Fantastic Four #8
The Fantastic Four are finally settling into their new normal...but something very ABNORMAL is happening outside their farmhouse. Sue and Alicia get to spend some quality time together in town, but when they return, everything is not how they left it... ...and a very different Fantastic Four are left in their place! It's Sue and Alicia versus the world - and the start of a special two-part story!
It’s the Fantastic Four versus the Mandela Effect. Did Ben Grimm and Reed Richards really exist? Has Flame-O been on the team the whole time? And what was the name of those bears, after all? Ryan North has some fun with idea of false memories in Fantastic Four #8.
The Fantastic Four are hard at work on Aunt Petunia’s farm in Fantastic Four #8. But when Ben needs snacks, Alicia needs art supplies, and Reed needs…laboratory flasks, Sue and Alicia head off to do some shopping. After a quick trip through the mall, the duo returns to a hardware store they visited earlier in the day. But this time the store is closed and the proprietor Cathy is gone with no one in town remembering her. No one Alicia and Sue talk to remember Cathy from the hardware store, or for that matter that the hardware store was even open in the last few years. Realizing this is a job for the Fantastic Four, Sue and Alicia return to the farmhouse to discover that Reed and Ben are missing and Johnny has forgotten all about them. In short order the trio (and Johnny’s flaming copycat Flame-O) trace everything back to Xargorr, the giant wood monster.
North opens the issue with a bit of science as Sue and Johnny attempt to use their powers to create a scutoid, a cross between a frustum and prismatoid that is found when epithelial cells pack together. This actually has nothing to do with anything in this issue. But it’s a nice example of how North uses real science to both influence actual plots and to spice up Reed’s dialogue. Fantastic Four is fertile ground for stories and character flavor that includes hard science, and North’s choice to go in that direction whenever possible adds a layer of complexity to a very fun series.
Fantastic Four #8 continues the series’ trend of starting a story with relatively low stakes, human drama. The issue is seven pages in before the first suggestion that something is wrong, and it’s another three before Sue and Alicia decide that whatever is going on requires the team’s attention. North takes a little time to show us the team working on the farm. He takes time to follow Sue and Alicia through the mall. These moments of ordinariness prove an excellent balance to the bizarre which is also no stranger to this series–in this case in the form of the wood monster Xargorr. Fantastic Four offers the opportunity to mingle the heartfelt, the ordinary, and the bizarre because of the family structure at the team’s center and the wide array of different qualities seen in each of the team’s members.
The story at the center of Fantastic Four #8, people disappearing and being forgotten by others who cannot be swayed by clear and logical evidence that those people existed, is fairly novel. It’s not like a secret history scenario where characters and readers have to be convinced that an old character really did exist. Instead, readers saw Cathy at the hardware store. And readers certainly know Reed and Ben exist. This creates a little extra tension because not only is there the underlying mystery of what’s going on, but there is added frustration in knowing Sue and Alicia are right while seeing other characters come up with absurd reasons for why they aren’t (such as Johnny late in the issue).
The design for Xargorr isn’t terribly effective. He bears a greater resemblance to various depictions of Thing than a “wood monster.” He looks more like an overweight, brown Thing or She-Thing than anything made of wood.
But Fiorelli shines elsewhere. We’ve already seen this in other Sue-centric moments, but he brings a wonderful charm to her character. It’s very much the case with Alicia as well here. Most of the issue is spent with the two women main characters, and they are a lot of fun. They start off as relatively care-free on the farm and then the shopping trip. As circumstances change, their expressions do. And Fiorelli does a good job tracking those changes over the issue, so none of their reactions seem abrupt. They develop organically over the course of the story.
Aburtov delivers a great rainy day in Fantastic Four #8. It’s not just the sky and the rain, but that darker, almost oversaturated quality everything seems to take on as well. A rainy day sets a great mood, and it works especially well in the confrontation at the issue’s end.
After cutting loose last issue, Caramagna’s work is conservative again here. Though he does a very good “flames on” late in the issue.
Fantastic Four, more than anything else right now, is a fun series. North knows what to take seriously, what not to take seriously, and when to lean into each. And at this point the issues are still largely self-contained, so someone who didn’t hop on in the beginning can jump on at any point. And Fantastic Four #8 is a great time to do just that.
Fantastic Four #8: The Xargorr Effect
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
- Art - 9.5/109.5/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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