REVIEW: ‘Fantastic Four: Life Story,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Fantastic Four Life Story #1 - But Why Tho?

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 is written by Mark Russell, illustrated by Sean Izaaske, colored by Nolan Woodard, and lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna. It is published by Marvel Comics. In 1961, Reed Richards is approached by President John F. Kennedy who asks him to construct a spacecraft in order to beat the Russians during the space race. When Richards’ project is shut down, Richards enlists the help of his fiance Sue Storm, Sue’s brother Johnny, and pilot Ben Grimm. The test flight ends up giving the four superpowers during a freak accident, and the issue follows their exploits throughout the ’60s as Reed is haunted by visions of a world-destroying force.

Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley were the first to launch the Life Story format, taking an alternate-universe approach to Spider-Man’s career. (Side note: I’m genuinely curious to see if the events in this series interact with Spider-Man: Life Story as Peter Parker ended up working for Reed in the latter story). The Marvel Universe has always been touted as the “world outside your window” and Russell takes this to a new level with his script. Reed is seen interacting with both Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Sue is on the frontlines of a civil rights march, and Ben even razzes the Beatles about their haircuts. Seeing real-life events juxtaposed with superheroes adds to the “life” part of the “Life Story” title, making it feel like these things actually happened.

In addition to the real-life events, Russell also incorporates various characters and events from the Fantastic Four mythos. In the space of one issue, we see Sue and Reed get married and give birth to their firstborn son Franklin. Reed is also working under Dr. Ricardo Jones in the spaceflight program. Jones was a minor antagonist who first appeared in Fantastic Four (1961) #50. These elements also happen to be fairly subtle, which is a nice touch. When adapting a well-known story, there’s a difference between layering in references organically and shoving them in just to say “I’m a big fan of (insert character or storyline here).” Russell thankfully takes the former approach.

Isaaske is no stranger to illustrating the Fantastic Four, having drawn the first family during “Empyre” along with their flagship title. His designs hew fairly close to the Four’s initial appearance, including their classic black and blue suits and Sue’s hairstyle. With 33 pages, there is also plenty of action and scale packed into the pages. The Four’s voyage into space is a key example of this; it is a vast void peppered with specks of light including stars and suns. Woodward brings this sequence to life once the cosmic rays that give the Four their powers enter the picture; he makes it a blazing bright pink wave of energy that washes over the craft. And this is only the tip of the iceberg; from a splash page featuring the Four battling the Mole Man and his underground forces to the first appearance of a classic Fantastic Four foe, Isaaske and Woodward bring the sort of eye-popping art you’d expect from a Fantastic Four comic.

Fantastic Four: Life Story takes a truly “real-life” approach to the Fantastic Four, chronicling their adventures throughout the decades. I can’t think of a better way to utilize the “Life Story” format, and this series also serves as a wonderful celebration of the Four’s 60th anniversary.

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 is available wherever comics are sold.

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1
5

TL;DR

Fantastic Four: Life Story takes a truly “real-life” approach to the Fantastic Four, chronicling their adventures throughout the decades. I can’t think of a better way to utilize the “Life Story” format, and this series also serves as a wonderful celebration of the Four’s 60th anniversary.