The Fantastic Four Anniversary Tribute may well be a shot-by-shot remake of two of Stan and Jack’s all-time classic comics, but with a modern eye, and modern techniques applied, the whole affair is less redundant that you’d think. A worthy tribute for comic book fans but also a strange curio for the causal reader too.
Does anyone remember that Gus Van Sant shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Psycho from 1998? Yeah, well the Fantastic Four Anniversary Tribute is that, but in comic book form. An attempt by Marvel to represent one of the most iconic and revered comics of the Silver Age utilising modern masters of the form and, of course, modern colouring techniques too.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything noteworthy to take from this venture. I mean, the artwork is fantastic, if you’ll pardon the pun, but some may feel it is a rather redundant project too. I mean, why mess with the best, as Van Sant tried to do? But then, while he was heavily criticised at the time to dare take on the master that was Hitchock, he was able to find new ways to look at the film through the bold use of colour, wardrobe and other examples of misé-en-scene. Personally, I didn’t think it was the total write-off other did. And so we have this tribute issue, with the same thoughts and theory applying. Take a classic and find new ways to tackle it. And so, artist play about with page layouts and, of course, bring their own style to bare on this book. A book which not only faithfully represents Fantastic Four #1 but also Fantastic Four Annual #3, both by Stan and Jack.
Plus, the digital colouring of modern age comics also helps to add a different sheen to the whole affair, with Dono Sánchez-Almara doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the colour art. The art of Kirby – and others of the era – was drawn to fit in with the more stone-age colouring techniques of yesteryear. But with smoother, deeper, more textured colours involved in modern comics, the artist of the new Marvel Age can apply more detail to their art. With some clearly channelling a little bit of Kirby into their pages to pay tribute to the grand master.
There’s also the issue of diversity. All but redundant from the early Silver Age offerings of Marvel, a new sensibility to the crowded scene of page 2 – when Sue Storm, in a vibrant almost neon-pink outfit, turns invisible to pass among them on a New York street – is more in keeping with today’s better understanding of social make-up. Especially when coming to present a city as diverse as New York.
In including Fantastic Four Annual #3, it allows for the inclusion of Doctor Doom as well as whole cavalcade of Marvel heroes such as the original X-Men, the Avengers and more as Reed and Sue prepare to tie the knot. Another classic comic seen through the prism of modern sensibilities by a further parade of modern artists.
Certainly a comic for the fans, it is interesting to see so many artists take on Marvel’s first family, with far more successfully realised pages than not. Of course, with this many diverse styles of art there will always be some that jar when sat next to others, but I think overall many people will enjoy this curio who pick it up. After all, the scripting, pacing and layout was done by Stan “The Man” Lee and Jack “The King” Kirby, so all the news kids on the block are really doing are embellishing on greatness. Polishing a diamond, if you like.
Fantastic Four Anniversary Tribute is out now in print and digitally from Marvel