By: James Robinson (Writer), Leonard Kirk (Penciller), Karl Kessel and Jay Leisten (Inkers), Jesus Arburtov (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

The Story:
Firstly, the Frightful Four and Fantastic Four fight, in furious and four-color fullness; Subsequently, S.H.I.E.L.D. serves a summons for a civil suit.

The Review:
My criticism regarding issue #3 detailed its somewhat formless and needlessly multiple plot threads. Thankfully, that criticism is completely absent here, as the comic focuses on one central moment, a massive slugfest between two powerful teams, and its collateral damage, the most serious of which is S.H.I.E.L.D. threatening the Fantastic Four with a lawsuit.

And what a massive slugfest it is. This comic is full of spectacle, with several blows from villains and heroes, toppling buildings and civilian rescuing, and all the cracking energy, speed lines, smoke you’d need to create an intense, high-stakes tone with participation from all the players on both sides of the battle. One particularly effective moment is the choice of small panels to set up the page-turn reveal of the “second string” FF, complete with a dramatic panel and color palette change for emphasis. (Unfortunately, the size relationships among the characters in that panel ruin the dramatic moment, as more context or a more extreme camera angle might be needed to help Ant-Man’s giant-size “read” better.)

It’s more than just a good fight scene, as care is taken to render facial expressions and relationships, too. When the comic’s subplots show up here, it’s in context of the main storyline/battle, so whether it’s Johnny’s frustration or Sue’s desire to protect her family, or even the Wizard’s gloating or Bulldozer’s determination, the characterization flows through the action thanks to the artistic expression.

A bit more space might have been nice to allow for some breathing “down time” after a breakneck multi-page fight scene, but there’s a lot characters and dialogue to crowd things.

And then there’s S.H.I.E.L.D. I think the Wizard recruiting the Wrecking Crew into the Frightful Four doesn’t really make sense, but I’m willing to accept it on some level. To have S.H.I.E.L.D. show up as yet again Everybody’s-Big-Brother is frustrating. It may be simply that my interest in anything S.H.I.E.L.D. for the last couple of years has been burning out like something re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, but this is just as illogical as the Wizarding Crew. Obviously, the point is that Robinson wants to tell the story of the FF’s legal troubles, but there’s no reason that S.H.I.E.L.D. has to do that. It just presents too many questions that S.H.I.E.L.D. never answers– I mean, why S.H.I.E.L.D.? what is their jurisdiction? on who’s authority? “Doesn’t matter” is always the answer. In this issue, as in almost anywhere, S.H.I.E.L.D. is simply there to be a magical, plot-giving fairy. But if the cliffhanger is to hold any weight for the FF, it should matter.

The Bottom Line:
If someone asks you “when was the last time we actually had heroes fight villains in an honest-to-goodness, knock-down-drag-out titanic tussle?”, you can give them this issue of Fantastic Four. What’s more, the subplots and foreshadowing and collateral plot-damage are all intertwined seamlessly by way of some expressive and dynamic art. An all-around above-average comic.

The Grade: B+

by Danny Wall

Today’s Art Lesson:
— I do look for artistic things when I read, like the 180-Degree Rule. A good example is in She-Hulk’s fight with Bulldozer. When She flips Bulldozer, it’s to the camera’s right, and the next panel, Bulldozer enters the panel to the camera’s left. And when she zips back, the “invisible line” is still upheld. But one that I’m wondering about is an example on the page turn from Page 1 to 2. At the bottom of page 1, Johnny looks/leans to his right towards the left of the panel, and it would feel more natural at the top of page 2 to have Johnny “flipped” since the camera flipped to his POV, placing him on the left of the panel. However, we get him on the right side of the panel instead, which is jarring (but not necessarily disruptive.) This choice would have also placed his narration boxes closer to his head, which would also be more intuitive when reading.