Comic Book Review: Fantastic Four #540: Civil War

The Revolution continues to be unimpressed with the Fantastic Four. And, lucky me, we are getting “treated” to another Civil War tie-in issues. I’m more than positive that I will not really enjoy Fantastic Four #540 all that much. Maybe I will be surprised. Let’s hit this review.

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

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 1 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We begin with Reed and some S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers transporting a rogue super hero named Wildstreak into the Negative Zone prison. One of the S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers is singing a Tom Leher song called Werner Von Braun. (Are you kidding me? The Nazi rocket scientist? Is this seriously where we are going?) Suddenly, the containment unit touches the metal of the portal to the Negative Zone and the containment unit ruptures open. Wildstreak turns invisible and escapes out of the window of the Baxter Building.

Susan Storm suddenly appears next to Reed. Susan used her powers to make Wildstreak invisible so that she could escape. Reed and Susan engage in the same tired debate that we have heard over and over through out each and every Civil War tie-in issue. Reed believes you support the law and try to change it orderly from within the system. Sue says the law is wrong and shouldn’t be supported at all. Blah blah blah. Reed says he is just following orders. Then Sue says that Reed is acting just like the Nazis who took the Jews and Gypsies on trains to the death camps. (Oh, this is getting ridiculous.) Reed says that their conversation is done. Sue agrees and says that they are done as a couple. That Reed has changed. That the man she loved was never afraid of anything and always did what was right. (Hmm, like Tony Stark used to be that way?) Sue starts crying and then leaves the Baxter Building by punching a huge hole in the ceiling with her force field.

Reed simply tries to concentrate on the task at hand even though he wishes that Sue would come back to him. The Thing then enters the room and tells Reed that he is leaving the country. That the Thing can’t support either the pro or anti-registration side.

We then cut to Peter Parker and Iron Man arriving at Reed’s lab. We are then treated to the exact same scene we read in the beginning of Amazing Spider-Man #535 from last week. Peter and Iron Man visit the Negative Zone prison and then come back to Reed’s lab. We are then treated to the exact same scene at near the end of Amazing Spider-Man #535 where Reed and Peter discuss Reed’s Uncle who was imprisoned by the House Un-American Activities Committee during McCarthy’s witch-hunt. Except in this issue, we learn that Iron Man was secretly listening to this entire conversation between Reed and Peter from the other room. (Because Tony just hasn’t been made into a big enough evil bastard.) Iron Man and Peter leave Reed’s lab. Reed sits at his computer and starts singing the Tom Leher Werner Von Braun song. End of issue.

The Good: Words cannot describe how much I thought this issue was a giant pile of stinking dog crap. But, the Revolution’s Rule of Positivity forces me to compliment this issue in some fashion or another. So, what did I enjoy about this issue? I like McKone’s art. I thought this was a nice looking issue. McKone drew a very emotional scene between Reed and Sue.

The Bad: You know, calling Fantastic Four #540 a giant pile of dog crap is really an insult to the Revolution’s dog’s crap. This issue was so pathetically bad on many levels. The pacing of this issue was slow. We already knew that the Thing was going to leave the team. If you read Amazing Spider-Man #535, then you already read the last 5 pages of Fantastic Four #540. The Civil War themes have gotten ridiculously repetitive as it is without actually repeating entire scenes from a comic that came out a week ago.

Sue’s grand exit scene didn’t even fit into the continuity of Civil War #4! We saw her grand exit scene at the end of Civil War #4 when she wrote the sappy not and left with Johnny to go join Captain America’s team. What did she do? Come back again for this second emotional grand exit scene? Was this a curtain call? She just felt that we needed to see her do it again? C’mon, Marvel! You can’t even coordinate something like this so you have continuity between the main mini-series and the tie-in issues? This was a terrible job in trying to create a nice continuity and flow between what occurs in Civil War and what takes place in the tie-in issues. I guess Marvel was more concerned with making the Pro-registration side Nazis rather than actually delivering a well constructed story.

And that leads me to the entire Tom Leher song about Werner Von Braun and Sue actually telling Reed that he and the pro-registration sides are the same as the Nazis who transported people to death camps. First, the Tom Leher was so ludicrously over the top and horribly cheesy. Von Braun created the rockets that were used by Nazi Germany to bomb England. The song by Tom Leher was written in the 1960’s and was about how Von Braun is trying to remain ignorant about what his work is being used for. That he doesn’t know where these rockets are going to go or what they are going to destroy. He is just blissfully designing rockets unaware of anything else. I nearly puked when JMS trotted out a S.H.I.E.L.D. soldier singing this song and then having Reed sing it at the end. How horrendously schmaltzy and cheesy. And also, I find it absolutely impossible to believe that a S.H.I.E.L.D security agent would know that show tune from the 1960’s. This is the perfect example of a writer getting too cute with his knowledge of pop culture and trying to force it into his story in a fashion that is inconsistent with the character and surroundings.

Second, comparing the pro-registration side to the Nazis who transported people to the death camps is moronic. The Holocaust is something that is so terrible that it cannot even be compared to the Registration Act. Americans love to try and connect anything they don’t like with the Nazis. That is foolish. There are very few things as horrid as the Holocaust. The Registration Act doesn’t even come close.

Now, Marvel has hinted at the idea that the pro-registration side is akin to the Nazis. In this issue, Marvel comes right out and blatantly tells the reader that the pro-registration side equals Nazi. That they are one in the same. This is Marvel going way over the top in a mad push to insure that every single reader views the pro-registration side as nothing more than Nazi villains. All this after Marvel swore up and down that they were going to show both sides in an equal light. Hey Marvel, don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining. It is obvious that Marvel had a political agenda with Civil War and had no desire to deliver a complex and interesting story where the reader was torn to choose a side. Thanks Marvel.

And of course, Marvel continues to assassinate Tony Stark’s character. Well, actually at this point Marvel has already assassinated Tony’s character. Now they are just beating the corpse of Tony’s character with a shovel. Tony listens in on Peter and Reed’s conversation. No doubt because he is keeping tabs on both men in some sort of Stalin like paranoia where Tony is ready to find an enemy from every direction, even within the pro-registration side. Just like Stalin would keep tabs on his party, Tony is suspecting a traitor to come from any direction. Yippee.

At this point, I am begging Marvel to just go ahead and kill Tony Stark. Right now, they have already killed the character that I knew my entire life. Just go ahead and kill off the character that is walking around Civil War masquerading as Tony Stark and totally ruining Stark’s 43 years of history as a hero.

And what is with constantly re-hashing the same damn debate about the Registration Act in each and every Civil War tie-in issue. It is getting so old and boring. I feel like I could recite it in my sleep at this point. Hey, Marvel! I got it the first damn time. I don’t really need it repeated over and over for what seems to be the 100th time.

Overall: Fantastic Four #540 was a waste of paper. Between the truly pathetic and horrendously written Civil War-tie in issues that JMS has served up in Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man, my desire to keep reading these titles has seriously diminished. I used to enjoy JMS’ writing. However, his sub-par writing on Squadron Supreme and the various Civil War tie-in issues have eroded my appreciation of his writing.

1 thought on “Comic Book Review: Fantastic Four #540: Civil War

  1. And of course, Marvel continues to assassinate Tony Stark’s character. Well, actually at this point Marvel has already assassinated Tony’s character. Now they are just beating the corpse of Tony’s character with a shovel.

    You, my friend, definitely know how to turn a phrase. I always enjoy when a reviewer is able to skewer a bad comic and do so in a humorous manner.

    As for JMS’s writing, as a fan of Babylon 5, I have to say that I simply cannot believe that this is the same guy who created & wrote that television show. When it came to arguing morality and debating ethics on B5, JMS was certainly much more nuanced and subtle than what we’re getting from him in “Civil War.” Characters such as Bester and Morden were obviously villains, but JMS allowed viewers to see things from their points of view, so that we could understand why they were acting in the manner they did. It was light years away from the one-dimensional fascist Tony Stark and quisling Reed Richards we’re getting in these issues.

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