THE FAMILY DYNAMIC
Stan Lee wasn’t kidding when he added the slogan ‘World’s Greatest Comics Magazine’ to the cover of theFantastic Four comic back in the sixties, a title that would become one of the most important in modern comics history. The Fantastic Four was ground zero for the introduction of an astounding number of characters and concepts that are a vital part of the comic book mythology to this very day: Dr. Doom, the Silver Surfer, Galactus, the Watcher, the Skrulls, Black Panther, the Inhumans, and Adam Warlock all made their debut within the first 70 issues. And while these characters have at various times graduated into their own books and regular appearances throughout the Marvel Universe, the eponymous heroes of the title have had their adventures continuously chronicled for over 50 years by writers and artists who aspired to live up to the legacy of the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run.
Some of them include: Writer/artists John Byrne and Walter Simonson at different points of Fantastic Four vol. 1; Jim Lee contributed pencils in Vol. 2; Volume 3 featured stints by X-men writer extraordinaire Chris Claremont, writer Mark Waid & artist Mike Wieringo, multi-media scribe J. Michael Straczynski, the Ultimates team of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, and Jonathan Hickman, who closed out the volume before moving with the characters over to the title FF; Matt Fraction helmed the short-lived Fantastic Four vol. 4, and writer James Robinson is the creative force behind the current Vol. 5.
With the first appearance of the Anti-Monitor in the New 52 DC Universe, the rumblings of an impending Crisis have begun to reverberate through the fan community. Though DC has eschewed the ‘crisis’ tag in recent crossover events (Flashpoint, Forever Evil), we may be due for another universe altering cataclysm or conflict. It’s been nearly 30 years since original Crisis On Infinite Earths led to a rebooting of the history and continuity of the DCU, an event who’s impact became a milestone by which eras of comic book history have been measured: pre-Crisis and post-Crisis. The main story played out in a 12 issue limited series, but its effects spread through nearly every title being published at the time. When the dust settled, Supergirl and the Flash (Barry Allen) were dead, the multiverse no longer existed, and character origins and timelines were altered to make them more accessible to new readers. Twenty years later, a sequel, Infinite Crisis, arrived, resulting in the restoration of the multiple-earths concept. The seven issue series was supported by a handful of connected limited series including Rann Thanagar War and Villains United, as well as crossing over into many of the regular ongoing titles, and the most significant loss was the death of the Conner Kent version of Superboy. 2008’s Final Crisis did not tie into its predecessors, but the idiosyncratic high-concept storytelling of Grant Morrison made for an interesting read. At the end of seven issues and numerous crossovers (Final Crisis Requiem, Final Crisis Revelations), Batman and the Martian Manhunter were (temporarily) dead, and two casualties of the previous Crises were revived (Flash, Superboy). With the events of the epoch making Flashpoint still relatively fresh in reader’s memories, it should be interesting to see what the stakes and impact of the next crisis might be.
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