Mark Russell and Sean Izzake’s deliver another entertaining and melodramatic revision of the Fantastic Four in this continuity-free real-time take on Marvel’s First Family. There are the familiar themes of social injustice we’ve come to love from Russell’s writing (well, I have anyway) mixed in with superhero soap opera and a drastic change in the status quo of the Fantastic Four too.
Fantastic Four: Life Story #2 is another outstanding issue in this mini-series crafted by Mark Russell and artist Sean Izaakse. Free of the confines of continuity, the creative team behind this book are able to mix up classic and iconic moments from the Fantastic Four’s history and lovingly, originally re-interpreted them in real time.
This issue covers the seventies, with Izaakse’s eye for meticulous detail never failing him. A decade that fashion forgot writ large on every page. Even Sue Richards’ hairstyle is evocative of Farah Fawcett’s famous long blonde locks at one point, with a wardrobe to match. While Reed Richards remains timeless in his Senior School teacher’s get-up. But maintains the bulkiness that Jack Kirby always depicted him as possessing. It has become the norm since the classic eighties run by John Byrne to nowadays render Richards as a slimmer, slender person more befitting his role as a scientist, but it’s a subtle art choice I applaud. But, for me, the real victim of seventies fashion has to be Victor Von Doom, who marvellously captures the era’s flowing fashion so well. A reylon royal from Latveria only now meeting Richards for the first time as one of the very few who believe his theories of the coming of Galactus. But still as nobly arrogant.
In the background, once more Galactus haunts this book, but in the fore is the relationships of Marvel’s First family and the strains Richards’ obsessions put on his marriage. An absent husband and father, with shocking consequences that greatly deviate from anything you’ve ever seen in the sixty year history of the comic. Add to this the lingering male chauvinism of a decade still getting to grips with women’s rights and it’s a very combustible formula that ferment throughout this issue. A decade that easily allows Sue Storm to be sidelined to the point even her brother doesn’t even notice she’s absent from their shared adventures. More the Thrilling Three than the Fantastic Four at times.
It’s this mixture of fiction and real-world events that worked so well in the debut issue, and works exceptionally well here too. The seventies was a decade in which the globally shared social and political concerns of the sixties matured and took root in society. A society that even to this day worries about the same issues presented here. And while these issue give Russell a great and organic opportunity to introduce characters first seen in the Fantastic Four comics of yesteryear – Black Panther and Namor, the Sub-Mariner (or rather his return to Marvel in the pages of the “World’s Greatest Comics Magazine”) – I don’t think it’s unintentional that parallels can be drawn between that generations worries and our own. After all, Russell is a write I associate with exploring such themes in his previous work.
Through revisionism and a more modern day, mature storytelling sensibility that simply did not exist in Marvel comics of that era we are presented a world in which Marvel’s superhero community took up alternative forms of action through the proper channels – speaking at the United Nations – in order to solve the world’s problems in a way rarely seen in the comics. A refreshing take that suits the more grounded backdrop of this series.
But, fear not, as there is good versus evil, hero versus villain and and Sue Storm taking control of the situation and her life. All setting up a great end to the decade with a lot to look forward to as we look forward to the decade that brought us Reaganomics and excessive Neo-conservatism. And I can’t wait to see whether that decade’s clearly dominate themes play out as our heroes enter a very different new chapter in their lives.
Fantastic Four: Life Story #2 is out now from Marvel Comics and you can read my interview with Mark in which he discusses this new series here.