Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Nico Leon
Color Artist: Dono Sánchez-Almara
Cover Artists: Terry Oddson & Rachel Dodson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Fantastic Four have been through the ringer in the last few issues. Dr. Doom’s wedding, Johnny turning into a permanent human torch, Sky leaving Earth, and the attack of the Kang Dynasty. It’s been a lot for them, and now the family of heroes is trying to cool down in Fantastic Four #37 just in time for Halloween, for them anyway.
This comic book is all about emotional investment and runs through all of the team members in this comic. However, most of it feels very overly cliche and telegraphed that it’s painstakingly predictable. The worst part is that because of the many previous issues before this, the emotional “payoff” just doesn’t hit as hard as intended by Dan Slott. Readers are expected to feel something for these characters in this comic, but it’s questionable if they really will.
The comic marks the return of the underwhelming new super-villainess and cosmic character, The Profiteer (yes, that’s her name), and her Saturday morning cartoon plot to recapture Jo-Venn and N’Kalla, aka Nicki, the adoptive Kree and Skrull warrior kids of Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters. On Halloween of all days. She’s barely a character here and more of a plot device to make the primary story happen. It’s really uneventful, lacks a cool hook, and despite the “big lesson” in it, its ending lacks true emotional payoff considering past issues and the overall nature of the Marvel comic world.
On the note of emotional payoff, the comic centers on most of the FF dealing with some emotional baggage. Johnny and his current state of being a perpetual human torch, Ben trying to raise his alien kids right despite their warrior natures, and Reed and Sue dealing with the reveal of his new sister. Aside from Johnny, whose interactions are played for laughs than tragedy, the others feel somewhat genuine but lack the impact because the series didn’t lay out the emotional groundwork for it.
This run rarely touched on Reed’s family, Johnny is too much of the comic relief to take seriously, and Ben and Alicia’s parenting has been so by-the-numbers it’s boring seeing them try to parent alien warrior children. The latter pair take center stage with both Ben and especially Alicia, which is where we get into spoilers.
See, this run has been building a sinister side to Alicia Masters as she uses her puppeteering abilities on other people behind Ben’s back. She used them on her father to force him to give his blessing to Ben, she used it on Lyja (Johnny’s Skrull ex-wife) to make her leave Earth against her will. And in this comic, she was seconds away from using them on her own son, Jo Venn, after he killed one of the Profiteer’s men to save Nicki from being taken away.
But before she can do so, her father – The Puppet Master himself – uses his powers on a civilian so he can speak to her and begs her not to go down that path. He succeeds in quickly convincing her, and then Ben and Alicia have a major pow-wow telling Jo that killing is wrong and that the FF never kill. This is a loaded and self-defeating lesson for Marvel comic heroes to teach nowadays since many are more than willing to kill villains. Of course, the intent is to get Jo to stop living as a soldier and start living as a boy, but it doesn’t land as well as intended.
The same goes for Reed and Sue, since they briefly talk about his new sister but in reality, Reed is sad about his father being neglectful, and it’s illustrated to be a tearful moment for him. But here’s the thing, Reed already had a heartwarming reunion with his father Nathaniel Richards, the entire team did in Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run. That run delved into the complicated history of Reed and his father and gave them a sincerely loving relationship in the past as well as the present when he finally returns to be there for Reed. But here, Slott either forgets that ever happened or neglects to mention that in order to make this new Reckoning War storyline happen.
Fantastic Four #37 is another cool down issue that gives some time for the characters to catch their breath. It also tries to have some emotional payoff to previously established storylines for certain team members. However, the emotional impacts don’t land as well as intended and the “big lesson” in this comic feels superficial and clashes with the overall nature of heroes in Marvel comics nowadays. It also doesn’t help that the main villainess in the book is underwhelming and the story she kicks off isn’t that interesting either. Hopefully, the next issue gets things rolling again.