The wedding of Benjamin Grimm and Alicia Masters is nigh, which means it’s time for a Fantastic Four Wedding Special! Don’t miss our initial impressions of the key events leading up to the latest, greatest Marvel wedding! Plus, with Miles Morales set to make a big splash in this month’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse animated film, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Javier Garrón are charting out a new direction for the character in the first issue of his latest ongoing series. It’s yet another busy week for The Marvel Rundown!
Fantastic Four: Wedding Special #1
Written by Gail Simone, Dan Slott, and Fred Hembeck
Illustrated by Laura Braga, Mark Buckingham & Mark Farmer, and Fred Hembeck
Colored by Jesus Aburtov, Matt Yackey, and Megan Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Alexander Jones: Resident clobberer Benjamin Grimm is getting married, or so Marvel’s marketing team wants us to think! This week The House of Ideas is publishing a special dedicated to the relationship between Alicia Masters and Ben Grimm before their big wedding. Joe, what were your first impressions on Fantastic Four: The Wedding Special #1?
Joe Grunenwald: I like Ben Grimm. I like Alicia Masters. I’m happy that they’re getting married, even if their engagement seemed like it came out of the clear blue sky. And I’m glad that Marvel isn’t prolonging the engagement. But I have to tell you, overall, this wedding special did nothing for me. There’s nothing inherently bad about it, but there’s nothing particularly great about it, either. What did you think?
Jones: Every week we seem to talk about comics from the Big Two that are perfectly fine but don’t move the needle. I would lump this comic in that category. That being said, Dan Slott’s story actually got me. His tale had the grandiosity from the core title and cemented why I have sincerely loved his Fantastic Four run.
Grunenwald: Slott’s story was the standout for me as well, in no small part thanks to the art from Mark Buckingham. I know I gave Slott’s first issue on Fantastic Four a pretty lackluster review, but the subsequent stories have been downright great, so it’s no surprise that he brings the heat here as well. Slott’s story in the Wedding Special is the second feature, and it’s significantly shorter than the first story, which, honestly, was kind of a slog.
Jones: I like Gail Simone’s writing and you like Gail Simone’s writing but there was little in the script to make Alicia’s bachelor party the significant moment for The Marvel Universe that I wish it had been. There were some nice moments and it was honestly great to see this story was not written by a male, but I wish we could have seen more of Alicia Masters as a person. I don’t think she’s received very much characterization beyond the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby stories.
Grunenwald: Alicia is extremely passive throughout the opening story. She’s much more of an active participant in the Slott-written story, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first. I also appreciated the all-female creative team on the bachelorette party story, but this was as formulaic as any other bachelorette party story you’ve read this year (and don’t forget, there have been several).
Jones: Marvel has tons of characters and it is great to see weddings, but this one really came out of nowhere and would have had a strong impact if Dan Slott had had like a year or two to build up to it. The sequence in the Simone story that actually really got to me was Johnny Storm identifying all of his ex-girlfriends and The Mole Man bit at the beginning. I found it interesting that these were two throwaway scenes that stole the show for me. Simone is a really creative writer and I wish the full issue was as creative as these two bits were.
Grunenwald: Any time Johnny is confronted with his past coterie of significant others is usually pretty entertaining, and I did like the Mole Man bit, as well as the way the limo driver’s thread wrapped up. Maybe he’ll write a nice letter back to Latveria and tell everyone how great the Fantastic Four are. But otherwise, this story was nothing new. I actually felt that way about Slott’s story, too, up until the twist at the very end. It changed the way I read the preceding pages for the better. I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoyed Mark Buckingham’s art on the Slott-written story. What did you think of the artwork in this issue?
Jones: I liked Laura Braga’s art for the most part. Sequences like the last page had really weird anatomy. I liked how expressive the characters are in her artwork. Her art reminded me of Sara Pichelli in a good way. It did kind of bother me how slender her figures were for some of the characters as well. Not every single character in this book should be rail thin. Buckingham’s art was pitch-perfect for the kind of story and tone Slott was going for. I would love to see his art on the main book.
Grunenwald: I felt like every single one of Laura Braga’s female characters looked the same. If not for different outfits and hair colors I would not have been able to keep track of who was who. Buckingham, on the other hand, is able to accomplish the rare feat of channeling a Kirby-esque quality while still retaining his own distinctive style. It’s on display here, particularly in the way he draws The Puppet Master, and it’s really something. I also wouldn’t mind a fill-in here or there from him on the main title. So far we haven’t talked about the final three-page story from Fred Hembeck, which is kind of redundant given that it’s another Puppet Master story right after Slott and Buckingham’s story, but it’s amusing enough. If nothing else, I’ve always enjoyed Hembeck’s art.
Jones: Hembeck’s work is really minimalist, and I don’t think the story in this issue was the greatest showcase of his talent. It certainly didn’t entice me as a reader. Despite everything we have said, I still feel like this is one of the better wedding special issues this year. Simone and Braga’s story had a few enticing moments, Slott and Buckingham told a solid yarn, while Hembeck’s contributions are really off-the-wall.
Grunenwald: There’s no shortage of wedding tie-in comics from 2018 to compare this one to. If the whole thing had been of the same quality as the Slott and Buckingham story, I would say this is the best of all of them; as it was, one great story out of three isn’t quite enough to elevate this book past a BROWSE for me. Maybe I’ve just grown fatigued from all of the comic book event weddings this year.
Jones: I think your analysis is completely fair and I’m going to agree! I think if you are interested enough in the wedding there is no reason to avoid this special. The key here is that the Slott sequence is present. Let’s go with a BROWSE verdict and be thankful this issue didn’t have less content.
Final Verdict: Joe and Alex unite for a BROWSE verdict!
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Javier Garrón
Colored by David Curiel
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: It is the start of something new for Miles Morales. Writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Javier Garrón are taking the title in a new direction away from the character’s co-creator Brian Michael Bendis, who has written nearly everything Miles related. What did you think of Miles’s fresh start?
Joe Grunenwald: I thought it was a pretty decent start. Ahmed spends a fair number of pages setting the stage, introducing Miles and his supporting cast, which is perfect for a first issue that’s looking to be accessible to new readers (like I am, having read a few Miles comics in the past but not being current on what’s going on in his world). There’s maybe not as much action as I would’ve wanted, but I thought it was solid.
AJ Frost: Hey lads! I’m going to challenge your assumption that this is a fresh start at all. If anything, it’s the same type of Miles Morales story that doesn’t accomplish much save that it’s easy to read for the newcomers. There isn’t anything wrong with this, but this book doesn’t take any chances (which is fine), but it’s all the more boring for it. At least that’s how it felt on a narrative level.
Grunenwald: ‘Boring’ is a word I tried to avoid using, but I can absolutely see where you’re coming from, AJ.
Frost: Would “pedestrian” be more apt? There’s nothing here that is particularly grabbing, except for the art (which we will get to in a moment).
Jones: I’m going to say something shocking: this issue didn’t carry the flair that the initial Bendis issues did. AJ is right with how this installment carried largely the same tone that the late Bendis issues had. I’m really disappointed to see writer Saladin Ahmed not strike a more serious inflection with his writing. I wish this issue had more substance and less charm.
Frost: Maybe it’s more of a meta-issue with the ever-decreasing lifespan of continuing storylines that Marvel produces, but having to read Miles kvetch in his journal is just not so interesting. I know that Peter Parker was susceptible to this storytelling mechanism too. But for a contemporary book, most of the material here felt really hokey and filled with too much cheese. Did you fellows have that same feeling, or am I totally off the mark?
Grunenwald: I thought the narration via the journal was a useful device for getting new readers up-to-speed, but it did go on for a long time. There are probably more organic ways that Ahmed could’ve introduced all of the elements of Miles’s life in a more show-y, less tell-y way. I didn’t find it particularly cheesy, though.
Jones: The journal sequence was weak and didn’t reveal anything about Miles we didn’t already know. How is this the same guy who wrote Black Bolt? One aspect that I really want to see for Miles Morales and from Ahmed’s run is a more ‘down on his luck’ approach to the character. Insomniac’s PS4 title did a great job striking that balance. I’m upset that so much of what Marvel’s publishing strikes such a familiar tone.
Grunenwald: Is this a case where mileage varies depending on what you know going into this issue? I appreciated all of the (however clunky) exposition as someone who hasn’t been following the character’s solo adventures. If you were reading up until the end of the Bendis run I’m sure there was a lot of repetition there.
Frost: They could have Miles do literally anything and it would be more interesting. I don’t know… start with a bang! Start with our hero in mortal peril! Do something that’s more than: here’s an assignment I got in high school. And let me show some angst. There’s a place for these tropes (it’s Spider-Man, for chrissakes), but man… this is the lamest way to start a new line. I don’t know… maybe I’m just being a wee bit melodramatic here.
Grunenwald: Like I said initially, I did wish there was more action in this book. The opening splash from Javier Garrón is great, but then there’s a dozen pages of Miles’s day-to-day life that are less visually exciting.
Frost: Just have Miles do interesting stuff! No one cares about his friends! I’ll admit that the sequence with Rhino were pretty good, at least for the moral ambiguity of Rhino’s mission.
Jones: I really liked Garrón’s art but I feel like his more cartoony and expressive style gave the issue a more disposable feel than I would have liked. All the moments with Miles’s new supporting cast members were great, but the pedestrian sequences and small amount of conflict they added to the issue deflated all the tension. I’m confused why so many Marvel books strike the same tone lately. Garrón’s art in the issue was consistently fluid and he made sure there was a lot of secondary action for the characters and interesting framing on the pages. I liked his contributions to the issue.
Frost: I guess the Merry Modern Marvel style is to go for the rote approach to the art. I don’t know… maybe it’s more the coloring than the pencils, because I thought the sequences with Rhino were drawn exquisitely. The digital gradients used as background material seem randomly put together and tend to detract rather than enhance. Then again, I just prefer flat colors anyway.
Grunenwald: I didn’t find anything particularly bad about any of the art, be it the linework or the coloring. There are some great images, and I particularly liked the Rhino page-turn reveal when he showed up and the fight sequence between he and Miles. It wasn’t the greatest art I’ve ever seen, but, like the art on a lot of Marvel books, it got the job done.
Frost: Sad to say but I’m not sure if we can look to these types of books for mind-blowing art anyway… at least for readers like us. This is serviceable art for the most part. Not amazing, but not amateurish either.
Jones: I had high hopes for this title but worried it would come off as too generic. The cover had inspired some hope for me but after checking this debut installment out, this issue was loaded with some of my worst fears. This isn’t bad, it is just pedestrian and doesn’t have a solid structure or reason for existing. I want to see some of the immediacy and appeal of a younger Spider-Man in the next few issues. You wouldn’t know it from this issue, but Miles is a fun hero who can do things Peter can’t. What are your final thoughts on the issue?
Frost: This is something you can throw to newcomers to learn what Miles as Spider-Man is all about, but if you’ve already invested any time with the character, you’ll be bored outta your gourd! WEAK BROWSE.
Grunenwald: I enjoyed this first issue well enough, and think it does the things you want a first issue to do, but I wanted to enjoy it more. It didn’t blow me away but it got the job done. It’s a BROWSE for me.
Jones: There is nothing wrong with this title but I’m not sure who I would recommend it to. I’m going to give the issue a SKIP.
Final Verdict: Joe says BROWSE, AJ says WEAK BROWSE and Alexander says SKIP!
Next week we mourn the death of a fallen hero in Infinity Wars: Fallen Guardian #1!