Fantastic Four: The Prodigal Son #1 – Review

Back in the summer of 2019 when comics were plentiful, the Marvel universe welcomed Prah’d’gul (or Prodigal according to mishearing Ben Grimm) in three one-shot comics where our young visitor from space bumps heads with three of Marvel’s mainstream titles. First up it’s the Fantastic Four!

Fantastic Four: The Prodigal Sun #1

Written by Peter David
Art by Francesco Manna
Released: September 2019

Published by Marvel Comics

Back in the summer of 2019 when comics were plentiful, the Marvel universe welcomed Prah’d’gul (or Prodigal according to mishearing Ben Grimm) in three one-shot comics where our young visitor from space bumps heads with three of Marvel’s mainstream titles.

First up it’s the Fantastic Four, who at the time of publication had only just returned to Earth after a few years of unpublished adventures in an alternate dimension and were busy settling into the early stories of Dan Slott’s excellent monthly run.

Prodigal crashes in the Savage Land, a prehistoric jungle hidden in the Antarctica much loved by the X-Men and populated by Dinosaurs and various warring tribes of pre-agricultural types. Our hero barely has time to pull a dramatic pose before he’s eaten by a T-Rex who must lie in wait for crashing spaceships, so often do they occur in this supposedly secluded paradise. (This is a great recurring gag in Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers. Pause while I go and re-read the first few issues.)


Unfortunately for Rex, Prodigal is hard mouthful to swallow and he’s quickly exploding his way out and being proclaimed a God by the locals. This suits him fine and he’s soon got his new congregation looking for a replacement spaceship and stirring up trouble with the neighbouring tribes. It’s a quick start, but one-shots don’t let you hang around and soon enough Ka-zar and Shanna, the underdressed Heroes who rule the Savage Land, have got the FF on the phone asking for help getting rid of the troublesome interloper. Cue action.


Peter David knows his game and keeps the script light and frothy with plenty of jokes. The classic superhero meet-cute fuelled by misunderstanding and bravado is played for laughs but soon begins to wear thin. It’s all a bit one-note and silly and Prodigal mainly comes across as an arrogant jerk complete with annoying catch-phrase. Unfortunately, the limited page count doesn’t give him much opportunity to redeem himself. Perhaps in the following instalments we see a bit more of his character. A bit of mystery would have been welcome too.
There’s time for a touch of perfunctory back-story but the few lines we get doesn’t sound that original or exciting. Mostly this is all just an excuse to showcase Prodigal’s fairly conventional superpowers, which in world full of superheroes isn’t that interesting. Even the Fantastic Four don’t really get that much to do. Reed and Sue get a few nice moments but The Thing and Human Torch are barely in it. I think Johnny Storm gets one line.


Francesco Manna art is solid and dependable if a little short on the spectacular. Again, I think the limited page-count doesn’t give him a chance to really shine. There was a real missed opportunity to draw an exploding Tyrannosaur, which I’m sure he would have enjoyed. But no room for it. Shame.
Next up for Prodigal it’s back into space and if the cover is to be believed it’s a zero-gee dust-off with the Silver Surfer while a ringside Galactus places his bets before a final meeting with the Guardians of the Galaxy rounds off the trilogy. After that, who knows? Did Prodigal become a regular somewhere? Did he become interesting? Maybe I’ll look online to find out. Then again.


Verdict
Mostly fun but ultimately a conventional intro for a conventional character. Prodigal didn’t really excite and I don’t think the FF gained much by being in it. Next time Ka-zar calls you Reed, send the reserves and save yourself the bother.


Ross Kelly
30/12/21

Fantastic Four #35 Review

Naturally there’s a strong theme of family linking the stories and especially highlighting its importance to Reed Richards himself. Both Slott and Waid acknowledge that for Richards, nothing is more important than his family…


Fantastic Four #35
Reviewed By Ross Kelly

Written by Dan Slott, Jason Loo and Mark Waid.

Art by John Romita Jr, Jason Loo and Paul Renaud.

Released September 15, 2021

Published by Marvel Comics

Three tales as Marvel’s first family celebrate their sixtieth birthday in this oversized anniversary epic.

The main feature is written by series regular Dan Slott with art by John Romita Jr and together they craft a fun time travelling adventure into the FF’s history. Kang the Conqueror, time surfing megalomaniac and his various incarnations are on the hunt for ‘The Prize’, a final gift left to Reed Richards by his father, which had been split into four pieces and hidden at different points in Richard’s time line. Naturally the Kangs want it, whatever it is, and that’s reason enough for each Kang to invade a different period in the team’s past.

First stop, the sixties and the team are still new, still coming to terms with their powers. The first Kang turns up with an army of loyal Sarcophobots (Robots dressed as Egyptian mummies, and my new favourite word) and using his future knowledge promptly defeats the fledging team. 

Trips to the nineties and noughties follow and its soon three nil to the Kangs, who bicker and gloat, like a bunch of evil Doctor Whos. I won’t spoil part four of the story but its safe to say that all is not lost and Reed Richards has a plan. It all ends when we find out what the Prize is, setting up the next issue and Slott’s on-going story.

The trips to the past are good fun and Slott and Romita Jr don’t try and emulate the styles of comics past. They have their own story to tell. Instead, we’re treated to some nice homage covers in-between each jaunt, which help set the scene and allow Slott to keep the story moving at a brisk pace helped along by Romita Jr’s quick, bombastic art.

After the main event come two back up features. A two-page spread written and draw by Jason Loo sees a trip to the park interrupted by The Mole Man in an echo of the Four’s first issue story from 1961.  Loo packs in the panels and the story reads like a choose your own adventure puzzle giving the reader four paths to follow to the inevitable gag punchline. It’s an entertaining diversion before the third offering, a fresh retelling of the team’s origin story written by Mark Waid with art by Paul Renaud.

This time the story is told from the point of view of Mr Fantastic and how he carries the guilt for changing his friends lives forever. It was his over confidence and arrogance that unintentionally caused the horrific transformations that changed Sue, Ben, Johnny into The Invisible Woman, The Thing and The Human Torch. And Renaud’s art definitely portrays the changes as horrifying. Particularly that of Johnny Storm who is drawn as a man literally burning alive. In the first moments after the transformation, they are presented as monsters, terrified of each other and themselves. Four individuals afraid and divided.

Richards imagines them as outcasts shunned by society, their old lives full of promise and hope, over forever. His redemption comes by changing this fate, using all his talents to give them new lives. One of fame and adventure. Turning them into a team of superstars. Heroes.

This is easily the best FF origin story I’ve read and any new fan experiencing the story for the first time is in for a treat. My favourite story of the three on offer.

Naturally there’s a strong theme of family linking the stories and especially highlighting its importance to Reed Richards himself. Both Slott and Waid acknowledge that for Richards, nothing is more important than his family.  


Verdict

Thoroughly enjoyed it. A great birthday issue with a marvellous time traveling romp and a fresh perspective on the team’s origin. Definitely worth a read for old fans and new. Plus, there’s a letters page, which is always a good thing.


Reviewed By Ross Kelly