Saturday, 1 October 2016

Fantastic Four Vol. 3: Doomed (Marvel NOW!) Review

It's... prophetic... I'll give it that.
Writer: Matt Fraction

Artists: Mark Bagely, Raffaele Ienco, Mark Famer and Joe Rubinstien.

Collects: Fantastic Four (2012) #9-16

Background Information:

For the last two volumes, the Fantastic Four have been trying to figure out what has been messing with their powers.

Oh yeah, it's been killing them, too.

Trying to find a way to fix their problem has involved them travelling through time and space because comics. The family have been to a lot of strange places and found out completely nothing.

Doesn't that just make you desperate for more?


I don't get it. I just don't get it.

I swear, you'd think Marvel were trying to
tell us something...
You ever read those books that has plenty of what you like and then ended up forgetting about it?

That's Doomed  in a nutshell. At face value, there's nothing to hate- there's even a lot to like- yet, somehow the whole thing is a bore. It's disappointing because as the final volume of Matt Fraction's run, this should have been the best book of the three-volume stint. As it is, it's only the second. It's better by far than Road Trip, but not as good as New Departures, New Arrivals.

So Reed Richards now has to fix his family's powers before everyone dies. On the side, Ben Grimm is worried that his actions resulted in Dr Doom existing, so he and Reed go back in time to witness the beginning of Marvel's greatest villain. There's also an alternate universe that's ruled by Kang the Conqueror, Annihilus and Doom himself, and that takes us to the book's climax. If that sounds overly complicated, it's because it is.

This is one of those volumes that was made after the series was cancelled and, like all comics that suffer the same fate, every remaining issue gets crammed into one volume that makes for a rather cluttered story. The result is that there's really too much here. Or at least it feels that way. Fraction somehow puts that much into a story without ever giving the feeling that something has actually happened.

I'll give it this, where Road Trip felt like nothing more than a transition point, Doomed actually feels like it's about something, but each part of Doomed feels like it's being squeezed out of a pipe (don't make that a poo joke... don't make it a poo joke... DAMMIT, you made it a poo joke). Each moment feels like Fraction was saying to himself "Just one more page, and then I can get back to writing Hawkeye, which I actually like doing" and because of this, I found myself checking how much more of the book I had to read before I could move on to something else.

And at this point, it really is hard for me to believe that Marvel didn't have a plan to destroy the Fantastic Four for no other reason than it couldn't make movies about them. Scream "conspiracy theorist" all you want, but at the end of the day, Matt Fraction is a far better writer than this. Like I said, his Hawkeye is proof enough of this. It really does seem like Marvel was telling him to make this book as boring as he could, and if that was the case, pat yourself on the back, Matty ol' boy because you certainly succeeded- even when you had a million and one exciting things going on, you still pushed out a stinker (you're making a poo joke again, aren't you?!).

Even the black suits didn't help...
The art is the strongest feature of this book. It's really the reverse of the writing. Where the writing had all the hallmarks of a great book and still failed to deliver, the art uses colours that usually would only go together if you wanted to incite madness and somehow still comes off as pretty pleasing. A large part of the credit goes to the pencillers Mark Bagley, Raffaele Ienco, Mark Farmer and Joe Rubinstein, who draw these incredibly exotic, out-there environments. Even so, colourists Paul Mounts and Guru-eFX (who must have drawn a LOT of sympathy out of the maternity ward for that name) need to be praised. Like I said, this book shouldn't look good, but it does, which makes all the more a pity that the writing is so bland!

I make it sound like I hated this book and I really didn't. The heart-felt epilogue issue at the end draws together both this and Fractions FF for a warm-and-fuzzy goodbye and I found myself treating it like a teacher does a naughty kid who give her a thank-you card at the end of the term. I was unimpressed by it's performance, but it left me feeling good at the end. It gets a two out of five poo jokes.

+ The end issue.
+ Art.
- Cluttered story...
- That feels like nothing is happening.

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