Sunday, September 9, 2012

Retro Review: What If?:Fantastic Four Tribute book to Mike Wieringo.

Yeah, I know 2008 is probably pushing it for a 'Retro' review but I really wanted to talk about this book. Back in 2007 we lost artist Mike Wieringo, usually nicknamed Ringo. He worked on tons of books including Flash, Robin, Sensational Spider-man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man, and Fantastic Four, and he was one of my favorite artists. He died at the relatively young age of 44 from an aortic dissection.

At the time of his death he had completed 7 pages of a What If? one-shot featuring a story of the New Fantastic Four remaining a team. After his death Marvel put this project on hold and ended up letting the folks at Hero Initiative publish it. Several artists all contributed a few pages each to this book and it is not only a touching tribute to Ringo but a pretty damn good read.

The story is pretty simple, in this universe the Fantastic Four was killed during the 'New Fantastic Four' story and they decide to remain a team. Interesting side not, although Danny Ketch was the Ghost Rider at the time of the New FF story Ringo accidentally drew him as Johnny Blaze when we see him at the funeral. Rather then alter Ringo's art work everyone involved decided to just leave it as is. I mean hey, it is an alternate universe after all, continuity isn't really much of an issue.

So to fill the void left by the FF the four heroes decide to take their place. And the new Fantastic Four is pretty kick ass. Like seriously. They are cutting a swath through old FF villains. We cut to Doom plotting some sort of bullshit to destroy the New FF when a mysterious figure shows up to offer assistance, saying there is no way Doom can take out the New FF on his own.

We cut to Peter Parker and Johnny Blaze having lunch outside a cafe discussing life in the new team when the place is attacked by Sandman who says he can sense they are near. They discretely change into their alter egos and go on the offensive. Hulk and Wolverine show up as do three other villains, Venom, Sabertooth, and Abomination. And all of them seem to have demonic powers.

I gotta say I love the New FF's costumes. I would have given Spidey's some blue webbing pattern on the black parts but other then that they look great. The New Fantastic Four are kinda getting their asses kicked at first in this battle but they start really fighting together as a team and really gelling and they pull it out. They are then attacked by what appears to be Doom but is actually Mephisto and manage to take him down as well.

This was a damn fun story. An earlier issue of What If?, which I reviewed in an earlier post, had already tackled the question of the New FF staying together. But this issue does a far better job of asking that question. This story treats the team like the powerhouse ass whipping group it would be, and also shows them actually gelling as a team and staying together, rather then breaking up at the end.

The artwork is all over the place, there are several artist contributing to this and some I enjoyed and some I didn't. But even with the ones I wasn't fond of you could still feel the heart that went into this and it really didn't bother me. The above cover is actually a splash page Ringo did in the beginning of the story, the original unused cover is reprinted in the back of the book.

The back of this book also contains several letters written about Ringo from his family and colleagues. The back cover featured this artwork Ringo drew when he left Fantastic Four after a long run on the title.

If you were a fan of Mr. Wieringo, or even just a fan of the New Fantastic Four you owe it to yourself to get this book. Despite being pretty rare it's only goes for about $8.00. This is one of the most cherished comics I own. If I had to reduce my considerable collection to a single box this would be in it. Unfortunately due to the fact that this issue was published by Hero Initiative rather then Marvel it hasn't been reprinted in any What If? trades I doubt it ever will. Also of interest there was a What If? one-shot that was a sequel to this story called What If: Newer Fantastic Four that's worth checking out as well.

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