Fantastic Four 1234, written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Jae Lee (2001; collected 2004): Scottish comics writer Grant Morrison has always seemed much more comfortable at DC than Marvel, despite the sales success of his 4-year run on Marvel’s flagship X-Men title in the early oughts. This miniseries about the Fantastic Four is something of an abomination, though that isn’t all Morrison’s fault — hyperreal artist Jae Lee, very good on a lot of Marvel titles, is a terrible fit for the Fantastic Four.

Basically, Dr. Doom gets up to some shenanigans, the members of the FF start acting wonky, and then the reasons for their wonkiness are revealed. This may be the most ‘decompressed’ Morrison writing ever — it certainly seems a piece with its era of Marvel comics, as 20 pages of plot gets spread out over 100 pages. This cuts against one of Morrison’s strengths — namely, his hyper-dense, Silver-Age-influenced plotting. What one gets is a four-issue miniseries that takes less time to read than any issue of Morrison’s JLA.

Lee’s art is solid but ill-used in this case — as with a lot of other contemporary Marvel artists, he tends to make The Thing look like a burn victim, which I’d say is pretty much the last place to go with this character. Applying a certain level of realism to Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards results in another grotesquerie. The Fantastic Four really shouldn’t look like people you’d run screaming from if you met them on the street (well, OK, a little with The Thing sometimes, but he still works best as a tragicomic lug and loveable proto-Hellboy monster).

The centrepiece of Doom’s latest evil plan gets tossed off in a couple of sentences — with some development, it might have at least been an interesting idea, but as is it just sits there unconvincingly. Not recommended.

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