I’ve said this before, that when I was a young kid, I didn’t read much Marvel.

In order to get Marvel comics, I couldn’t pick them up at our general store like I could DC or the odd smattering of horror comics. I had to go with my father on weekends in to town to pick them up at a grocery store. Usually I had chores to do on Saturdays, so that was infrequent. It wasn’t until the late ’80s, when we moved in to the city and I had access to a dedicated local comic shop, that I began broadening my superhero consumption.

I stuck with what would probably be predictable for me; cosmic, mythological, and supernatural type things. Although I definitely bought the occasional more traditional superhero, I often stuck with the weird stuff. Until really Christmas of 1991, when my grandparents got me The Very Best of Marvel Comics. It was one of those gifts where they knew I read comics, but nothing beyond that. The collection had some modern and silver age classics from Amazing Spider-Man to X-Men. And it gave me my first exposure to the seminal story “This Man…This Monster!” from Fantastic Four #51.

I wuz feelin’ less a man and more a monster.”

Fantastic Four: Full Circle by Alex Ross, Josh Johnson, and Ariana Maher is basically a sequel to that classic tale. The scientist who switched places with Ben Grimm returns, invading the Baxter Building, and acts as a kind of Trojan Horse for creatures from the Negative Zone. Inter-dimensional adventure ensues.

Alex Ross captures the verve of the Stan Lee & Jack Kirby pairing on the Fantastic Four very well, incorporating the easy family characterizations and weird science integral to them, and pushes them forward a bit more. There are some interesting ideas here that re-examine the nature of the monstrous, in appearance and in deed, that reflect back on Ben’s powers-thief. And on other returning characters.

The artwork here is also stunning. Quite possibly some of the best that Ross has ever done. While he’s probably best known for his fully painted work, there’s a somewhat different approach here. More like classic illustration of say Arthur Rackham or Norman Rockwell. With some unique, stylized colours from him and Josh Johnson. The muted colours give it a feeling of something out of time, which then gets pushed into the surreal in the Negative Zone, and something a bit shiny and new with the team’s new costumes.

The atmosphere is further enhanced by Ariana Maher’s letters. Here she executes an interesting craggy look to Ben’s narration and some interesting unique word balloons for some of the weirder characters.

Can’t you just be happy for once?”

There’s a definite nod to nostalgia in Fantastic Four: Full Circle, by Ross, Johnson, and Maher, but it’s not beholden to it. While being familiar with the older tales enriches the story, the important bits are incorporated in for new readers. It takes those classic stories from Lee, Kirby, John Buscema, and more, embraces their spirit, and builds a new adventure out of them. It’s a fitting tribute and a worthy successor.

And, man, that art is something.

Fantastic Four - Full Circle

Classic Comic Compendium: Fantastic Four – Full Circle

Fantastic Four – Full Circle
Writer & Artist: Alex Ross
Colourists: Alex Ross & Josh Johnson
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Publisher: Abrams ComicsArts
Release Date: August 31 2022

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!