Fantastic Four: The End

March 9th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

(Images have been added to the post! Scroll all the way down.)

Have you ever had something take you utterly by surprise that, in hindsight, is completely obvious?

That happened to me with Annihilation. I had no idea that Annihilus was the villain of Annihilation until the end of the Annihilation Special. No duh, right? I’m usually pretty good with picking out plot twists. I bet watching tv shows or movies with me sucks, since sometimes I just can’t help going “That guy’s the traitor, his wife is the hero in disguise, and that little one-liner about being good with explosives means he’s going to fake his death.”

But, I’ll still miss some completely obvious things.

So, pull up a chair and check this out. I’m probably going to spoil the ending of Fantastic Four: The End for you in the process. That’s still a few paragraphs down, though.

Just for clarity’s sake– FF: The End is the first of two (!) FF: The End projects. The upcoming one is being done by the team of Stan Lee and John Romita Jr. The one I’m talking about here, though, is the recently concluded FF: The End by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. As usual, Farmer inks while Davis pencils and writes.

The last project I remember Davis and Farmer collaborating on is JLA: The Nail and JLA: Another Nail. They were Elseworlds tales about Superman being raised by Amish farmers, rather than the Kents, and the differences that brought out in the world. They weren’t perfect stories, as I seem to remember Jimmy Olsen somehow getting superpowers or something a little ridiculous like that, but they were great fun. JLA: Another Nail actually had the best Green Lantern ever. A deceased Mister Miracle escaped from death on Apokolips and into a GL ring which was worn by Big Barda.

A husband-and-wife Green Lantern. Awesome.

Davis has a lot of strengths. Costume design, for one. Another Nail is full of pretty sweet redesigns, and FF: The End is no different. He is kind of overly fond of raised collars, but he comes up with a cool in-story explanation for why so many Inhumans wear masks, so it evens out. Another is that he’s the original Bryan Hitch. Hitch used to be a Davis imitator, and his inker Paul Neary is well known for working with Alan Davis. Both of them have a great eye for detail and realism, which means that disaster scenes and low-key scenes both hit with appropriate impacts.

What I’m trying to say is that Alan Davis is an awesome artist. With FF: The End, he becomes a good writer, too.

FF: The End is set after the Mutant Wars, and after Reed Richards has finally put his mind toward improving the Earth to its fullest potential. He’s extended the lives of everyone on the planet exponentially. Lives are measured in the centuries now, which also provides a convenient reason for all your favorite heroes to show up still youthful, though Doc Strange missed out on the treatment. Crime is essentially gone, and there are heroes all over the solar system. The solar system itself has been quarantined, shut off from the Kree, Shi’ar, Skrulls, and most other Marvel space aliens. Marvel is finally a utopia.

That’s not to say that it’s been a bloodless advancement. The prologue shows that Franklin and Valeria Richards died in the FF’s final battle with Doctor Doom. We fast forward to twenty years after that, and the FF didn’t manage to stay together. Ben Grimm retired to Mars with Alicia Masters, his longtime girlfriend, and they have a handful of kids. Ben can turn from monster to man and back again, as well. Johnny Storm goes by John now, and he’s a bigshot hero in his own right. He’s extremely well-respected, to the point where he’s the top dog in the Avengers. His is the only new costume that I’m not really digging, but he thankfully gets some FF duds part-way through the series. Either way, the hothead has grown up into a true hero. Sue has buried herself in archaeological research and is hunting for various esoteric objects all over the Earth. She’s also sporting a boyish haircut that is pulled off amazingly well, and speaks to Davis’s sense for character design. Reed? Reed is alone on a satellite, cut off from human contact nine times out of ten, tinkering with his inventions and looking to keep pushing forward. Marvel’s First Family aren’t much of one any longer.
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Googling Destiny: Reader Appreciation

February 14th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

Ah, it’s Valentine’s Day. A day that honestly means nothing to me. But I can pretend. I did have a huge, ten-page article written up, but before posting, I remembered hermanos’ warning that he would bludgeon me to death with a life-sized bust of Ultra-Humanite if I were to ever write up Galactus/Giganta erotic fanfiction. So that’s out.

I swear, the scene with the Seattle Space Needle was one of my finest works.

Instead, I think I’ll show a bit of appreciation to our fans. No, not our regulars. You, who come to 4th Letter every couple of days to check for updates. This isn’t about you.

No, not the people who stumble upon 4th Letter by clicking on links in forums and other comic blogs. We appreciate you guys too, but this isn’t about you. Not today.

(Note: Article not totally work safe. You’ve been warned)

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Spider-Man Reign Preview/Spider-Thoughts

December 4th, 2006 Posted by david brothers


Ten page preview for Spidey: Reign at Newsrama. It drops this Wednesday, so be sure to get your copy!

The Newsaramites (man, those sound like insects, huh?) break out the DKR card early on, as if that’s a bad thing. Also, apparently any talk about broken bones is Frank Millerish? These kids need to get out more!

These ten pages (we’ve seen a total of… 15 out of 48 now?) look and read well. It puts the “My cupboard is bare” bit from the other preview into perspective, and the idea of nursery rhymes teaching children about pain? That’s a completely new angle to me.

To me, Spidey is the greatest hero out in pop culture. I like that he didn’t become a hero because it was the right thing (Superman) or for revenge (Batman). He became a hero because he screwed up and someone got hurt. However, he stayed a hero because he realized it was the right thing to do.

I like that. I’m not exactly in the “Heroes have to be DARK and depressing and RARRRR” camp, but I do think that when you have a great character it isn’t a bad idea to drop them into the gutter every once and a while. The contrast between how the character should be and how he is can sometimes be a powerful one.

Spider-Man: Return of the Goblin is a great example. Gobbo pushes Spidey to the edge. He taunts him about Gwen, he’s ruined Flash Thompson’s life, and then he even goes so far as to threaten the life of his own grandson, just to screw Peter over. Peter’s response? “I’ll kill you.” Spider-Man is one of the last heroes I could see killing someone (save for very specific circumstances), but in this case, I absolutely believed it. This was the dark Spider, and the dissonance between the wise cracks and “I’ll kill you” is deafening. It reminds you that he’s only human, despite his heroic actions, and humans are not perfect. They can be pushed.

Good stuff, I figure. Reign, judging from the previews, looks to be more than up to the task of making me believe in this Spidey.

But, oh man, Peter’s off-hand remark about his wife makes me think that MJ is sick or in a coma or something! Gavok did a pretty good job during his What-If articles of proving that if Reed Richards loses Sue Storm, he goes crazy and the universe ends.

What if Peter loses Mary Jane? The only thing I can think of is that you’ll end up with a very, very broken and angry Spider-Man. Good thing/bad thing? Time will tell.

Anyway, links to Marvel.com’s Spider-Man: Reign section: Issue One, Issue Two, and Issue Three. Doc Ock, the Sinister Six, Spidey back in black? Count me in.

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New Joe Fridays – Week 24

December 2nd, 2006 Posted by david brothers


Longtime readers to the blog, all one of you, know that I think very, very highly of Eduardo Risso. 100 Bullets is a true 50/50 collaboration that works out into a beautiful book. Brian Vaughan and Risso were announced to be on a book called “Logan” I think during con season 2005, but nothing was officially shown. This week’s Joe Fridays has pages and they are tops.

Really, Risso is an incredible talent. If his work on Logan is half as good as Batman: Broken City, I’m going to be sold. He does great emotions, great action, and great character bits. He also draws snarls like no other!

Anyway, scroll down past Mike Deodato’s art for Thunderbolts to see Risso’s three preview pages, uncolored. I like his take on Wolveroonie’s hair.

I’m still mixed on T-bolts. I like Ellis, yeah, but Deodato managed to make me stop reading Spider-Man after JRjr left. His art is muddy and his people ugly, and not ugly in that Quitely/Risso/Robertson style that looks good.

Check out the rest of Joe Fridays for this bit in the comics for kids section:

NRAMA: Most impactful storyline?
JQ: How about two, The New Girl in Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #6-#10. The Gwen Thing, in Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #9.

NRAMA: MVT – Most Valuable Title?
JQ: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

NRAMA: MVC – Most Valuable Creator?
JQ: Sean McKeever.

Yeah, buddy. Spider-Man :love: MJ is the best Spidey book out right now, I guarantee. Don’t let anyone tell you different. And is that Firestar on the new cover there? Man! Things are looking up. I’m sad that Takeshi Miyazawa is pulling back to do only covers, but David Hahn is a good replacement. Bite Club was excellent!

Also, holy crap, Marvel Adventures Avengers (the best Avengers book out, btw) vs Ego the Living Planet, who appears to be in love with Earth? Yes! Sold!

Also, c’mon guys, read the below post 4l is for… David (and Cassandra) Cain! I need to know if I’m crazy or if it makes sense. Don’t make me beg.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 20

November 12th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

Well, it’s been four months of lead-up. When the first part of the countdown came out, Lynxara asked about why I’d do a top 100 list for a series of books that only have 175 issues. Especially when I count two-parters as one entry. Truth be told, this isn’t like ranking the best issues of Nightwing or Mighty Thor. Most comic series have cohesion and you usually have an idea of what to expect in each issue. Writers, artists and story remain the same for months and sometimes years at a time.

What If, on the other hand, is different. What If is the ultimate comic book box of chocolates. Writers, artists, stories, ideas and tones change from issue to issue. Many stories are good. Many are bad. But almost every one of them is interesting in its own way. I could have easily have done a top 20 or top 50 list and be done long ago, but there’s too much fun we’d be missing out on. No jive-talking Incredible Hulk, or Matt Murdock crying over Wilson Fisk’s death bed, or Kraven the Hunter eating Peter Parker’s face.

Now let’s get in our Quinjet and take us down to #1.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 19

November 8th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

Jesus, we’re actually at the top ten. And some of you haven’t even lost interest yet. I’m proud.

What If: Avengers Disassembled came out the other day. You might be wondering if I would have placed it on this list if it came out several months back. The answer is no. No, I can’t really get behind an issue that tries to retcon a major story into something that makes even less sense. Having written this paragraph, I realize the John Byrne jokes write themselves.

Before I start this, one more call for anyone interested in drawing fake covers for the countdown finale. Come on, you know you want to.


Issue: Volume 2, #30
Writer: Jim Valentino, Ron Marz
Artist: Dale Eaglesham, Rurik Tyler
Spider-Man death: No
Background: In-between having Franklin and Valeria, there was another time Sue was pregnant with Reed’s kid. Unfortunately, there were radiation-related complications due to the team’s recent venture into the Negative Zone. Reed went to Doctor Otto Octavius – supervillain Doc Ock and the biggest expert on radiation – for help. Ock went berserk for a bit and the two had it out on the rooftops of New York City. Reed calmed Ock down and he agreed to help out. Unfortunately, they were half an hour late. Sue had a miscarriage. So let’s say Ock didn’t freak out and made it just in time? We have two stories here on two different sides of the spectrum.

The first story is best described as a horror story. Franklin wakes up from a horrible vision of the future where his father is dead. His parents just think he had a simple nightmare and leave it at that, but Franklin already knows that there’s a monster living inside his mother. Over time, Sue’s pregnancy takes a horrible toll on her. She gets weaker by the day and almost skeletal, soon losing her invisibility powers. When she gives birth to her child, she dies in the process. Reed names the baby Sue in order to deal with the loss of his wife.

As experience has taught us throughout this countdown, this isn’t going to end well at all.

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Iron Fist!

October 18th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

I am not supposed to be posting right now! I’ve got eight hours until a beast of a games deadline and holy crap am I not even close to being done!

Couple quick procrastinatory things, though.

ironfist003_cvr_col.jpg My secret shame is that I’m an Iron Fist fan. I love kung-fu movies. I used to own dubbed copies of nearly the entire Wu-Tang series, crap spinoffs and all. Putting Brubaker and Matt (Casanova) Fraction on a Danny Rand ongoing is icing on a cake… but when you give me covers like this? You guys are trying to make me fall in love. I love everything about it, from the awesome Iron Fist sweater (I would buy it) to the properly worn pants (off the hips is the only way to be) to the guns.

Guns! In an Iron Fist comic!

In other news, why are we not number one in a google search for Mary Jane Watson vs Lois Lane?

Do none of you remember “Who Would Win In A Fight? Mary Jane Watson vs Lois Lane?” I give you guys gold like this:

This seems pretty evenly matched. Rough’n’ready tomboy vs Super-hero trained model. Assuming no weapons, this would probably be a pretty even match. Lois Lane has experience, but she’s also got to be pushing 40 by now. Mary Jane is somewhere between 27-30. I will say that Kate Bosworth is an adorable Lois Lane, but she’s adorable because she looks to be roughly twee and a haff yeaws old.

and we’re only the fifth result on Google? We’re barely beating some nutball pervo’s story about Mary Jane and Lois getting into a catfight, which leads into frankly gross and violent sexual proceedings?

C’mon! Strike a blow for the power of not being a pervert!

Link that article, kids! Link it everywhere! We want to be number one! If we’re number one, then you’re number one! That doesn’t make any sense but believe it anyway!

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 16

October 10th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

The What If issue where Storm became the Phoenix was a piece of crap, but I still respect it for one reason. It’s the only What If appearance I can recall of this guy:

Though considering his series started around the same time What If ended, it’s not so surprising.


Issue: Volume 2, #78
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Enrique Alcatena
Spider-Man death: No
Background: Early in the 90’s, a fake Invisible Woman convinced Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Hulk and Ghost Rider that the Fantastic Four had died and that they needed to fill in for a bit. This led to a story involving Skrulls, monsters and Moleman that ended with the revelation that the real Fantastic Four were really alive. The fake Invisible Woman, a Skrull with limited psychic powers, tried to blast the Fantastic Four with some kind of power ring, but nothing happened. Reed had stolen the ring before she could use it. In this reality, the Skrull lady fires a second before Reed can successfully make the steal.

We begin with Wolverine, Spider-Man and Hulk mourning at the funeral and discussing how badly they screwed up. Ghost Rider appears (which Logan appreciates, since he needs to light his cigar) and says that the loss of the Fantastic Four creates a void. They should stay a team and try and fill that void in order to redeem their failure.

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Spider-Man: No Laughing Matters

September 27th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

“I am not what I was before,” the silence says. “I am anger, I am madness, I am the spider. And God help you if you get in my way.”

This is gonna be a long one. Get a sandwich, come back, get reading.

Even moreso than the X-Men and Fantastic Four, Spidey is Marvel’s flagship character. He’s their everyman. Reed Richards is a super genius who has enough game to woo Susan Storm and convince her, her brother, and Ben Grimm that stealing a spaceship to go into outer space is a good idea. The X-Men are a bunch of freaks and outcasts with perfect bodies, and nobody likes the Avengers.

Don’t even get me started on those freaking Avengers, all right?

Spidey is the guy that every relates to and loves. He’s probably the most human out of Marvel’s big characters. He’s had girl trouble, family drama, tragedy, and upswings. He’s led a real life and ended up marrying a wonderful girl. He’s easy to relate to. He’s the guy that we’re supposed to identify with when tough choices come up. His role in Civil War, at least outside of the main (crappy) miniseries, shows this. He is us. His set of experiences are pretty much universal, except for that whole crime-fighting thing. Let’s look at that. The crime-fighting, I mean.

Spidey is a jokester. He’s constantly cracking wise. It’s been pretty well-established that jokes are his way of both coping with the incredible danger he finds himself in every day and throwing villains off balance. I mean, seriously, I can barely stay calm when some jerk is telling me unfunny jokes, imagine if some guy were telling jokes and punching you. Disorienting for sure. The joking is coping because it allows him to maintain control of a sick situation. It takes his mind off the fact that Carnage is about to murder a schoolbus full of children. It lets him focus.

Spidey also believes in the innate goodness of man. I’m reminded of the scene in “Return of the Green Goblin” where he sits down and just has a heart-to-heart with Norman Osborn about his life, their relationship, and Gwen Stacy. He remarks that Norman can never win because Gwen will always be greater than he is. Her smile and her spirit will always overpower Norman’s hate and crazy. Norman killed her, but her memory defeats him. In his heart, Peter believes that almost everyone can be rehabilitated. Evil exists, but it has nothing at all on good. Good will win out in the end, because that is the way it is. That is the way it has to be. Right?

What happens, though, when you push him to the edge? Not in a battle, I mean. When battles get serious, Peter gets desperate. What happens when you make Peter Parker genuinely angry? What happens when he gets close to that breaking point, or possibly just past it?

What happens when the jokes stop?
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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 12

September 18th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

This is a longer one than usual. I just had to rank two two-parters so closely together, didn’t I.


Issue: Volume 2, #20-21
Writer: Danny Fingeroth
Artist: Jim Valentino
Spider-Man death: No
Background: Peter Parker had proposed to Mary Jane. It was a battle with a Spider Slayer involving them both that convinced Mary Jane to say yes. That’s all well and good for her, but how would things have turned out if that adventure didn’t go so smoothly? In this reality, the Spider Slayer strangles Mary Jane a bit longer than normal and although she’s rescued, she is still injured. Peter keeps having flashbacks to Gwen’s death and can’t bear to see the same thing happen to someone like Mary Jane. For her own protection, he leaves her at the alter.

Look at that last panel. Man. I will never, ever forgive John Byrne for turning Sandman evil again. But enough of that.

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