Fantastic Four #14 Review

by Charles Martin on September 04, 2019

Fantastic Four #14 Review
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Paco Medina
Colourist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

58 years ago (nuts to you, sliding timescale!), the Fantastic Four kicked off the Marvel universe proper and got themselves some superpowers in the world's most momentous failed spaceflight.

Now, that achievement is honoured when the National Air and Space Museum puts their banged-up spaceship, the Marvel-1, on display. 

It stirs up some feelings, it does. Ben takes great pride as a pilot in having his ride next to Yeager's X-1 and Glenn's Friendship 7. 

And what fiendish idea has taken hold of Reed, inspiring sleepless nights of calculation and construction?

And what's all this about Johnny Storm, "youngest pilot in NASA"? Retcons ahoy! But, and I'll get into details soon enough, this is an amazing job of continuity tweaking. 

The visuals focus closely on the characters, even while including an enormous amount of background detail. The initial museum scene is a work of art in that department, loading the setting with exactly enough complex architecture, visitors, and historic machines to make the place real.

This is an emotional and relationship-focused story, so the characters call for a lot of expressive nuances. The art's flair for realism holds up in the best way here. The faces and body language are true to the characters' feelings and perfectly synchronized with the script. It's a profoundly believable show.

The colouring is as vibrant as possible, which is triply appropriate here. The Fantastic Four in general work well with a shiny happy palette, and this new adventure also cries out for brightness. And the third appropriateness: high-intensity colours are perfectly suited to the artist's style.

Plus, this issue has a touch of "do the impossible" colour magic. Reed's Marvel rockets are featureless metal. They're bare. They're shiny. They're just a little blue. And thanks to some spectral sorcery, they are perfect eyeball magnets whenever they appear. The colourist has captured the eerie gravity that historically-significant vehicles acquire and recreated it for wholly-fictional rockets.

So! As mentioned above, this issue's script introduces us to Johnny Storm, test pilot. It shouldn't work, but it does. With remarkable efficiency, this story shows that something deep and mysterious about space lit a (forgive us) burning passion in young Johnny's soul. It powered the lad through a gorgeous training montage under the supervision of Ben Grimm and believably earned him a set of pilot's wings.

And most importantly to the current story, that passion lives on in Johnny today. In his whole family, really, which is what makes this new arc truly great. It recaptures a key variable in the Fantastic Four equation: a boundless, optimistic lust to explore. To go past the edge of the map. To be the first, not for bragging rights, but for the pure joy of experiencing something wholly new.

Is it perfect? Not quite. The characters show the fingerprints of dramatic manipulation to fit the needs of the story. Ben is smooshed into some unlikely melodrama (A kid's gonna call Ben a monster? At a national event honouring the Fantastic Four?) because that's what Ben does. Franklin and Valeria are written out of the adventure in a way that's believable but not wholly satisfying.

But the foibles of this comic are truly incidental when compared to its enormous and enormously successful mission: It reminds us that the Fantastic Four are explorers, ever focused on the far horizon. Its visuals and words capture the joy and the grandeur and the purity of that obsession. And like the best optimistic comics, it invites us to share that passion and leaves our own world a little bit bigger and brighter.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Is that a pipe in pre-flight Reed Richards' hand? Yes, it is, and yes it should be!