While police procedurals and courtroom dramas are a staple of television programming, most comic fans would be hard pressed to find very many memorable comic books that take place with lawyers cross-examining witnesses. Writer James Robinson and artist Leonard Kirk look to buck that trend with “Fantastic Four” #5. They get a little help from their friends, including Mike and Laura Allred, June Brigman, Dean Haspiel, Phil Jimenez, Jerry Ordway, Paul Rivoche, Chris Samnee, Derlis Santacruz and Jim Starlin.
Each of those artists provides an image, a collage or a sequence reflecting back on the fifty-plus-year history of Marvel’s first family as the times are cross-referenced during the team’s judicial inquiry. Samnee is given the earliest days of the FF as well as an encapsulation of their conflict with Doctor Doom, which is certain to elicit requests and screams for more from readers young and old. Haspiel provides a wonderful reimagining of Thing and Hulk trading blows. Rivoche breathes new life into Namor’s attack on New York. Phil Jimenez provides a gorgeous peek into the relations between the Fantastic Four and the Inhumans. The Allreds bring their grooviness to Galactus’ visit. Starlin draws up Blastaar and Annihilus. Ordway revisits Sue’s time as Malice. Veteran “Power Pack” artist June Brigman finishes off the issue by drawing the final five pages of “Fantastic Four” #5, which covers what happens to the Future Foundation kids when the Fantastic Four are in court. This collection of artists provides a wonderful visual reflection in the styles of the respective era or relevant to the characters in focus. The colorists are all well-matched to their artists, and, in some cases, such as Matt Wilson and Chris Samnee, those match-ups are currently in place elsewhere, so the results are every bit as grand.
Kirk’s art for “Fantastic Four” #5 is among his best yet for the series despite the change in inker to Jay Leisten, with an assist by Magyar. Kirk lays the courtroom proceedings out in the most straight-forward manner, which delivers some unexpectedly interesting imagery. Yes, there are a lot of talking heads, but Kirk throws in all manner of expression and angle, peppering the story with a variety rather than repetition. The artist has some moments where his style doesn’t completely shine through, which may be due to the tag-team inking situation, but for the most part, Kirk’s work in “Fantastic Four” #5 is as rock-solid as the orange hide of the ever-lovin’ Thing. Jesus Aburtov’s colors are a little more plasticky in this issue than I recall them being previously, but his color selection is topnotch. He brings real-world coloring to an otherworldly situation.
“Fantastic Four” #5 is every bit the “feast for the eye” that James Robinson declared it to be at this year’s C2E2. It’s not the most action-packed adventure the Fantastic Four have ever faced, but it is a magnificent summarization of the stunning history that Reed and Susan Richards, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm all share. Robinson has been reminding readers of the Fantastic Four’s place in the Marvel Universe and this issue continues to make those connections, despite isolating the team and persecuting them. Part five of “The Fall of the Fantastic Four” hits readers in the gut, but the other shoe has yet to fall as verdicts have not been shared. Whatever happens next, I’m sure Robinson’s going to make it memorable.