Review: Fantastic Four Grand Design #1 is Sometimes Overwhelming, Sometimes Fun
Tom Scioli is a cartoonist whose works owes almost everything to legendary creator, Jack Kirby, and he gets to pay homage to one of his and Stan Lee’s finest creations in Fantastic Four Grand Design #1. The Fantastic Four don’t even show up as a team (Time travel be damned) until page 14 of the book. Scioli spends the first portion of this extended length comic trying to create a grand cosmic narrative for the Marvel Universe featuring the Krees, Skrulls, Deviants, Eternals, Inhumans, and cities of Attilan, Lemuria, and Atlantis with a side of secret societies and Uatu the Watcher as a POV character in a similar manner to Ed Piskor’s X-Men Grand Design. This prelude is just a foretaste of the overwhelming as a narrative, yet satisfying on a style and individual panel level that this comic is.
Scioli definitely has some storytelling chops and cleverness up his sleeve. He doesn’t start with Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm stealing a rocket to “beat the Reds into space”, but by paralleling the Fantastic Four with the four Celestials that helped accelerate evolution on Earth with a nifty pink, green, yellow, and red color palette. Uatu the Watcher saving Taa (Later Galactus) from the destruction of his planet as his body dissolves and changes form is clearly inspired by the Thing changing from human to monster and is a beautiful meditation on divine intervention. In the early going, the comic also has a nice structure with one page, almost Sunday comic strips introducing major cast members like the Fantastic Four as well as supporting cast members like the Inhumans, Namor, Dr. Doom, and even Black Panther.
However, after these character introductions, the FF’s origin, and some strong storytelling showing how Fantastic Four went from a monster to a superhero comic (It’s all about the branding.), Fantastic Four Grand Design #1 becomes an episodic, 20+ panels on a page mess. Tom Scioli has the cram 46 issues of comics into 21 pages, and he includes each and every villain battle and plot development before ending the first issue on the great, logical cliffhanger of right before the Galactus Trilogy. (The little appearances of Silver Surfer are majestic so far, and I can’t wait to see Scioli’s take on Kirby krackle and the way he moves through the cosmos.)
Tom Scioli does nail the dysfunctional family dynamic, and his Invisible Girl and Namor have some searing chemistry, but the lack of transitions once he hits the “Fantastic Four go on adventures” part is overwhelming. For example, Daredevil shows up in the middle of a battle, and he is neither introduced or commented on as he just disappears once the brawl is over. Scioli pummels readers with plot summaries from the past, but with a fun art style and better one-liners than Stan Lee. His Thing is sassy as hell when he’s not being used as a plot device. In general, Scioli’s characterization is up and down as he joins the long list of creators to fail at making the Inhumans likable with the exception of Crystal’s West Side Story type relationship with Johnny Storm plus Lockjaw being his adorable self.
Tom Scioli shows his clear reverence for Marvel’s Silver Age comics, especially the work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, in Fantastic Four Grand Design #1 with his powerful figure work, far out colors, and soap opera on speed plotting. He uses the beginning of the comic to try to place the Fantastic Four in an, er, grander cosmic narrative, but it all falls apart by the end. With its 20+ panel pages coupled with high attention to detail on each panel, Fantastic Four Grand Design is more hyper-caffeinated history level than an enjoyable comic, and honestly, would have worked better as a page a day webcomic in the vein of Scioli’s previous creator-owned work than a traditional floppy.
Story: Tom Scioli Art: Tom Scioli
Story: 6.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review