Fantastic Four: 1234 classic comic review – Grant Morrison writes the weirdest FF book ever

January 19, 2021
Louie Fecou 0
Comics
4

Summary

This 4-issue series, published under the Marvel Knights banner in 2001, was a strange and sideways look at the Fantastic Four.

4

Summary

This 4-issue series, published under the Marvel Knights banner in 2001, was a strange and sideways look at the Fantastic Four.

This classic comic review of Fantastic Four: 1234 contains some minor spoilers.

You may have missed that time when Grant Morrison wrote the Fantastic Four. 1234 was a 4-issue mini-series, with incredible art by Jae Lee, that was not part of the regular continuity of the series.

Fans of Morrison will recognize a lot of his style on show here. If you have read his work on Doom Patrol, then you might see some similar ideas at play here. There is a dark and foreboding tone to this series, the story itself is a slow-burning wick, accented by Lee’s incredible art, and helped on admirably with the painted coloring over his dark inks, by Jose Villarrubia. From the very first page, you are aware that The Fantastic Four has never really looked like this.

The opening chapter focuses on Ben Grimm, and Doctor Doom seems to have discovered that there is an easier way to destroy Reed Richards than his usual gangbuster approach. In the chilling finale to the issue he announces, “How to destroy a man; grant him his heart’s desire,” and this is the premise of the unfolding story.

By issue two, the focus is moved to Sue Storm, and Morrison hones in on the relationship she has with Namor, The Sub-Mariner. The lore of the title has played with the idea of these two characters in the past, and here it is presented to us in possibly a more mature way than before.

Things are ramped up in issue three, and we have The Mole Man unleashing chaos as Johnny Storm soars to the action, but behind the scenes, Doctor Doom continues with his plan. More like The Puppet Master, he is manipulating events from behind the scenes, building towards his ultimate victory over Reed.

Reed is conspicuous in his absence too, locked in deep thought, wired to some incredible machine, seemingly unaware of the dangers to his team allowing Doom to take control, but the final endgame is yet to play out.

By the final issue, everything is revealed, and there’s no point spoiling how this wraps up, as I’m hoping you will all have a look for this, but needless to say, Morrison uses all his tricks to bring this tale to a satisfying conclusion.

This 4-issue series, published under the Marvel Knights banner in 2001, was a strange and sideways look at the Fantastic Four. The Marvel Knights books were probably the equivalent of DC’s current Black Label titles, happening out of continuity and providing a more mature look at the properties.

Whether this approach really works for a book with The Fantastic Four is debatable. Marvel’s first family is not really known for their dark gritty arcs, so tonally it takes a while to settle into this series. I wonder if 6 issues would have given the reader more time to acclimatize to the style, but the problem may lie in the fact that this is basically a very simple story, so most of the entertainment comes from seeing this creative team take on the leading players in the book.

Lee’s art is so dark, and that’s something we never see in FF, and his renditions of the players here are stunning. Fantastic Four: 1234 is probably worth picking up for that alone, but it seems that Morrison may have had a little trouble with Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny, as they don’t work very well in this gloomier environment.

However, Fantastic Four: 1234 is entertaining enough to be recommended, even for the art alone, and FF fans may find a lot to enjoy here.

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