Fantastic Four #7

Few of Marvel's big characters have been left untouched by Marvel Comics' "Original Sin" event, and three members of Marvel's first family are no exception. "Fantastic Four" #7 by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk continue the revelation from last issue, where Ben Grimm discovered that, years ago, Johnny Storm had inadvertently and permanently prevented Ben from ever again being transformed from The Thing back into human form. Robinson makes good use of this disclosure, and is able to put a somewhat fresh spin on Ben's reaction to forever being stuck as The Thing, a story idea that has been revisited countless times over the decades.

The added emotions of anger, shock and betrayal felt by Ben are what give this story a different dynamic this time, the least of which is Ben wanting to clobber Johnny this time rather than Reed. It's not just a pity party for Ben; Robinson makes it clear that Ben isn't upset over never looking human again, but instead over the idea that a lie was covered up for years by two of the most important people in his life. It's emotionally wrenching on that level, despite some dialogue that gets a little heavy-handed, and Robinson genuinely makes readers sympathize, even before revealing that Ben knows deep down he should be forgiving. The conflict that Robinson stirs up from Ben's heart is what carries the issue.

The whole premise, though, that Ben is now once and for all trapped as The Thing, is itself conflicted with past story elements that Robinson acknowledges, but doesn't really elaborate on. Ben still has the ability to assume human form once per year, as established in past, pre-Robinson storylines, but there's no explanation of how this is now possible. The flashback sequence that shows when this mishap occurred, nostalgically rendered by Dean Haspiel and Nolan Woodard using the FF's retro look and costumes, imply that this supposed final transformation attempt took place long ago, despite the fact that other such attempts have been chronicled. This can be dismissed as the creators taking a little liberty with continuity, which is perfectly fine and doesn't directly impact the story, but the momentary question that it raises is an unwanted and unintended distraction.

One would think that the Baxter Building would have some kind of high-tech fire retardant system in place rather than a standard sprinkler system, but when Reed's experiment goes awry, the sprinklers kick on and provide a very wet and fitting mood for Reed and Johnny's subsequent discussion. The dialogue gives Haspiel a valid, if a little contrived, reason to draw a modified tribute to an iconic Jack Kirby "Fantastic Four" cover. Haspiel and Woodard's flashback covers eight pages of the story; the rest by Kirk, and inkers Karl Kesel and Rich Magyar, are appropriately dark in keeping with the troubling nature of the issue, and Kirk's two double-page layouts that follow Haspiel and Woodard's flashback are still barely large enough to contain the tension that Robinson generates between Johnny and Ben.

Kirk and colorist Jesus Aburtov's colorful and dynamic cover, featuring Sue Richards facing off against The Hulk with The Avengers ready to intervene, has absolutely nothing to do with the happenings inside, but it's beautiful enough to enjoy regardless. Continuity questions and other blemishes aside, Robinson tells a very sad and disturbing story of betrayal and anger, and the team of artists comes together for a very fitting depiction of it. The primary story of "Fantastic Four" #7 isn't mandatory for "Original Sin" readers, but it fits nicely into Robinson's current run on this title.

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