstrate a more complete vision, but as of now, I don’t love the structure.
Though I sound pretty negative so far, I’m happy to say the art of Sean Izaakse in this issue doesn’t disappoint. His style isn’t overly unique, but it is noticeably refined. I don’t think the art caught my eye all that much until the first appearance of Galactus. The page was striking, and it really sold me on the artist’s ability. Plus, I liked that he draws clothes to match the decade (at least so far), as that didn’t seem to be a priority of the Spider-Man team. The style doesn’t immediately stand out, but I find it quietly effective.
I also like how much the book is willing to deviate from the original incarnation. Minor differences like Ben and Reed not being old friends greatly increase the dramatic fallout of The Thing’s transformation. The changes made don’t seem to be done just for the sake of change, but rather for maximizing drama and serving the particular story being told.
While the writing overall is good, I do find myself missing the biting Mark Russel commentary I’ve become accustomed to. Perhaps it isn’t fair of me to pigeonhole him that way, but I have come to expect a certain something from Russel. If he wants to try something different, then I’m all for it, but the dialogue and tone just lacked the unique spin that Russel brings to the table. It felt more, for lack of a better word, generic. Still well thought out and plotted, but not so exciting.
Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 has plenty to enjoy, but is not ultimately great. Given that Mark Russel is one of my favorite writers, I’m giving him a long leash and I’ll be reading this series to the end no matter what, but I wasn’t blown away by this first issue. Sean Izaakse’s art is strong, and Mark Russel has a good voice for the characters, but I’m gonna need a bit more before I start singing the book’s praises.
Fantastic Four: Life Story #1
Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 has plenty to enjoy, but is not ultimately great. Given that Mark Russel is one of my favorite writers, I’m giving him a long leash and I’ll be reading this series to the end no matter what, but I wasn’t blown away by this first issue. Sean Izaakse's art is strong, and Mark Russel has a good voice for the characters, but I’m gonna need a bit more before I start singing the book’s praises.