Review: “Fantastic Four” Celebrates Its 600th Issue In Grand Fashion

Review: “Fantastic Four” Celebrates Its 600th Issue In Grand Fashion

In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on November 23, 2011.

Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Fantastic Four #600

What it’s about: Since it was first launched in 1961, The Fantastic Four has been one of those most creatively adventurous comics on the Marvel roster. Writers and artists like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, John Byrne, and Mark Waid have all lent their considerable talents to the book over the years, and in turn they've collectively groomed Marvel’s First Family into the most memorable and beloved team at the company.

In previous years, writer Jonathan Hickman brought a level of sophisticated science fiction storytelling to the book, and while the results have been mixed at times, overall his run has been another great addition to the series. Now called The Future Foundation, the Fantastic Four have redefined their mission statement in the wake of the death of the Human Torch.

What to expect this month: This gargantuan issue features over 90 pages of content and runs for $7.99 a pop, but for longtime fans of Marvel, the historical significance can’t be overlooked. However, if you haven’t been keeping up with Hickman’s epic, you might be a little lost.

Basically, the FF, along the rest of the Marvel Universe, have to do battle with the Kree army and an appearance by Galactus. This is what the last couple of years' worth of Fantastic Four comics have been building towards, and issue #600 actually serves as the first part of a larger story. Also, remember that death is only temporary in comics, so expect more light to be shed on the whereabouts of the Human Torch.

Flash #3

What it’s about: He’s certainly not as well known as Superman or Batman, but the Flash has starred in one of the past decade's most consistently solid superhero titles. When Mark Waid first came on the book in the ‘90s, he injected the Flash with some genuine personality; then, Geoff Johns took over and created a modern mythology that propelled the character into the top tier at DC.

Now, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are on the writing duties and they're keeping in the same tradition. The duo's version of the Flash is quick-witted and intelligent, given with the same neurotic qualities that make the best superheroes memorable.

What to expect this month: The Flash must battle his mysterious new nemesis, Mob Rule, while also saving Central City from an EMP blast that has shut down all of the city’s electronics. Right off the bat, the issue opens with a spectacular sequence, illustrated by Manapul, which sees the Scarlet Speedster attempt to safely land a plane that is hurtling towards the ground. It's superhero nirvana.

The Flash has quickly become one of the best titles from DC’s “New 52” initiative, and it’s mostly thanks to Manapul’s stunning art and the light-hearted script. This is a comic for fans that don’t want grittiness and pervasive violence force-fed to them. The Flash reminds comic heads why these characters and their colorful adventures have endured for decades.

Invincible Iron Man #510

What it’s about: To take advantage of Iron Man’s big screen success, Marvel launched a new comic series starring Ol’ Shellhead that closely resembled the character's on-screen counterpart. Since its debut, Invincible Iron Man has been one of the company’s best reads, thanks to the sharp plots and deep characterizations of writer Matt Fraction.

Fraction has propelled Iron Man beyond the inconsistent stories of the ‘90s and early ‘00s, placing the character back on the top of Marvel's roster. The writer's stories build upon what past Iron Man scribes have already established, yet he's not afraid to inject his own style and personality into every issue.

What to expect this month: Now that Fear Itself is over, Invincible Iron Man can finally go back to centering on Tony Stark's personal struggles, as opposed to apocalyptic threats and needless action scenes. This issue sees Stark attempt to face the public after the worldwide violence and destruction of Fear Itself, while he also deals with the brief return to alcohol that he made in the series.

But as Iron Man's personal saga unfolds, the Mandarin makes his return, and he's now working with Ezekiel Stane, the son of one of Stark’s greatest adversaries. Fraction is finally bringing some of Iron Man’s classic rogues back in what should lead to an inevitable super-powered beatdown in coming issues.

Mighty Thor #8

What it’s about: Iron Man isn’t the only movie star that Matt Fraction is tackling—he’s also charged with resurrecting Thor after the character’s recent mainstream infiltration. Fraction’s blend of superhero hijinks and Norse mythology is reminiscent of what Walt Simonson accomplished on the book during his legendary run in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Paired with the fine storytelling is Pasqual Ferry's fantastic art. Ferry has expertly penciled Thor along with Fraction in the past; together, this creative team is responsible for one of the most accessible comics at Marvel. There isn’t a Thor fan alive who can’t find something to like about this.

What to expect this month: At the end of Fear Itself, Thor apparently “died” at the hands of the Serpent. Of course, with The Avengers hitting theaters next year, Marvel isn’t really going to kill off one of its biggest cash cows, so don’t expect the Norse God's demise to be permanent.

In Thor’s place is Tanarus, the new God of Thunder, who has somehow made Asgard and the world forget that Thor ever existed; he's now free to manipulate reality to his choosing. Loki, however, still remembers his brother, and he must find a way to reestablish him in reality. It may sound gimmicky, but Fraction’s writing makes the mystery around Tanarus much more interesting than it has any right to be.

Advance Review: Jim Henson's A Tale Of Sand

What it’s about: Taking advantage of the current Muppet mania that is sweeping through pop culture's landscape, Archaia Entertainment’s A Tale Of Sand brings a long-forgotten movie script by Jim Henson to life in graphic novel form. The original screenplay was written back in the ‘60s by Henson and his writing partner Jerry Juhl, but for various reasons it never got put into production.

The story begins with a man named Mac who finds himself in a bizarre desert filled with all sorts of oddities that could only take place inside Henson’s mind. Not only does he discover the mysteries of this strange land as the story progresses, but he also finds out more about himself as well. 

Unlike most modern comics, this narrative is told mainly through its sublime visuals. Don’t expect a lot of dialogue or exposition; simply try to absorb every ounce of Ramon Perez’s impeccable art. His figures are fully-realized and detailed, with an appropriate amount of cartooniness to them to give them a unique flavor. But it’s in his landscapes where the art really shines.

This colorful desert world is filled with such beauty and character that you feel like you’re in the middle of the story the whole time. The script, meanwhile, is packed with such great humor, deep themes, and memorable characters that it’s almost a crime that this never found its way into theaters. A Tale Of Sand is existential and enigmatic, but by the end you'll find yourself fully enamored in everything that Henson, Juhl, and Perez have brought to life.

If you’re a big Henson fan, or a fan of the visual side of comics, then A Tale of Sand should open the doors to a jaw-dropping new world when it's released in January 2012.

Tags: comics, marvel-comics, dc-comics, thor, iron-man, fantastic-four, jim-henson
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