REVIEW: ‘Fantastic Four: Life Story,’ Issue #4

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Fantastic Four: Life Story #4

Fantastic Four: Life Story #4 is written by Mark Russell, illustrated by Sean Izaaske with Francesco Manna, colored by Nolan Woodard, and lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna. It is published by Marvel Comics. In the 1990s, the Fantastic Four seem to be entering a period of happiness after the death of the Human Torch. Franklin Richards is getting married, the Thing finds a stable relationship, and even Reed Richards has managed to build a planetary defense to wade off Galactus. However, trouble looms when Galactus’s herald, the Silver Surfer, arrives…

With a new issue comes a shift to a new decade and a focus on a different member of the Four.  This time the focus shifts to Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, and in doing so, it offers a rich character-focused story. Grimm has often been defined by a sense of loneliness; his transformation as the Thing has hampered his relationship with others outside the Four. The creators tackle this loneliness by having the Thing go on a series of online dates; true to the era, most of the panels feature him hunched over an old-school monitor struggling for the words to say. Russell also digs into Grimm’s time as a pilot in the Vietnam War and a secret he carries to him with this day, and his relationship with blind artist Alicia Masters. The Thing has always been one of my favorite Marvel characters, and Russell clearly has a handle on what makes him work.

Russell also plays into the inherent streak of optimism that ran throughout the 90s with a series of events that indicate this version of the Marvel Universe is finally on its way to achieving a form of peace. From small events to big ones, the overriding theme is that humankind can overcome the darkest times to make something better. “It’s the loss that binds you together,” Grimm muses in his monologue. “And it’s the pain you share that makes you family.” This only makes the final page and its implications hit that much harder once the remaining members of the Four confront the Surfer.

Izaaske continues to deliver some top-notch artwork, including a sequence 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 Vietnam flashbacks and Franklin’s wedding. Best known for his bombastic action sequences in The Trials of Ultraman, Manna depicts joy and pain in equal measures on his characters’ faces. Woodard delivers a burst of color that makes it feel like the sun is almost shining-and lends a shimmering effect to the Silver Surfer’s skin-while Caramagna places Grimm’s narration within stony caption boxes that resemble his stony skin.

Fantastic Four: Life Story #4 shifts its focus to the 1990s and delivers a great character piece for Ben Grimm in the process. With the next issue finally set to bring Galactus to Earth, the question remains: What happens next? And will the Four survive this particular confrontation with the Devourer of Worlds?

Fantastic Four: Life Story #4 is available now wherever comics are sold.

Fantastic Four: Life Story #4
4.5

TL;DR

Fantastic Four: Life Story #4 shifts its focus to the 1990s and delivers a great character piece for Ben Grimm in the process. With the next issue finally set to bring Galactus to Earth, the question remains: What happens next? And will the Four survive this particular confrontation with the Devourer of Worlds?