…And definitely better than that one I apparently missed in the Nineties, it’s the new Fantastic Four cartoon, and I have to say I’m impressed, even though I only saw half an episode. People always talk about the crossover effect from movies to comics, but what about the crossover from cartoons to comics? Obviously I don’t know, but at the very least it sounds like a better bet. And this one I saw seemed…what’s the word? Good. For a few reasons:
1. Humour. Wow, I couldn’t believe it. I suppose those of you living in the States have seen this already, it was the episode with the Skrulls…and fitting very well into (was it Marionette’s idea?) the explanation advanced for how the Skrulls got tricked by some clippings from “Journey Into Mystery” way back in FF #1: the Skrulls, as a race, have no imagination.
Isn’t that just the most brilliant damn retcon idea you’ve ever heard of? But of course, they’re shapeshifters who walk around in their regular forms all day, they obviously have no imagination! So how could they grasp the idea that somebody would deliberately create an unreal picture of something? Something similar goes on in this episode, as Skrull impostors of various FF hangers-on (including an awesomely bitchy older lady who’s a resident of the Baxter Building) get their impersonations completely wrong, but think they’ve got the FF hoodwinked anyway.
2. Characterization. Sure, Reed sounds a bit younger than perhaps he should, and Johnny may be a bit of a flake – but who cares? Reed is written smart, and Johnny likeable, and Sue and Ben are just about spot-on. The aforementioned bitchy neighbour is a welcome addition, and Alicia’s in there, and Willie Lumpkin too. I buy it all. It’s kind of like The Jeffersons, only with cosmic rays.
3. Cleverness. Not only is there a mystery to figure out, which Reed duly figures out, but it seems very lighthearted FF-derived stuff, playing with established storylines etc. in a way that makes them fun to revisit. As I said, you folks down south probably know if they manage to sustain this, but from where I sit it looks like a pretty nimble adaptation so far. I look forward to “The Challenge Of The Super-Skrull!”, which has been very nicely set up. Hey, they even rehabilitated H.E.R.B.I.E.!
4. Simplicity. Because as I’ve said before, the 60’s cartoon got it just about right when they said the FF exist to “defend the Earth from interplanetary eee-vil!” You need something simple to do the right kind of disbelief-suspending in this case, and “the super-team that’s also a family” just doesn’t cut it, owing to that idea being dull, dull, dull. Sure, they’ll meet the Mole Man and Dr. Doom, and that’s fine. But this is the first FF cartoon, even including the Sixties one, that I can imagine the Inhumans figuring into. Oh my God, they’re going to do the Inhumans, I just know it. Oh…my…God.
And now, what doesn’t work.
1. Maybe the big glowing “4” hovering atop the Baxter Building.
Nah, forget it, I can live with it. Just so long as it’s called “the Baxter Building”.
You know, I’ve heard people say this is no good. From what I saw of this episode, I can’t understand why. Yes, well, obviously I miss the original costumes (not to mention the old Hanna-Barbera sound effects), but I know I can’t have everything. Does this all go horribly wrong in a season or so? Do they get into Civil War or something? More importantly, do they meet the Inhumans???
If someone could let me know about that, I’d be grateful. Right now, I have pretty high hopes.
Mind you, I haven’t seen the title sequence yet.