Comic Book Review: Fantastic Four #538: Civil War

Fantastic Four has not been that great of a read in a while. However, this title has really picked up with the Civil War storyline. Hopefully, Fantastic Four #538 will continue this upward trend. I’m cautiously optimistic about this title. Let’s go to the review.

Creative Team
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciler: Mike McKone
Inker: Andy Lanning

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: This issue starts with Reed, Sue and Ben in Johnny’s hospital room. Johnny is in a coma and Ben and Sue decide to take shifts staying and talking to Johnny hoping to revive him. Reed can’t stay since he has to help Tony Stark in the war against the heroes who oppose the Registration Act. Sue and Reed have a difference of opinion. Sue is against fighting their friends because they oppose the Registration Act. Reed sees no other option.

Reed and Sue leave and Ben stays with Johnny to take the first shift. Ben rambles on to Johnny about old stories of when he was a kid. Then he tells Johnny about what happened in Oklahoma after Thor’s hammer was found. That people from all around the country came to try and lift Thor’s hammer. They all failed.

Sue then enters the hospital room for her shift with Johnny. Sue tells Ben that Reed is wrong. They shouldn’t be fighting the heroes who oppose the Registration Act. Ben asks Sue if she wants them to take up arms against their own government. Sue responds that disagreement isn’t disloyalty. That sometimes the most patriotic thing you can do in a democracy is disagree. (Oh boy. Here we go with the preaching.)

Ben then leaves Sue with Johnny. On his way out of the hospital, Ben sees a news report of a brawl between pro-registration and anti-registration metahumans. Some of the metahumans along with some civilians have been taken to a hospital with injuries. Several square blocks have been destroyed. Plus, there are protestors and rioters at the scene.

We then cut to the brawl. Ms. Marvel and Silverman are locked in combat. The Thing arrives on the scene. Ms. Marvel thanks Ben for arriving and asks for his help. The Thing just turns around and walks over to the riot police. The head officer tells Ben that every time they go in to pick up a non-registered hero that Iron Man’s team captures they get hit with bricks by the protestors. The officer says that the protestors are a bother and are disrespectful of the government. The Thing says that just because someone disagrees with something that is being done doesn’t make them any less of a patriot. If they have a problem then maybe they should listen to them. (Oh c’mon! I get it JMS. Move the hell on.) Ben then goes in to talk to the protestors.

Ben knows the protestors. They are the residents of Yancy Street and the surrounding area. The protestors say that they are protecting their street heroes like Daredevil. That the Registration Act is wrong and that they are willing to fight the police to save their heroes. The Thing is unable to think of a reason to support the Act or to not fight against the police other than the Registration Act is the law. The Thing says that he doesn’t want to fight the government, but he also doesn’t like the law. (Wow. Very balanced handling of both sides.) The locals ask The Thing if he is going to pick a side. The Thing responds that he is thinking.

We then shift to the Thinker and Puppet Master scheming to attack a bus full of captured super heroes from the anti-registration side. They plan to eliminate a large chunk of these heroes before they can work out their differences.

We then cut back to Oklahoma. There is still a long line of men waiting to try their turn to lift Thor’s hammer. A man in a trench coat with a duffle bag cuts the line and grabs the hammer. A massive column of energy comes pouring down around where the hammer was. The column reaches all the way up into the heavens. We see the initials “DB” on the mysterious man’s duffle bag. (Oh hell, yeah! Donald Blake is back! And so is the mighty Thor!) End of issue.

The Good: Wow! If it wasn’t for that awesome ending, I would have really hated this issue. I loved the ending. The return of Donald Blake is so cool. That is my favorite version of Thor and the one that I grew up with. I cannot wait to finally see Thor once again. This is going to be awesome! This final scene was the only thing in this entire issue that got my interest and made me excited.

I do like that Sue and Reed are in a serious disagreement over helping Tony Stark fight and arrest all of their friends who oppose the Registration Act. This couple needs a little drama and conflict to spice up their relationship.

I also like how JMS wrote the Thing in this issue. Very nice job.

I thought the plotline with the Thinker and the Puppet Master was neat. It only makes sense that the villains would take advantage of this Civil War and strike at the heroes.

McKone’s art is average. It doesn’t move me one way or the other. It neither adds nor detracts from the story.

The Bad: Take away the ending and you are stuck with one pathetic excuse for a comic book. This story was boring, uninteresting and preachy. Not exactly the goal that Marvel had in mind.

Once again, Marvel shows that it never had any intention of presenting the pro-registration side and the anti-registration side equally. It is painfully obvious that we are supposed to root for the anti-registration side and view the pro-registration side as Bush supporting baby killers who worship the devil. That just doesn’t work for me. I think that this storyline would be vastly more interesting if the writers took the time and effort to make both sides look like the heroes. That would make the story so much more complex and compelling. The reader would be truly torn on which side to support.

However, Marvel is making it easy for us to view the pro-registration side as the villains and the anti-registration side as the right thinking protectors of the Constitution and our democracy. That is so lame. During this Civil War storyline, Straczynski, Bendis and Jenkins have all demonstrated their inability to step outside their own politics and write an interesting and entertaining storyline. Instead, these writers are using Civil War to unload their post 9/11 commentary on the reader. I could care less. If I want to get preached to then I’ll go to my iglesia and let my padre preach to me. I certainly don’t need to be preached to while reading a comic book.

JMS just continues to pound the reader over the head with the typical post 9/11 position that dissenters are patriots and that democracy is about disagreeing. I am still at a total loss at how the events of Civil War can even remotely be connected with 9/11 and the resulting Patriot Act. There is just no comparison whatsoever. Political commentary is one thing. But, misplaced political commentary is just annoying and uneducated. Civil War can be immensely entertaining. Look at what Millar did in Civil War #1 and #2. On the other hand, Civil War can be very uninteresting. Look at Bendis, Jenkins and JMS on their titles.

Also, other than the great ending, absolutely nothing happened in this issue. No plotlines were advanced. Again, excluding the ending, this was pretty much a waste of an issue.

Overall: Straczynski really unimpressed me with Fantastic Four #538. It was boring and uninteresting. However, the ending was cool. Hopefully, next issue will be better if it centers more on the return of Thor.