Merry Christmas to all of you! It’s time for a Christmas comic review!
Even though this comic came out in February. I guess the 90’s were different times.
I will be reviewing Issue 361 of the Fantastic Four comic book, which bills itself as a “special holiday extravaganza”. It’s Christmas Eve at the Baxter Building! Benjamin Grimm, aka The Thing, is contacted by an old friend from his days as a youth on Yancy Street. The Thing must locate his friend’s kidnapped son with the help of the Yancy Street gang. Meanwhile, Johnny Storm is dealing with the aftermath of his marriage to the Skrull Lyja, who disguised herself as the blind artist Alicia Masters in order to get close to the Fantastic Four. The real Alicia has returned and the family is in a somber mood. Johnny Storm vows to restore the Christmas spirit to his family so that his nephew Franklin can have a merry Christmas.
Christmas is only a small part of the comic, so I don’t know if “holiday extravaganza” is appropriate. Regardless, the comic was very entertaining. I didn’t expect a lot of depth going into the comic, because it’s a Fantastic Four Christmas comic. I was honestly expecting a different storyline where Doctor Doom must take up the duties of Santa Claus after shooting him down over Latveria. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The subplot involving Johnny Storm carried a lot more emotional heft than I expected. The main plot involving Ben Grimm, the Yancy Street Gang, and eventually Doctor Doom, was very fun to read. Ben Grimm was the star of the show, and was written very well. In terms of the other characters, as I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed Johnny Storm’s characterization in this comic. He showed an emotional depth that I’m not accustomed to seeing with the character. The “resolution” to both plots (see later) was a lovely Christmas, which was the perfect way to end this tale. I knew exactly what was going on throughout the story. However, it should be noted that I have a familiarity with the characters and basic premise behind the Fantastic Four already, so I may be unable to properly review this aspect of the comic.
The art quality is fairly good, but I wouldn’t say great. Some of the colouring is off and there are scenes where the details of the faces of the characters are difficult to make out. There are also scenes (such as an explosion) that could have used more detail.
The biggest issue I noticed was that the Ben Grimm plot didn’t have much of a resolution. The gang and Ben find the kidnapped boy at the mercy of a gang of robots. It’s never directly revealed who is behind the operation–Doctor Doom appears, but only because he too is trying to stop the robots, who are behind drugs or something. It’s never quite clear. It had the feeling of having the drug subplot shoehorned in, which wouldn’t surprise me given the era of comics this issue is from. For those who aren’t mega dorks, comics started taking an anti-drug stance in the 80’s and early 90’s, and it often wound up having the flavour of an after-school special. Heck, even Doctor Doom hates drugs in this comic! His reasoning is entertaining, so I suppose that makes up for it.
The big question is, since I’ve already read more of this series, how does this issue stack up in quality to the rest of the series? I’d say fairly well. Though the drug plot feels like an afterthought, the characterization and excitement of the story more than make up for it. I’d recommend this comic to anyone looking for a fun little Christmas treat.
God bless, and Merry Christmas,