NEW: 2018 (December)
Wedding Special (****)
Issue 5: 4-Minute Warning/Change Partners/Guys' Night Out (***)
Fantastic Four Headquarters is a site that looks back at the history of the comicbook, so a full look at 2018 will be done more with the benefit of hindsight. However, just for fun, a "first day take" of the year's issues will be added.
The Wedding Special is oddly named, even possibly in violation of the Trades Descriptions Act, as it doesn't feature the wedding of Ben and Alicia, but events that take place before it. The first is a hen night for Alicia, written by Gail Simone and pencilled by Laura Braga. The 20 page (Invisible) Girls Go Wild is unlikely to pass the Bechdel test to any great degree, but it's passable, readable stuff. A third strip, The Puppet Master's Lament, is a three-page Fred Hembeck story. It's fairly amusing stuff, though Fred has, in all honesty, done more vital strips in the past.
Whcih leaves the middle story, Dan Slott's 8 page Father Figure. If there were doubts that he could write the FF after four very lacklustre comeback issues, then this should put fears to one side, at least for the moment. The Puppet Master talking about his anal cavity seems a little too juvenile, but when he begins to talk about the true implications of his powers in a real-world setting, it makes a character that has been diluted for years once again a credible threat. Adding to this impressive (if, perhaps, slightly out-of-character) story is a great twist which I won't spoil here.
As a collection of stories this is just a "special", rather than an essential part of the run. So why is it that it's a better read than any of the regular issues put out this year?
Speaking of those "regular issues", then there's Issue #5, which came out post-Christmas and also acted as the 650th issue and, sadly, a tribute to Stan Lee.
The main art by Aaron Kuder is an acquired taste, but guest artists Michael and Laura Allred are always something special - although their take on Ben could perhaps do with a little shade. Adam Hughes also does well on a third mini-strip, detailing Ben's stag night.
However, while comics are a visual-orientated medium, especially today, if the story isn't up to scratch you're just left with a lot of pretty pictures. And the story?Well... it's variable.
There's some decent stuff in there, some gags that pay off, and some special guest stars in the background (including The Beach Boys!) and they even make the ludicrous tale of Johnny marrying a Skrull kind of pay off. But there are some gags that go too far for old school readers, and no one really needs to see Dr. Strange inspecting Ben's genitals, and Ben ruing groin strain as it's his wedding night. (I'd always assumed it was long established that he can't have sex, at least with someone of Alicia's build?)
Then there's the characterisation. Reed was always something of an arrogant man, often an alpha male who would slap the others into line. That is, until John Byrne came along and, with characteristic short-sightedness, remoulded him back as the milquetoast he was for about two issues in the early Lee-Kirby years. This was bearable, but the Reed that's been in the comics for the past few years - a man with zero social skills who has no understanding of human interaction - isn't good. Neither is him making Alicia's flat into his own TARDIS, something which stretches credulity. In this tale of a man who turned into an orange rock monster after going up in a space rocket.
It's five issues in now (six if you count the special) and all the series done is go back over old ground and presented it as the new. Is there anything to get excited about, any indication that there'll be something DIFFERENT to come? Not really. The next issue promises a Galactus vs. Dr. Doom battle. Again. This is reheated leftovers with a foursome who only vaguely resemble themselves.