Comic Book Review: Fantastic Four #541: Civil War

The Revolution absolutely hated Fantastic Four #540. It was a truly hideous issue. I don’t have any hopes at all for Fantastic Four #541. This issue is J. Michael Straczynski’s second to last issue on Fantastic Four. Will JMS go out with a couple of strong issues? Let’s find out.

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

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We begin with the Thing in a cab on his way to the airport. The Thing gets annoyed by his cabby’s constant yapping on his cell phone. The Thing flicks a coat button at the cabby’s cell phone and blows it up. Unfortunately for the Thing, this cabbie always carries a spare cell phone and in no time the cabbie is yapping away again.

The Thing arrives at the airport and is greeted by a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, an officer from Immigration and an I.R.S. agent. They tell the Thing that he cashed out his account with all his money that he recently inherited. That the Thing hasn’t paid any income tax on that money. And the Thing could end up in a country with sticky extradition laws. Therefore, the I.R.S. is freezing all of the Thing’s assets. All the money the Thing will have is the three thousand dollars of traveler’s checks that he has on him.

We see the Thing going through the hassle of going through the security that you have to go through nowadays before you get on your plane.

We cut to the Thing having arrived at his destination: Paris, France. A street vendor calls out to the Thing and gives him a card of an excellent restaurant close by to go ear. The Thing goes to the suggested restaurant and is quietly enjoying his meal while sitting at an outside table. The Thing thinks how nice it is to be in a town where it is peaceful and no one is looking over their shoulders for super heroes fighting and buildings falling down and bombs going off. (Huh, what? This is the same place that was full of riots by Muslim immigrants over a period of a couple of weeks, right? Dude, if the Thing wanted quiet he should have gone to Nova Scotia.)

Suddenly, the Thing’s table sinks underground into a hidden underground base. There the Thing is greeted by France’s super team called Les Heroes De Paris. They consist of a bunch of rip-offs of DC characters. The leader of the team is a Superman style character called Adamantine. You have the Batman style character in The Night Count. The Catwoman style character in Anais. The Spectre style character in The Phantom Detective. The Flash style character in The Wind. The Green Lantern style character in the Blue Light. And then two random characters The Cowboy and Doctor Q.

The Heroes of Paris ask Ben for his help. But, first they must have lunch, after all it is Paris. The French heroes tell Ben that they need help defeating the Emperor of the underground world who has assembled an army of rock creatures beneath Paris. The Thing gets all chocked up and happy to actually have a standard super hero mission rather than the Civil War style type of fighting going on in America.

We cut to the Thing and his fellow heroes kicking butt on the army of rock creatures. During the battle the Phantom Detective calls the Thing a bourgeois capitalist. The Thing calls the Phantom Detective a socialist layabout.

The Thing then comes face to face with the Emperor of the underground world. The Emperor tells the Thing that he can’t hurt him. The Emperor said that the city of Paris and her citizens have already hurt him so much that he can never be hurt again. The Emperor says that Paris deserves to fall and be destroyed. The Thing says that a girl turned him down for a date, right? The Emperor answers “Maybe.”

The Heroes of Paris totally understand that in the name of love that the Emperor would attack Paris. They heroes think it is very noble and touching. The Thing destroys the Emperor’s machine that he was going to use to destroy Paris. The Thing and the heroes return to the surface along with the Emperor. There, the Emperor is greeted by his ex-girlfriend who broke his heart. His girlfriend is impressed that the Emperor would try and destroy Paris all in the name of his love for her. His girlfriend tells the Emperor that she wants to marry him.

The Heroes of Paris rejoice in the happy ending and declare that it is time for dinner. The Thing goes off to eat with the Heroes of Paris. The Thing says that this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship. End of issue.

The Good: Fantastic Four #541 was average at best. I really don’t have much to say about this issue. It was a total fluff piece. Pure filler. JMS did provide some witty banter between the Thing and the Heroes of Paris.

McKone supplied some nice artwork for this issue. I liked his character designs for the DC rip off characters.

The Bad: Fantastic Four #541 was a pretty issue. This issue was pretty much a totally wasted issue. I also thought that JMS had the Thing state that he was going to Canada. Wouldn’t that make a bit more sense? It is closer and easier to get to. It has some very quiet and calm places to go where nobody would bother the Thing. Instead, JMS changes things in midstream and has the Thing go to Paris, France. I have been to Paris three times. It is a nice city. JMS certainly managed to nail every stereotype associated with Paris.

Fantastic Four #541 reads more like a tourist brochure for Paris, France to entice Americans to come and vacation there. I get the feeling that JMS just spent some time in Paris and wanted to do an issue praising all of the great aspects of Paris life. That is great if you are working for a travel agency, but not so interesting if you are writing a super hero comic book.

The story just came across as way too goofy. JMS played up every stereotype of Paris way too much and made this issue just too cheesy. Some of the dialogue was downright corny.

Maybe it is just me. I used to love JMS’ writing. However, over the course of the past year I think that he has totally tanked it on Squadron Supreme, Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four making all three titles practically unreadable. Honestly, I’m stunned that a writer of his caliber and talent would just crash and burn on three titles in this fashion. Hopefully, JMS will return to form soon on another title.

Overall: Fantastic Four #541 is definitely an issue you don’t need to waste your money on. You won’t be missing anything. Next up is JMS’ last issue. I’ll be interested to see if he can deliver a quality read in his final issue on this title.