Fantastic Four: Full Circle review: Alex Ross’ new classic

Alex Ross is one of the most famous artists in comics today, known primarily for his painted interiors, covers, and design work. Although he did some interior work, including wonders with Kurt Busiek and kingdom come along with Mark Waid, Ross in recent years has mostly done covers, especially with Marvel Comics. However, Ross is taking on both art and writing duties in his latest project, Fantastic Four: Full Circlemarking the introduction of Marvel Arts, a new graphic novel collaboration between Marvel and Abrams ComicArts.

Praised for his realistic and human depictions of comic book characters, you’ll notice how Ross’ painterly style presented a retro feel to superheroes, evoking their origins decades ago. With Fantastic Four: Full CircleRoss pays homage to Marvel’s first family and the decade in which they were introduced – the 1960s by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.


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Serving as a loose sequel to The Fantastic Four #51 – the iconic story “This man…this monster!” – the Fantastic Four find themselves surrounded by a swarm of invading parasites after an intruder suddenly appears inside the Baxter Building. In order to find the origins of this sudden onslaught, Marvel’s first superhero team has no choice but to travel to the Negative Zone, an alien universe made entirely of anti-matter.

With a story reminiscent of the original FF run – which not only paved the way for Marvel’s Silver Age, but the Marvel Universe as we know it today – Ross pays homage to the past. Nostalgia can only get you so far, but Ross shows affection for these characters, who function like family. The emotional focus, however, is on The ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing himself, Ben Grimm.

Courtesy of Abrams Books

Like a number of Marvel heroes, the Fantastic Four’s origin story is one that fell victim to its own scientific experiment. In full circleIn the opening double-page spread, narrator Sue Storm suggests that Ben is the real victim because he can never escape his stone exterior. No doubt Ben feels like his body is a curse, but he eventually learns to accept and find happiness. This ends up being the main theme of the story, as Ben realizes he’s made someone else’s life happier, while Reed Richards continues to be his paranoid scientist self.

While Ross’ dialogue features a bit of that Stan Lee cheese, its greatest strength is its hyper-detailed artistry that evokes the cosmic grandeur of Jack Kirby. With a simple three-act structure, it is a classic The Fantastic Four story that begins with a family feud in the Baxter Building, eventually traveling into the realms of cosmic sci-fi with the Negative Zone. As much as Ross uses the techniques Kirby used during his 60s run, he also uses today’s digital techniques while maintaining his classic painterly style. Along with Kirby’s influence, Ross manages to add a horror aesthetic with Negative Zone pages almost resembling EC horror comics.

'Fantastic Four: Full Circle' review: The new classic

‘Fantastic Four: Full Circle’ review: The new classic

Fantastic Four: Full Circle

Alex Ross uses today’s tools to tell his own take on a classic Fantastic Four story. Full Circle is essential reading for those who are fans of the artist, as well as Marvel’s First Family.

Alex Ross delivers a cosmic odyssey through his stunning illustrations.

A loving tribute to the original run of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, through its artistry and characterization.

The FF shine their moments, but Ben Grimm is the MVP of the book.

Leaning so heavily on the past, the story itself doesn’t feel new.


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