The Fantastic Four: Life Story # 4 is written by Mark Russell, illustrated by Sean Izaaske with Francesco Manna, colored by Nolan Woodard and literate by Joe Caramagna of VC. It is published by Marvel Comics. In the 1990s, the Fantastic Four seemed to be entering a period of happiness after the death of Human Torch. Franklin Richards gets married, the Thing finds a stable relationship, and even Reed Richards has managed to build a planetary defense to escape Galactus. However, problems arise when Galactus’ herald, the Silver Surfer, arrives …
A new number is accompanied by a transition to a new decade and a focus on another member of the Four. This time around, the focus is on Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, and in doing so, he delivers a rich character-driven story. Grimm has often been defined by a feeling of loneliness; his transformation into Thing hampered his relationship with others besides the Four. The creators are tackling this loneliness by including The Thing in a series of online dates; true to the time, most panels feature him hunched over an old-school monitor struggling to find the right words to say. Russell also explores Grimm’s time as a pilot in the Vietnam War and a secret he holds with him today, as well as his relationship with blind artist Alicia Masters. The Thing has always been one of my favorite Marvel characters, and Russell clearly has a sense of what makes him work.
Russell also plays into the inherent streak of optimism that lasted throughout the ’90s with a series of events that point to this version of the Marvel Universe is finally on the verge of achieving some form of peace. From small events to big ones, the dominant theme is that humanity can overcome the darkest times to do something better. “It’s loss that unites you,” Grimm remembers in his monologue. “And it is the pain that you share that makes you a family.” This only makes the last page and its implications even more difficult once the remaining members of the Four face off against the Surfer.
Izaaske continues to deliver top notch artwork, including footage that shows how the years have taken their toll on Reed. But the biggest surprise is Manna, who illustrates a few sequences, including Grimm’s Vietnamese flashbacks and Franklin’s wedding. Best known for his bombastic action sequences in Ultraman’s Trials, Manna portrays joy and pain equally on the faces of her characters. Woodard delivers a burst of color that makes the sun seem almost shining – and gives a shimmering effect to the Silver Surfer’s skin – while Caramagna places Grimm’s storytelling in stony legend boxes that resemble his stony skin.
The Fantastic Four: Life Story # 4 focuses on the 1990s and delivers a great character piece for Ben Grimm in the process. With the next issue finally ready to bring Galactus to Earth, the question remains: what happens next? And will the Four survive this particular confrontation with the Eater of Worlds?
The Fantastic Four: Life Story # 4 is available now wherever comics are sold.