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