August 8, 2016

NEW: 2011

#585: Three Part 3: The Kings of Atlantis! (****), #586: Three Part 4: World-Eater! (***),  
#587: Three Part 5: The Last Stand! (***), #588: Three Epilogue: Month of Mourning (***),
FF 1: The Club (****), FF 2: Doom Nation (****), 
FF 3: Whatever happened to all those Reeds? (***), FF 4: The Beating of Drums.. (****), 
FF 5: ...The Sound of War (***), FF 6: Two Kings (***),
FF 7: The Supremor Seed (****), FF 8: Ascension (****), FF 9: Burn It Down (****),
FF 10: What I Need (****), FF 11: Intelligence (***)

The biggest event in 2011 was that the continuing saga featured Johnny dying in the Negative Zone. While at the time it seemed like a somewhat predictable, cynical sales ploy, with Johnny expectedly returning just in time for Issue #600, it didn’t cheat in the eerie revelation that Johnny really did die, and was resurrected. Although none of the set up rings true (they can't think of a way out for Johnny, even though it's revealed Franklin has regained his powers), the end result isn't awful. It helps that the artwork for the issues improved greatly during the run... Steve Epting joined the title as artist from the start of the "Three" arc, which had a far more stylised, dark and painted look, and his fine work continued with the new branding.

After a silent issue of mourning, the third volume of the title ended, making way for a fourth volume simply called  “FF”, which stood for the newly-created “Future Foundation” as much as it did  the Fantastic Four. The title saw the group in all-new white and black costumes, and, in a somewhat transparent attempt to further increase sales,  Johnny’s replacement on the team was Spider-Man. Such tactics paid off: while  the book was selling at a reasonable rate for the time (averaging 39,046  sales and a 43 sales position throughout the 2010 run); two issues released together in the sales month of March saw the divergence in full effect: #587 dropped to almost 23,000 sales and 77th position, while the death of Johnny issue saw a huge sales spike become the 5th best-selling comic of the month, with 63,529 copies. With Spider-Man’s introduction and the newly rebranded title, it sold 114,472 copies, hitting the top spot for the first time since Mark Waid’s 9c issue. Yet it's also very important to note that these figures, calculated by Diamond Distributors, are only the numbers that were shipped out, and don't include any returned unsold from the various specialist stores.

As with the 2010 run, there are issues that flow far, far better as part of a “greater whole” than read as standalone issues. With readers having to wait over two years to see the entire story resolved, issues like FF #6 – featuring the history of the Inhumans and none of the FF – can feel like an unnecessary divergence. Read as a paperback collection, and it feels part of the tapestry of the whole. However, despite the publicity surrounding Spider-Man joining the Fantastic Four (a much-vaunted happening, first mooted way back in the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man in 1963), Spidey doesn’t really bring a great deal to the team dynamic. With most of their battles taking place on ground level, he doesn’t get to do much in the way of action, and with the team downhearted because of Johnny’s death, there’s not much in the way of his trademark humour. Overall it's a surprisingly unremarkable and forgettable addition, far less striking than other replacement members of the past, with even Medusa making more of an impact. 

Spider-Man was, of course, a trademark “loner” figure, and his recent additions to various team books (including The Avengers) seem more a way to bolster sales than work with the existing character, and his lack of memorable moments attest more to how the core character has been lost in modern Marvel. As a note on this website, then some of the pages occasionally had hidden “Easter Egg” articles linked to them via grey text, which revealed additional reviews and sideways looks at various mediums. However, the new format for this site prohibits me being able to have “hidden” pages, so suffice it to say there will be a review of The Amazing Spider-Man title under the “other titles” section.

Related Posts