Week 16: FF #16 vs Avenging Spider-Man #5

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FF 16

FF 16

Eric’s Book

Eric: Well, there’s been a bit of a break while I was adjusting to being a father and didn’t really have time to read my comics in the week in which they came out. But we’re back! And we have another brawl between two books from the House of Ideas.

This week I thought for a long while about picking Avengers vs X-Men #0 because of Dan’s hatred for 616 X-Men. Also, I wanted Dan to see what a colossal a-hole Vision was to Scarlett Witch. Even Tony Stark was like, “Bro!” But I ended up going with my true favorite comic of the week and FF makes yet another appearance on this site. I think my favorite thing about this issue was the fact that it’s told from Valeria’s perspective and Hickman does a perfect job making her both a 3 year old and a genius.

Dan: And this week I thought about going more ambitious with something that was all 2-4 page vignettes like Atomic Robo or the philosophical and enthralling Morning Glories, but instead I went with the comic that made me smile the most, Avenging Spider-Man #5

FF #16 - Valeria Pouting

FF #16 - Valeria Pouting

Eric: So the book kicks off with a two panel reminder of what happened in the last issues of Fantastic Four and FF. And by panel three we see Valeria pouting and I have a good idea this is going to be a fun issue.

The seeds were sown in the last issue when Valeria finished everything Nathaniel had told her to do and then was pretty annoyed that it was time to sit back; along with a line from future Valeria that was something like, “at this age we can’t be trusted.” Hickman also does a great job with the two Franklins where he makes sure that kid Franklin acts like a kid and that his adult self enjoys the interaction.

Dan: For how big a deal Future Franklin (FF!) is in this book, it’s kind of a bummer that Future Valeria (FV!…wait…) doesn’t really have much to do at all except drop one killer line.

FF #16 - Valeria's feelings about future Valeria

FF #16 - Valeria's feelings about future Valeria

Although I guess it would mute the effect of Young Valeria’s narration to hear so much from Future Val.

Eric: That panel was my favorite. And it kinda reveals that for how much she grows up….she kinda doesn’t. And I like that because it definitely rings true.

Dan: She’s definitely not above being petty to herself, that’s for sure. Valeria is the most interesting character to me in the FF. Her ruthless and loyal personality pays interesting dividends later on in the issue, but I wouldn’t mind if FF focused more on her than the rest of the foundation. She’s got the most depth.

Eric: Yeah, as I’ve mentioned before – Franklin is kind of a very hard character to write if you don’t want to break the [Marvel] Universe. And I like that Val was the instigator of this – at least in the sense of causing consequences to come out of her father’s sins. It’ll be interesting to see how she’s written post-Hickman – if this book even survives too long without him. With all the kids in the FF, it could quickly devolve into a pretty crap book.

Dan: That’s the problem, isn’t it? There’s no announced successor for FF or F4, but if it’s not Waid or, I dunno, Fraction, I can’t see myself caring to read F4/F at all once Hickman is off the book.

Eric: Bendis. He could probably do a great job with the humor – especially between Johnny, Spidey, and The Thing. He has a sick sense of humor that would be great.

Dan: I’ve read lots of Bendis (been reading him since 2001 or so with Ultimate Spider-Man) and I know he could write a funny book, but I don’t know that he could write as interesting a book as Hickman did.

Eric: True. At least you know he’s not afraid of killing kids. At any rate, the next scene with Franklin and Galactus was also great. I don’t know as much about FF lore as I do with X-Men or Spider-Man so to me he’s always just been this gigantic bad guy. But the fact that Hickman writes a touching scene between him and Franklin just goes to show how great this issue is as well as how creative Hickman can get in his character exploration.

Dan: Who knew Galactus had a name that wasn’t Galactus.

Eric: I kinda knew that from reading the comic vine entry on him a few months ago, but to know that he had true emotions other than hunger. It’s a neat take on his character. Hickman continues to press all my buttons with a deconstruction scene. Like almost everyone who spends more than a passing moment with comics – I’ve often wondered about what happens to the mess they create during their adventures. Especially since they’re not as polite as the guys in DBZ to go fight in the desert instead of leveling cities.

Dan: I was not as tickled by this as you were. Maybe I read too many deconstructive works?

Eric: It’s possible. But you and our readers probably remember how I enjoyed that in the Spider-Island epilogue. It’s just part of the way my brain works. Then we see that they’ve reconfigured the inside of the Baxter building and now they have the old suits back for the original four while the others get numbers. I enjoyed the panel where Val admits her crush on Bentley.

Dan: It’s probably because you like/want a unified Marvel canon with a timeline that makes sense and cause/effects that matter while I have a more casual approach to the canonicity of ANYTHING in a Big Two book.

I did like the rising numerals on the uniforms. Good touch thanks to those unstable atoms (or whatever they’re called)

Eric: About the canonicity – I’ll admit that, for example, Children’s Crusade which took nearly two years to come out and is about the return of Scarlett Witch and kinda leads into Avengers vs X-Men had me annoyed because I couldn’t figure out when it took place what with Schism and all that. And I was so happy when the last two pages of the last issue of that mini-series put it into the timeline. The kids (aforementioned children) were sulking indoors for months and so someone looks out the window “Hey guys, everyone is a giant spider now” and stuff like that – mentioning some of the big events that have happened since.

FF #16 - Flying

FF #16 - Flying

But getting back to this issue, we have a weird artistic failure to communicate (at least for me) as the team floats up Charlie and the Glass Elevator-style to the new FF space station. All of a sudden they’re just floating. And I know this is a sci-fi book and unstable molecules and all that. But usually they would have drawn a forcefield or SOMETHING to communicate what was going on. I mean, out of context, this would almost be perfect for a “add some text bubbles” game.

Dan: Isn’t that what that lighter blue stuff around them is? I admit when I read this I thought, “Wait…what?”, but then I said, “Eh…comic book science”

Eric: Yeah, it’s very inconsistent with shading around them. Then Johnny invites himself to become Spidey’s roommate and I had to remind myself of what your attitude is with the canon stuff because, obviously this hasn’t affected Spidey in ASM. Then the penultimate scene – the scene where Val gets scolded. I love everyone’s facial expressions in this shot. (And the fact that Spider-Man’s just standing on the ceiling vs hanging from the ceiling as he usually does) Also love Nate’s clothes.

FF #16 - You are in trouble

FF #16 - You are in trouble

Dan: I like that Spider-Man’s eye windows change shape to show expression. It doesn’t make sense, but it does and it’s funny.

Eric: Yeah, like that. Also, it’s funny how Reed looks more impressed than pissed – which is kind of why he and Val ended up in this mess to begin with. They’re both definitely cut from the same mold. Also, love the joke about “nobody loves bad girls” and how Johnny forgets that Val is three.

Dan: I forget, doesn’t Val sit in like a huge throne/commander chair for this? Evil genius foreshadowing?

Eric: DEFINITELY. Good catch. I totally didn’t catch that – although I did catch that the chair was huge for her. Then comes the final scene – the scene that clinched this book as my choice: The Parliament of Doom.

Dan: Just a huge bummer that this is all table setting for someone else because this is pretty awesome.

Eric: Yeah, so Doom survived the Celestial attack and first of all, I love how badass he is even in his defeat – he finds the chairs that the Reed Council used and pushes all but one aside to make himself a throne – a throne to (as far as he knows at this point) rule over no one. I think Doom works best when people adhere to his personality and his vanity rules over all. Then he ends up with not one, but TWO infinity gauntlets. And then he’s found by the lobotomized Dooms from across the multiverse.

FF #16 - The Parliament of Doom

FF #16 - The Parliament of Doom

Dan: I couldn’t remember, are they all lobotomized or are they all just disabled with that collar? I guess they’re all lobotomized.

Eric: You’re the one with the hard covers of the Fantastic Four lead-in story. Either way, I don’t see this Doom allowing the other Dooms to match wits with him – why would he want to cause a succession crisis?

Dan: The real question is: are they as good as a cadre of Doombots?

Eric: Um……hey, look, it’s your book!

Avenging Spider-Man #5

Avenging Spider-Man #5

Dan’s Book

Eric: I want to say that I LOVE (and this is the second time we’ve seen this) when the writers mess about with the intro page that Marvel has on all their comics. I’ve mentioned on here a few times (or at least once) that DC should really be copying this. It lets new readers jump into a book more easily even if it’s in the middle of a story arc.

 

Dan: It’s my second favorite thing that Marvel comics do (first is selling Liberty Bonds), but I was a fan of both the Zeb Wells reference and the fact that Hawkeye was responsible for all aspects of the book. I wonder how specific the rules are on doing something like this for whatever unions exist. “Fake strikeouts must be no thicker than 1/10th the height of a single uppercase letter…”

Avenging Spider-Man #5 - Hawkeye

Avenging Spider-Man #5 - Hawkeye

Eric: It really does a good job setting the tone of the book. As I mentioned to you before we started working on the POW! today and as I think I’ve mentioned once here before (I know I’ve mentioned it in comic reviews), I enjoy when we get to see the characters kicking back and being regular dudes. We see them in action so often that it’s refreshing to see them playing a game of poker or sharing a meal. Or, in this case, reading an old WWII comic that Captain America wrote before he was Captain America.

Dan: The thing I noticed first was that Liberty Bonds seem to be a good, sound investment, but after that I appreciated the way that Joe Mads got around the age-old, “How do you express emotions with masks on?” by…removing all the masks because, honestly, would everyone really just hang out wearing masks all day?

Eric: That’s something that most X-Men artists figured out a long time ago, but others have been slow to catch on.

Dan: The X-Men don’t wear masks. That’s silly. Wait…the old ones did.

Eric: Yeah. I mean, Cyclops is back to his penis-mask head-gear. And Marvel Girl used to have a mask as did Angel. But, I thought Spidey was being careful about his identity again – I guess not with the Avengers?

Dan: :shrug:. You know, the one thing that almost kept me from submitting this book is that, despite all the humor and jokes about Liberty Bonds, it’s pretty corny in the way that, oh, yeah, of course every comic book character secretly loves comics. It’s kind of a weirdly self-congratulating trope and I found the whole, “It’s your true calling” thing to be a little much on top of everything else.

Eric: The true calling thing was a little weird. But I didn’t get the impression that anyone cared about the comics other than Cap and Spidey. And the only other Marvel character I’ve seen reading comics in the modern times is Iron Fist.

Dan: You’re gonna have to just trust me on this one, I mean, according to Marvel canon, God is Jack Kirby. Comics can be a little too inside baseball and sometimes it’s funny, but sometimes it’s not clever enough.

Eric: So, anyway, Cap is embarrassed and blows the whole thing off while Spidey gets all excited that he’s not the only nerd turned super hero. The next scene where they go to their mission site is great because Spidey acts like such a fanboy and he’s more or less one of the only characters that could convincingly pull that off. At the same time, other than an interaction in Civil War between Punisher and Captain America, I think you don’t see hero worship happen enough among supers. I mean, movie stars, as an example, are in awe of older, more experienced actors. Where we might think of them as equals, they still get all “squee” at the thought of interacting with them. So why not the same with Supers?

Avenging Spider-Man #5 - I call Cap!

Avenging Spider-Man #5 - I call Cap!

Dan: Happened all the time in Ultimate Spider-Man, but he was a kid then. Anyway, the action in the book is just there so that this can be considered a comic book. This is a joke-delivery/conversation book and it’s pretty successful at doing that.

Eric: Yeah, like when Cap said “give me a couple seconds” and then the heading of the next panel is “A Couple Seconds Later”. Other than the, as you mentioned, after school special premise, Zeb Wells is just knocking joke after joke out of the park.

Dan: So Spidey is somehow convinced that he needs to toss his first chemistry set because everyone else is so dour and moody, but then, surprise surprise, Cap wants to draw comics with Spider-Man! The End!

Eric: It almost has a Golden Age or Silver Age feel to it. But then you read the dedication and realize this filler issue was probably created solely as a memorial to Joe Simon.

Dan: I just realized that the dude was probably responsible for Captain America. Wiki-ed it and, yep, he’s the co-creator along with his partner, Liberty Bonds (actually it’s Jack Kirby)

Eric: Yeah, I figured as much. So it was funny – had me laughing on every page and that made up for the saccharine ending which, as we’ve just laid out, probably a tribute to the way comics used to end back when Simon used to write them. Time to BATTLE!

Battle!

Dan: Two words: Liberty Bonds

Eric: Yes…. Liberty Bonds….this week we both happened to pick humorous books although the humor was pretty different in each of them.

Dan: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that FF is funny, but it does have its bouts of humor. AvSM is definitely a joke-y book.

Eric: I guess I found most of Valeria’s insights to be funny, but they’re definitely operating on very different levels of humor. I agree with you (and so did Comic Vine’s podcasters) that the ending of AvSM was a bit on the corny side.

Dan: It’s like in English class when your teacher would hand you a book and say, “Oh man, this is the funniest…” and then you read it and you’re like, “…uh…?” That’s how I’d describe FF’s humor. Smarter. Subtler. Not quite literary funny, but not knee-slapping.

Eric: Yeah. Which was the better book for that week? FF was an arc conclusion from the point of view of a kid. AvSM was the story of two ascended fans – nerds turned stars. It’s a tough comparison.

Dan: The reason I chose AvSM is simple: It’s the most fun I had reading any book this week. That said, it’s really hard to look at something that’s just silly and there to 1. Honor the past and 2. Just be funny, and have it compare favorably to the work that Hickman is putting out there.

Eric: Yeah, AvSM lifted my spirits, but FF was really great – loved it from the first page. I think we’re both ready to give it to FF this week, no?

Dan: It’s a pretty easy win for Hickman and FF for me too despite Liberty Bonds. Liberty Bonds. Liberty Bonds.

Eric: Liberty Bonds.

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