Monday, October 10, 2005

Methink He Doth Protest Too Much - Fantastic Four: Flesh & Stone

Two weeks ago, in Rich Johnston's column, he reported on Rafael Marín's dissatisfaction with how his Fantastic Four run with Carlos Pachecho turned out.

According to Marín :
To set the record straight, we didn't do the whole 3 issues that were credited to us alone. They changed some dialogues, questions asked by some characters disappeared (but not the answers given by other characters), and someone made a mess of the motivations of the Super Skrull and the factions engaged in the Krull civil war that wanted to kill him. In the end, in English, it was exactly the opposite of what was really happening.

Then, out of the blue, they said it wasn't understandable, and they lumped Loeb upon us. He was going through a minimalist phase and tried to write comics in monosyllables.

No one complained about the understandability of Inhumans, where I crafted the dialogue all by myself.
In addition, Marín adds, "And let's set the record straight: I don't blame Loeb for the chaos. It was all the editor's fault, Bobby Chase, who was a useless bore that hadn't got a clue about anything, and on top of that she was sabotaging us every two pages."

Therefore, I figured I would read Fantastic Four: Flesh and Stone, which collects the first six issues of Carlos Pachecho's run on Fantastic Four, and see if it really was as bad as Marín seems to think so.

And now, having reread it, I think that he is overreacting. This is a good comic book trade. The story is not great, but it IS good, I think. The key to the story, of course, is the fact that it is drawn by Carlos Pachecho, who is on the short list of "Best Superhero Artists Today," so the art is a delight throughout the collection, but especially in the way that Pachecho tempers his modern flair with an old-fashioned character depiction, where you can just see his fanboyness sneak out and see characters drawn as Kirby would have designed them.

The fanboy nature of this series is VERY strong, and that is both of the strengths and drawbacks of this collection. Pachecho and Marin clearly LOVE the Marvel Universe. They grew up reading these comics, and they are both very devoted to recreating the spirit of the Marvel comics that they enjoyed as youths, while still giving the book a modern feel. I think that they achieved their goal in this regard.

The fight against El Diablo, the way that Spider-Man and Daredevil show up when the Fantastic Four's pier headquarters is destroyed, the way the Avengers show up for clean-up, Foggy Nelson getting a significant role as the Fantastic Four's lawyer, the appearance of/and fight matchup between the Grey Gargoyle and the Thing...these are all things that were hallmarks of Marvel Comics of the past.

Meanwhile, Pachecho and Marin also try to do changes to the Fantastic Four, and some of the changes are really impressive - like the delivery of a new Baxter Building that was produced in outer space!!! Or the Thing gaining the ability to turn back and forth into the Thing. Or Sue using her force fields as a sled like Iceman uses his ice. All nice little touches.

The DRAWbacks to the comic were as follows:

1. The Gideon corporation - the bad guys of Pachecho's art, work in the background as they develop their plan to mine the Negative Zone through purchases of the Fantastic Four's patents. This really is not a big deal, but it also was not all that interesting. In addition, part of the plot involves remaking the Trapster. Which would be fine, except the Spider-books had JUST made a big deal out of revamping him, like, a YEAR earlier!!!

2. Okay, I will admit it. The dialogue in the collection is not that great. It is not as bad as Marin think it is, but it is still not that impressive, and it definitely did NOT get any better when they add Jeph Loeb half-way through the collection. Basically, the verbosity reminds me of the stereotype of artits turned writers, which is that they try to overcompensate by having a LOT of words. Well, this collection has a LOT of words.

Marin mentions that the Skrull plot does not make sense, and upon rereading it carefully, I would tend to agree.

However, Pachecho's art is SOOOO dynamic, that at times, you almost don't NEED to read the excess captions, as Pachecho's evocative work TELLS you what you need to know just from the art.

If I remember correctly, this run got worse before it got better, in terms of confusing writing. However, for just this collection, there is enough old fashioned superhero fun (with GREAT art) that I would say that this was a good collection...although Flesh and Stone is a silly title (I know it is a good line IN the comic, where they are talking about Grey Gargoyle...but Grey Gargoyle is just one plot in a whole collection - he should not be responsible for the title of the WHOLE thing!!).

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Blogger Michael said...

The thing is, it can be nifty as all hell, but if it's as drastic a change from what he intended, he's still got a legitimate gripe.

10/10/2005 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

To be fair, those first issues, slightly confused as they are (that weird thing with the ribbon, and the Skrull plot), aren't the real problem. It's later on, during the Negative Zone and Galactus/Abraxas storylines that things fall apart quite spectacularly. In those later issues it's quite clear that it's not a problem of Spanish/English mistranslation, but editorial interference.

10/10/2005 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I would agree, kelvin, except that Marin specifically is saying that he felt the problem existed in the early issues as well.

10/10/2005 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"The thing is, it can be nifty as all hell, but if it's as drastic a change from what he intended, he's still got a legitimate gripe."

Fair enough, Michael. I was more pointing out that things weren't as bad as he said they were, but yes, it is still not cool to change someone's story on them.

Just like the changes in Action Comics to Byrne's art.

10/10/2005 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Oh yeah, I get that, but I was just (inarticulately) wondering aloud what Marin makes of the later issues, which are even worse in terms of gibberish.

10/10/2005 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

I tried one issue of this run, the one with Grey Gargoyle. The dialogue was so atrocious, especially a scene that has Sue bragging about "kicking Dr. Doom's ass." I never picked it up again. The plot was decent, but that dialogue really sucked.

10/11/2005 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"flesh and stone" also applies to Ben Grimm's new ability to change back and forth, does it not?

10/11/2005 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Nitz the Bloody said...

" It was all the editor's fault, Bobby Chase, who was a useless bore that hadn't got a clue about anything, and on top of that she was sabotaging us every two pages. "--Rafael Marin

Okay, far be it for me to profess that I know what went on in the Marvel offices circa 2000-2001, but this just sounds petty. I understand that Marin would be upset about his treatment, I would be too, but this sort of public comment isn't exactly professional or mature.

And there's only a certain extent that " editorial interference " excuses average comics. I eventually dropped the Pacheco/Marin/Loeb FF in the beginning of the Abraxas arc; there dialogue seemed flat and uninteresting, and while the plots were novel, they didn't really develop the ideas ( Ben gaining the ability to become human while Johnny loses his human form, when I was reading it, were never really fleshed out ). Not my favorite era of the FF.

10/11/2005 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Graeme said...

Could Bobby Chase be possibly the worst editor in the history of comics? I'm still bitter over the way Chase contributed to demolishing Starman (the underrated Stern/Lyle version) more than a decade ago. When, as an editor, you're having to justify the shoddy work of your replacement writer in the letter column of your comic you've pretty much screwed the pooch.

Every so often I hear of another story of Bobby Chase futzing with a workable comic like this one and I just shake my head. How did she get work in comics at all?

10/11/2005 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

""flesh and stone" also applies to Ben Grimm's new ability to change back and forth, does it not?"

Probably. Why do writers keep hauling that chestnut out? It never works.

10/11/2005 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No matter what you think of Bobbie Chase, Marin's comments are still waaay unprofessional. Seriously. If he's unhappy with the results and wants to share it, ok. If he wants to blame the editorial decision-making, whatever. but the personal insults are over the line.

IMHO, this interview makes him look like a prima donna asshat. I have to wonder if it'll affect home much work he gets.

10/11/2005 04:51:00 PM  

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