Writers: Mark Russell
Art: Sean Izaakse
Colors: Nolan Woodard
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramanga
Release Date: 5/19/21
The Fantastic Four:
Before jumping into this review, I had to put aside my personal feelings in regard to the Fantastic Four (FF). I have always felt as if they were dated and never really aged well as other Silver Age heroes (i.e. the X-Men and the Avengers). I squarely put them in the Dazzler and Jubilee category of characters who captured a particular era in comics. Over the years, I have read MAYBE 5 FF comics in total. It honestly stems from the perceived dustiness of the heroes along with the daunting task of reading 55+ years’ worth of stories. I am sure if this was the 1960’s, I would understand them more. However, this was all before reading The Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 by Mark Russell. I can honestly say that Russell wonderfully sums up the beginning of the FF within one easy-to-read issue. Couple with Izaakse and Woodard on art and colors respectively, this is the perfect entry point for anyone who may be interested in learning more about the Fantastic Four. But has it changed my view of them?
The Swinging 60’s:
To truly understand the Fantastic Four, I feel as if you have to put yourself in their era. The ’60s were known for the major social and political changes that swept across America (most notably, the Civil Rights movement) and the role reversals that were challenging our norms of the time. More women were entering the workforce and, in some cases, running the family. The Fantastic Four of the 1960s mirrors the status quo. There is the nerd, the beauty queen, her hotshot brother, and the jock. Characters straight out of any John Hughes films (even though the Fantastic Four came way before Pretty in Pink etc.). This is what I was hung upon. They were very vanilla to me. The X-Men were a group of misfits…the counterculture to the 1960s. In my mind, this created more interesting dynamics. Why couldn’t the FF mirror the X-Men? Why couldn’t they be like the Avengers or any other superhero team of that era? In retrospect, this is what made the FF so unique. Compared to other heroes, they were “normal.” Granted, they defended the Earth against the very cosmos, but they were wanted and adored. They did not have to hide behind masks and secrete identities. One can even say they were able to be more of a superhero team than say the X-Men or the Justice League.
Anyone who has watched Dragon Ball Z knows that filler episodes are beyond annoying. A storyline that could take a good 5 episodes is stretched to 10 episodes. In fact, in the age before the 11-episode tv seasons, we had to endure 21 episodes for any plot to move forward (I am looking at you CW). Life Story is more of a 11-episode tv season. The excess issues of Fantastic Four comics (D-List villains etc.) are removed and we are quickly introduced to Reed speaking with JFK in hopes of reaching the moon before the USSR (again, you have to consider the times). Ultimately, the pacing in this issue was amazing. For readers such as myself who do not necessarily want to purchase an FF omni, OR is on the fence about the team in general, this issue gives you the overall meat and potatoes.
Izaakse and Woodard created an image of the 1960s that I imagine when I read Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Political figures such as JFK and LBJ are immaculately drawn They seem to almost pop off of the page and “look” the way they should. Pop icons such as The Beatles and the FF (see what I did there) also have a unique quality. The duo captured the style of 1960’s comics and translated it remarkably. The standouts are Galactus and Sue’s hair. When I think of Sue Storm, I picture a Samantha Stephens esque hairstyle. This is what we are treated to. Galactus on the other hand…He is drawn with the same amount of majesty and evilness as the Dread Dormammu. He is portrayed as an unknown cosmic malevolence that is peering through the universe in hopes of finding its next conquest. I loved it.
I know the basics of the FF. The core basics. Issue #1 of Russell’s The Fantastic Four: Life Story has begun to help me understand the charm of the FF. They are Marvel’s First Family for a reason. Heck, they are arguably, the beginning of the cosmic side of Marvel. From what I have read so far, they have some amazing family dynamics. Russell’s writing along with the one-two punch of both Izaakse and Woodard is enough to snag any skeptical reader. Overall, I would recommend this issue to anyone who wants to understand the basis of the FF OR who loves the characters in general. You will not be disappointed.