Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s run on “Fantastic Four” has been building to this issue as, finally, the man who trained Dr. Doom arrives on Earth. The tension throughout this issue is thick and the mood is foreboding. While Doom and his people prepare joyously for his master’s arrival, the Fantastic Four wonder what sort of being he will be. After all, if this is the being that trained Doom, the one creature in the universe that Doom calls master — what hope does the world have?
While the building tension is made apparent, the issue lacks substance otherwise. Meant to act as both prologue to and the first part of this story involving Doom’s master, much of it is spent in a holding position, as Reed deals with the body of a Watcher discovered, and Ben has relationship problems. With splashes and large spreads, it feels a bit like running out the clock to the final pages where the Marquis of Death finally arrives.
Ben’s problems are very relatable and an interesting take on the character. It presents the Fantastic Four in a celebrity light explored rarely, and Millar handles the scene well. Actually, most of the smaller moments, on a scene by scene basis, are done quite well. Millar is restrained her, very focused on the characters and getting across that ominous feeling leading up to the end of the issue. It’s just that, as a whole, the issue doesn’t offer nearly as much as those small moments would lead you to believe.
That said, his handling of Doom is very entertaining as the villain is practically glowing with anticipation. As you can see in the preview pages, Doom is fluttering around his kingdom almost explicitly nervous. Seeing him in this situation is a little unsettling and also a new, logical take on the character. He’s always been a very human villain and to see him excited and anxious about his old master’s arrival works with that.
Bryan Hitch does a lot of the heavy lifting in this issue with larger panels and the unenviable task of portraying Doom’s master when he does arrive. After so much build up, Hitch does his best not to deliver a letdown with the Marquis’ design but I’m not sure anything could live up to these expectations. How does one depict a creature that Doom bows to and kills Watchers? Hitch’s design is fine, but lacking somehow.
Throughout the rest of the issue, his work is a little rougher than usual and he continues to use layouts that involve larger gutters between panels. These choices give his work here a unique flavor compared to his other work with Millar and others. He also uses a lot of two-page layouts, allowing for a more horizontal feel.
The end of the issue is a bit of a surprise and sets up the Marquis as a real threat and, hopefully, Millar and Hitch can follow through on the promise the character holds.