Before we begin, if you were expecting the Fantastic Four Wedding Special to contain an actual wedding, then you’ll be disappointed. The solicitations have been pretty specific that the marriage of Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters would take place in Fantastic Four #5 (or issue #650 if you’re a legacy kind of person), but not everybody reads the solicits and might have, therefore, thought that something with the word “wedding” in the title would actually have a wedding in it. Crazy, right?
No, instead this is a precursor to the big day, with two (and a half) tales that explore the days leading up to the superhero nuptials. The first sees Alicia Masters taken on her bachelorette party, and the second sees Ben Grimm visit the Puppet Master, aka Alicia’s dad, to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. They’re both fun stories in their own way, but the end result is a pretty strange read, and ultimately fairly disposable.
“(Invisible) Girls Gone Wild” is, with a title like that, exactly what you’d expect from a superhero bachelorette party. There are fun and games and plenty of jokes until a supervillain shows up to derail the whole evening. This is just par for the course when it comes to events like this (we all know that there will be drama of some kind on the big day itself), yet there’s nothing particularly fresh about how this is presented. Even the characters themselves are self-aware to a fault, accepting that the reality of their lives meant, of course, they weren't going to have a real night out. This meta-awareness, unfortunately, removes any real feeling of threat from the story.
The villain of the piece is also a little too self-aware. Her motivations for interrupting the party are paper-thin, and the explanation for her actions shows a level of self-awareness that would surely give her pause. Either way, the fight is dealt with, and the final few pages of the story are where the real heart lies. It’s a little cheesy, but it adds something that had previously been missing from the story.
Gail Simone’s script is silly and over-the-top but has a few shining moments. Alicia explaining why she loves Ben Grimm is a standout moment, and Johnny Storm confronting three of his exes at the same time is another (not to mention the introduction of a strip club called World War Hunk, which is amazing), but overall the cast suffers from not really sounding or acting like themselves. Medusa in particular doesn’t seem like the same person we've followed over the years, but mostly this can be forgiven because this is meant to be a fun story. Laura Braga leans into the silliness of the script with her art, giving exaggerated movements and facial expressions that really ramp up the humor of every scene.
The second tale, “Father Figure,” is a slightly more serious affair, in which Ben Grimm visits an imprisoned Puppet Master to seek his blessing to marry his daughter. It’s stressed here that the supervillain’s permission isn’t necessary, but rather it’s a symbol of Thing showing respect to Phil Masters. If Ben’s anything, he’s an old-fashioned kind of guy, so this makes perfect sense for him. While the resolution to the story is more interesting than the story itself, the twist here takes away a lot of the drama that was being built. That’s the point, of course, but you get the feeling that an honest to goodness conversation between these two characters would have been far more interesting.
Mark Buckingham does an excellent job of recreating that early Kirby look for Puppet Master. Ably supported by Mark Farmer on inks, Buckingham lends a very traditional look for both Thing and Masters here that's both modern and Kirby influenced. Even the backgrounds at the Raft and the airjet cycle that Thing rides on are throwbacks to the earliest days of the FF. The best moment of the story, and perhaps the issue, is when Ben arrives at the Raft and there’s a callback to James Robinson’s 2015 run on Fantastic Four. Ben mentions that he’s glad he’s on this side of the bars now, before whispering to the Pulverizer, who’s still behind bars, asking about his G.E.D. results. This throwaway moment is a delightful little touch that shows just how much heart Thing really has and punctuates Alicia’s speech from the previous story nicely.
The problem overall with this issue is that there are big sections of dialogue where the characters just don’t sound like themselves. The first story suffers from this a little more, as the second story has this as a plot point in the narrative to a large extent, but for an issue that relies on the rich history of its cast to add weight to it, it’s a shame that some of the characters feel so off. The tone of the issue is going for comedy more than anything else, which is great if that’s your thing (no pun intended), but generally makes the book feel fairly disposable. If you were expecting this to be an essential part of the new Fantastic Four era, you may be disappointed.