Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One-Shot Showdown! Totally Biased Edition

It’s One-Shot Showdown! In which I compare the merits of two Fantastic Four related one-shots and render a verdict as to which one’s better. All decisions are final, written in stone, and utterly absolute…something around here has to be, right?

Today's Theme: Adventures with a cosmic powered family! (a.k.a. same old, same old)

Today's Contenders-

2009's Cosmic Size Fantastic 4


2006's Fantastic Four Special

Welcome true believers, fight fans, or curious online sojourners who found me by accident! Today we will witness what promises to be a showdown of epic disproportion! If you've ever read a one-shot showdown posting here at FF Plaza, you know I try my best to match the issues up by theme, and then offer a fair and balanced critique of each. However, one of the issues featured today is written by none other than Dwayne McDuffie, who is probably my all-time favorite FF writer. Didn't know you'd be getting a free Kello fun fact today, did you?

Mr. McDuffie was the writer on the main FF series in it's post-Civil War era all the way to the Mark Millar run, and his knack for strong characterization synced up perfectly with the exploits of the FF and it's cast of incredulous villains . Having that said, I'm willing to see if there's anything that the "Cosmic Size" issue can offer against my own incredible sense of bias for McDuffie's work. Without further jawin...Fight!

Cosmic Size Fantastic 4 by Cary Bates and Bing Cansino

The Plot
: Reed and Ben are picking up samples from a pocket dimension and Ben almost gets eaten by a "little shop of horrors" type plant. Saved by his rocky exterior, Ben and Reed head back home. After they get back to the Baxter Building, Reed reveals that the plant that tried to eat Ben left him with a contagious residue on his skin and the family will need to be quarantined for 48 hours. As the team waits out the time, they start acting increasingly hostile towards one another. It turns out the plants from the other dimension are affecting the adults of the team, and it's up to Val and Franklin to save the day.

Positives+ This comic is a true Fantastic Four comic, with all members getting equal face time. The plot point of the team being quarantined offers up a great way for our favorite family to interact.

+There are even some interesting "adult-themed" moments in this issue that you don't normally see in an FF comic. While it's not something I want to see in every FF comic, it sets this special apart ever so slightly.

Negatives- Although I like the team interacting, I feel like the "Unseen force turns everyone against each other" plot has been done to death.

-Val and Franklin save the day. I'm in the minority that actually likes the kids, but having them save the day is becoming a common occurrence (see the excellent FF: Dark Reign mini-series for a fun example).

- This was another one-shot with a useless reprint in the back (John Byrne's Fantastic Four #237), which puffed the price up to an undeserved $4.99! Although it did offer this moment....

It's better if I don't give the context.

Fantastic Four Special by Dwayne McDuffie and Casey Jones

The Plot: In a story called "My Dinner with DOOM", Reed is invited to dine with his long time rival, Dr. Doom, at the Latverian embassy. Dr. Doom has declared it to be a holiday in Latveria, in honor of his dead mother's forgiving spirit. As Doom shows Reed around the embassy, they walk through a doorway that teleports them to Latveria.

Meanwhile, back in Manhattan, the heroes are on high alert, because Reed told them all Doom may be using the dinner as a reason to steal something Reed has been holding onto for 15 years. Since there was only 3 places to keep the item safe (Avengers Tower, The Baxter Building, and the Damage Control Headquarters), the rest of the FF is dispatched to these areas. Doombots attack the 3 sites, while Reed and Victor play a chess game they had begun 15 year before. As the heroes fight, we find out Reed has the item Doom was looking for all along, and he willfully gives it to him as a sign of friendship. Reed wins the chess game, as well as the moral victory.

Positives+ In the interest of space I won't gush too much, but McDuffie really knows how to write the FF. Heartfelt, humorous, and introspective, this $2.99 one-shot clearly defines the relationships between these characters so well that it's hard to believe it's a single plotline. We get great Sue/ Reed moments, Doom/Reed moments, Ben/Johnny moments, and even Torch/Spidey moments.

+ The plot was more about a battle of wits than a battle of fists, and it shines a great light onto the natures of Doom and Reed. In the end, both are humanized just a little more.

+ The art in this issue is wonderful. Casey Jones (T-M-N-T power!) provides a Kirby-esque style for the flashbacks and a Wieringo-like cartoonishness for the scenes in the present.

Negatives- Why didn't they call this issue "Fantastic Four: My Dinner with DOOM"? Anything's better than "Fantastic Four Special." How mundane.

-....I can't find anymore. I loved this issue.

The Winner: It was over before it started, if you haven't already picked up on that yet. The Fantastic Four Special is the hands-down "victor" of this battle. Not only a great Doom/Reed story, this issue is a prime example of what a one-shot can be. Dead-on characterization, connections to the overall Marvel Universe, and a plot that ties itself up by the issue's conclusion, I can't recommend the special highly enough. But then again, I'm pretty biased. So until I beat Doom at chess, vive la fantastique!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fantastic Four #320

Fantastic Four 320-“Pride Goeth...”
Cover Date Nov 1988 Price $.75
Writer/ Artist-Steve Englehart/ Keith Pollard
Cover Tagline: “The Shadow of Doom!"," The Thing vs. The Hulk"
Number of issues since last box pull: 13

(Editor's Note- Now that I have some free time over break, I'm going to try and get back on the horse. It has been quite some time since I've pulled from "the"box", but I think I'm ready. Let's forget issue 317 ever happened and enjoy the mindless action that is #320!)

What Happened: This issue begins as a continuation of a story from Hulk #349, a comic I admittedly neglected from my pull list (considering how I was 3 years old at the time it came out). A newly intelligent grey skinned (and tuxedoed) Hulk is lunging for Dr. Doom in retaliation for being dragged into the Las Vegas desert.

The jade gray giant is understandably miffed at being pulled away from all the penny slots and goes to fight with the leader of Latveria, only to be zapped by a power beam. The not-so-good doctor explains that the beam is a neural disruptor(tens years before M.I.B.!), and as the Hulk is physically incapacitated, Doom wishes simply to chat. Hulk no am understand.....

Doom explains to a less than interested grey Hulk that he recently took a journey to see the Beyonder, and while he was absent the protocols were enacted to call up his protege to run his kingdom of Latveria.

Doom hopes Hulk will go back to Latveria and help him regain the throne via brute strength (after all, Hulk smash), but the Hulk politely declines. Doom says thats okay, and then tells the Hulk that he didn't know turning gray made him into a scared little girl as well.Before Hulk can offer a rebuttal, Doom tells him he's not offended, because he has another strong man in mind to help carry out his plan. Namely, one Benjamin J. Grimm, a.ka the hero known as The Thing!
Intelligent or not, the Hulk always lets taunts roll off of him with all the class of a WWE wrestler. Rowdy Roddy Hulk tells Doom he can best the Thing six ways from Sunday, and citing the many other comics where the two have clashed. See, the old imbecilic Hulk never would have cited precedence! The stage is now set for the Hulk to attack the Thing, and Dr. Doom could not be more pleased. Come on Doom, we already have one "puppet master" in the FF universe, stop aping his gig!

The scene shifts over to NYC, with the "Fantastic" Four catching up about their latest escapade. It seems that over the past few issues the team had gone to meet with the Beyonder at the Crossroads of Infinity. The team decides it's time for some R&R by going for a ferry ride. Johnny, Alicia, and Ms. Marvel (who still looks like "Mrs. Thing" at this point) invite Ben Grimm along, but as team leader, he feels compelled to hang out at the base. The Thing ponders the role of leadership as he heads to the roof for some sunbathing, or to drop pennies, or to smush birds, or whatever (it's not really clear why he's taking the elevator straight to the roof).
(The editor's note tells us "Reed Richards, the original FF leader." Thanks, I was totally lost!)

Any way it's all good, because as Ben pauses the Hulk totally gets the jump on him. Oh, I see! The Thing headed to the roof so he could do his daily "move the plot along" exercises! As the Hulk gives the thing a nice big "Ba-Wham!", the caption pretty much lets us know the "substance" part of the issue is over--

The rest of the issue is pretty much Superman #75, without Jimmy Olsen or a polybag. Seriously, it's just like 12 pages of The Thing and The Hulk beating on each other.
Pollard and Marvel totally have a case against Dan Jurgens!

The Thing and Hulk duke it out, each noting that the other is stronger than they remembered. The Hulk keeps his newfound intelligence a secret, and the Thing's edgier form gives him what seems to be the inside track to victory. This is all well and good, until the very end of the issue, when a very special guest star shows up to provide an interesting cliffhanger.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your hero.....The Green Hulk!? Hmmm, I honestly didn't see that coming. Also, note the originality of the plot next issue. The She-Hulk (a female version of the Hulk) is going to fight Ms. Marvel (who looks like a female version of the Thing). If you don't know why that sounds familiar, hit "refresh" on your browser and read the review that comes up!

What I Thought: This comic delivers everything it says it will, but given the fact you can the glean the ENTIRE storyline from the cover, that's not saying much. Think Scott Pilgrim+Street Fighter+A Godzilla movie divided by the aforementioned Superman#75 and you've got the average intelligence of this issue. I say that honestly, but since this comic is from 1988, I'll cut it some slack. For an all-out action issue, the art certainly delivers some punishing looking blows. The Thing and Hulk go pound-for-pound, "spok"ing and "krak"ing their way through the city streets. The best sound effect by far was the Thing's knockout blow:"Ramp!" Outside of someone actually speaking the word, have you ever heard anything make that noise?

Will this issue go down in history as a highlight of the FF from the 80's? No. Will it go down as the best Hulk/Thing matchup? No. Does it provide a fun and action filled romp between two heavyweight favorites? Most Definitely. Like the many Wolverine/Sabretooth throwdowns in comic history, this issue provides another chapter in a rivalry that needs to be revisited every now and then. Nothing more, nothing less. So until The Hulk becomes The Million Dollar Hulk and The Thing becomes "Thing-Kind", vive la fantastique!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Teaser Fun!

If you keep up with spoilers online, you probably already know how much Marvel loves teaser images. Seriously, they post a new teaser image everyday! This past week, Marvel released an interesting FF-related teaser I thought I would pass along.....

Looks like Hickman and Epting are going to continue their stellar partnership even after the "3" arc is over. Of course, judging from the logo above, the "3" arc may never truly be over....

Friday, December 3, 2010

3 Freedoms Plaza?

As we head into the home stretch of the FF's "3" arc, the World's Greatest Comic Magazine seems to be pulling out all the stops. Just today, Marvel announced that issue #587 of Fantastic Four will be polybagged (how come no one in the 90's ever called it "ploybagging"? Seems more accurate), will NOT be sold on newsstands, and will NOT go into extra printings. A variant edition will come out the week after the initial issue's release, with a spoilerific cover (which I assume will show Johnny getting eaten by Galactus) by John Cassady.

Apparently Marvel's rationale for the "no overprint/ newsstand" policy is to drive up demand and keep the issue from being spoiled by the dreaded liberal media. Many of us can still recall comic events such as Captain America's death and Barry Allen's resurrection being first reported on by highly circulated news outlets such as USA Today.

While all of the items above rightfully blew my mind, the biggest part of today's announcements came in the form of the following quote from Marvel's press release: "This January Fantastic Four #587 marks the end of the Fantastic Four and the penultimate issue of Marvel’s longest running series. "

We all know that killing off a member of the FF is a giant publicity stunt, but Marvel is showing a real commitment to the idea of "3" being a complete game changer. And hey, you know what? I believe them now. In an era with 2 Captain Americas, A Bruce Wayne who publicly associates with Batman, A Spidey who sleeps around, and a thriving comic that gets away with having the same name as a restaurant chain ("Red Robin....Yum"), there is the distinct possibility that the Fantastic 3 are here to stay.
And while I am more curious than enraged by the future of the F3, I can't help but feel my blog is going to look seriously out of date. I mean, I don't want to change my banner! Oh well, They'll always be the FF to me. So until the title gets pared down to the "Fantastic One", vive la fantastique!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

(Video Review) Staying Current: Fantastic Four #584

(Editor's Note- I apologize for the lack of written reviews in recent times, but I'm finding these videos to be quite quick and easy. I promise to do something of a more literate nature with my next "box" review!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

One Year Later

The other night while thinking about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday (and more importantly, the upcoming 2 day work week), it dawned on me that Four Freedoms Plaza is almost a year old. To be honest, that kind of blows my mind. It blows my mind in different ways, both good and bad. Let's Examine:

Mind Explosion #1- I thought I'd be done with this site by now.

Call it naivete, but when I got the fabled "box" last year, I thought I would blow through it in a matter of mere months. I thought I would post reviews every couple of days, and throngs of readers would line up to follow whatever zany adventures both myself and the FF were encountering with each issue. Well, its been a real bear to make that kind of schedule, but surprisingly it's because....

Mind Explosion #2- Having This Site Inspired me to Try a Variety of Posts

After a summer of sitting around doing absolutely nothing but watching YouTube videos and reading comic spoilers, I decided to distance myself from all things Internet. After closing Hello Kello in August (pours some iced tea out for the fallen site), obliterating my Twitter account, abandoning Tumblr, and all but decimating my YouTube channel, I found that FF Plaza was one area I couldn't bring myself to slash and burn. And I think it has to do with the fact that there was so much I tried on this site.
Ben, your "purple rain" outfit has inspired me to try new things as well...

I mean, as if getting a hulking run of FF issues wasn't enough, I also went out and bought supplemental issues, one-shots, tie-ins, etc. These extras led to the creation of some features I'm rather fond of : "One-Shot Showdown", "Staying Current", and "Thinking Outside the Box", and also planted the seeds for the yet unseen "FF Funnies" and "The Many Faces of"(can't wait for that!)...Oh, and I stole my friend JT's "Poll Results" idea too, but apparently no one likes those posts. Thanks for nothing, buddy. Anyway, insert relevant segue here...

Mind Explosion #3- People are Looking to me for Fantastic Four Knowledge-

No Matter How Much I Read, I CAN'T Explain This

What is it with you people? Just because someone devotes a website, a sizable portion of their disposable income , and more importantly a large portion of their precious time within the annals of eternity talking about a specific comic book, it doesn't mean they like it!...Oh wait, it does? Dang. I guess it's just something I'll have to grudgingly accept that people now consider me some kind of Fantastic Four super fan. I still can't believe I didn't start a Flash review site(I would have called it Scarlet Speedster), because I would much rather be known as the "Flash guy" than the "(yawn)Fantastic Four Guy." But hey, it isn't all bad, leading me to....

Mind Explosion #4- I've had a lot of Fun with this Site over the Past Year-

Totally Worth the $1.10 I Spent on it!

I think if I could explain to the world at large that this site aims to take the FF with a grain of salt, they might see it how I see it, and love it for the larf that it is. But then I think if a lot of people appreciated this on the same level as me, I wouldn't think it's as fun. It's like my own corner of the net to go to and write stuff only I think is funny. So I guess my point is...don't tell your friends about the site??? Man, I'm weird. Go and tell people to spite me.

And if you're looking for rainy day recommendations, my favorite posts have got to be the First One Shot Showdown post, Alicia's "trip" to monster island in issue #296, the hellaciously good time had by Reed and Sue in issue #277, and of course, the moustache sucking fun of issue #307.

As always, I appreciate my readers, friends, and commenters. And another big thanks to Falisha for help with the site design. Here's looking forward to another great year at Four Freedoms!
"We're like the Jerry Lewis of Super Heroes"...Johnny, those words are more profound with each passing day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

(Really) Thinking Outside the Box: Fantastic Four #317

Although "thinking outside the box" normally refers to the fact that I'm reviewing an issue that was purchased after I received my initial box of 163 FF comics, this issue was pretty "outside the box" in any context. In fact, I reread it three times, and I'm not even going to try and explain it. Let me leave you with a few images from the book and we'll call it done:

Until the idea of 2 rocky creatures mating in deep space leaves my head, vive le fantastique...

Staying Current (Audio Review)- Fantastic Four #583

In honor of the "3" arc finally getting underway, I wanted to do something a little special for this month's edition of "Staying Current." With take after failed take on my digital camera (many of them due to my beloved feline friends wanting their 15 minutes of fame on YouTube), I finally switched over to the voice recorder on my computer. Sit back, enjoy, and let me know what you thought of the issue!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

ZOMG Cheap Comics!

Hello FFans,

Your thrifty friend Kello here, to tell you that from September 25-30 there is a "Back to School" sale on a bunch of great comics over at Things From Another World. Most of the sale items are considered "nick and dent", which means they have some wear or tear. Although it may sound like the site is going to sell you a bunch of junk, I have bought these items and found no noticeable differences in quality.

I just spent about $100 and got 13 trades (including newer Captain America, Thor, and Punisher collections!) and 28 single issues.

And yes, there are plenty of FF comics on sale, too. Happy hunting!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"3" Starts this Week

Hey FFans, Kello here with a quick reminder that the year's biggest(and I'm hoping best) Fantastic Four storyline, "Three", is set to begin this Wednesday with the release of issue #583. And as incentive to all you FF holdouts, I will guarentee that this arc will have both Dr. Doom, and absolutely awesome art (by Steve Epting). If that's not enough, then you should probably stop just reading Marvel Comics and go get something from Image.

Check out the cover's countdown below (it says "Countdown to Casualty 4,3,2,1"), apparently death has never been this expected!

Oh, and check out the variant by Art Adams!

So......Who's in?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fantastic Four #307

Fantastic Four #307- “Good-bye”
Cover Date/ Price: Oct 1987 $.75
Writer/ Artist- Steve Englehart/ John Buscema/ Joe Sinnott
Cover Tagline: “To Duel With Diablo”
Number of issues between last box pull: 10

What Happened: This fine looking issue starts with a trio of terrifically dressed travelers: Reed Richards, Sue Richards, and Franklin Richards as they get ready to depart from their lives as superheroes. It seems in the issues since I last read from “the box,” Reed and Sue have decided that it would be in the best interests of their young son to move to Connecticut and live a “normal” life.

As the Richards’ spend a few pages saying their goodbyes, we see that the Fantastic Four will continue on with some slight changes in membership. The new lineup will consist of Ben Grimm as the team leader, the Human Torch, the element controlling Inhuman known as Crystal, and the female powerhouse known as Ms. Marvel.

An unexpected lineup for sure, but it brings to mind a question: Which of these characters is the genius-level intellect that serves as a good replacement for Reed? The last time I checked, Crystal wasn’t very close to making her own ultimate nullifier…

Reed tells the Thing that he has earned the right to command the team, and Ben makes the former Mr. Fantastic promise that he won’t come back to save the day the first time the new team falters.

Meanwhile, Johnny flies off to go see his WIFE (I didn’t review that one, apparently…) Alicia Masters, and the two have a scintillating discussion about when the furniture for their apartment will arrive. I only mention it because it has some relevance later.

We cut to a scene at the hospital, where the super villain known as Diablo lies in head-to-toe bandages after being beaten in a near coma by Ms. Marvel last issue. While the doctors talk about the villains wounds, his thoughts reveal that he’s got another trick up his sleeve, well, actually another trick up his moustache.

Apparently Diablo keeps his magic potions all over his body, and he sucks on his moustache to give him a real pick-me-up (I don’t write em folks, I just read em…). The revived Diablo gives us a little history lesson about his life, and it turns out he is the master of Alchemy from a time long past. After he reminisces, he stands and swears revenge on Ms. Marvel…

We cut back to Johnny and Alicia’s love-nest, where the young man is startled by a loud crashing sound. It seems that an audio speaker has fallen into a glass table. Alicia feels embarrassed for breaking it, and swears the table wasn’t there a second ago (I guess her “radar sense” from issue #296 wore off). As Johnny uses his power to weld the glass back together, a purple monster emerges from the table! It turns out the table was possessed. Apparently the whole city is sharing this same wackiness, as the ground outside starts breaking apart and growing tentacles. Johnny decides this is a job for the Fantastic Four and rushes Alicia to safety at FF Plaza…

The new FF groups together, and Crystal realizes that the whole city transmuting could only be the work of the Diablo. As the team surveys the changes taking form, they see that the hospital where Diablo was staying has now taken the form of an old timey castle. As Ben and Ms. Marvel (who goes by the name Sharon Ventura at this point in comic continuity) attack the front door, Johnny and Crystal fly ahead to scout out what’s going on. While the Thing fights alongside the super strong Ms. Marvel, his thoughts reveal that an ongoing attraction for the red clad hottie. Distracted by her raucous attitude and taut bod, the Thing gets blindsided by one of Diablo’s monsters. Let this be a lesson, if you want to keep your head in the game, always hire an uggo to join your superteam instead of a stone cold fox…

We find Johnny and Crystal having similar luck, as the two former lovers argue with one another as they fight Diablo’s machinations inside the castle. Crystal is edgy because she is undergoing a rough patch in her own marriage, and Johnny is worried that she wants to impose upon his recent marriage to Alicia Masters. The two yell at each other some more, and Crystal runs off to face Diablo alone. Just then, Ben and Sharon break in, and the team joins up to face Diablo together.

The FF corner Diablo, and just as he is about to pull another potion from his moustache (So. Incredibly. Lame), Ms. Marvel grabs him and foils his dastardly plan. The big D gives up, and much like the ending to an episode of Scooby-Doo, he is quickly carted away by the authorities. If it wasn’t for those meddling superheroes….

We end the issue with the team chillaxin at FF Plaza (because that’s what people do there!), noting that they once they actually worked together like a team, Diablo didn’t stand a chance. You think most of these characters would have learned that lesson about 300 issues ago, but I guess it’s always nice for a refresher….

What I Thought: I honestly NEVER knew about this incarnation of the team, and that made it a total blast to read this issue. Although a lot of time is spent with Reed and Sue saying goodbye, there is an actually feeling that they’re leaving the team for a while. Of course, any real comics fan knows that a team member’s departure is going to be short lived, but it always livens things up to bring in some new blood for a while.

I will say that in reality, a person probably wouldn’t assemble a team of exes to serve alongside them in their superheroic purposes. While it lends itself to drama for the readers, I’m just a little unsure that a group like this would work out. It’s almost too much of a forced soap opera spin, but at least in this instance I was kind of hooked.

Overall, this issue felt like a really entertaining Saturday morning cartoon. There are some interesting little character interactions, we get the villain’s backstory in a quickie flashback (which is great because I didn’t know anything about Diablo), and the “fight” is wrapped up in a neat little package. There’s even the whole “lesson” type epilogue, a la “Saved by the Bell.”

I haven’t looked ahead to see which issue is next from “the box,” but I hope it still features this team. While I don’t think I’ll ever stomach an FF team that features a full time aberration of the original lineup, I always like to see the rise and fall of these substitute teams. So until Diablo decides to shave off his moustache, vive le fantastique!

Hello Nurse!