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Fantastic Four: Full Circle Review: An Artistic Odyssey and Silver Age Love Letter

Alex Ross has established himself as one of the most recognisable creators in the comic book business because to his work on titles like Kingdom Come and Marvels as well as other amazing covers. You definitely don’t associate Jack Kirby, known for a more expressive, crackling comic book aesthetic, with Ross’s approach, which is renowned for its realistic depictions of superheroes and use of dramatic lighting. Ross’s debut graphic novel as both a writer and an artist, Fantastic Four: Full Circle, however, seems determined to emphasise his affection for Kirby (with colour assistance by Josh Johnson and letters by Ariana Mahar). The outcome is a lovely tribute to Kirby and the Marvel Age of comic books.

Fantastic Four: Full Circle has a straightforward plot but integrates a lot of sci-fi ideas. It is a straight continuation of the renowned Kirby and Lee story “This Man… This Monster” from Fantastic Four #51. The plot was a shadowy imposter who stole The Thing’s abilities before sacrificing himself and getting lost in the recently discovered Negative Zone. Ben Grimm’s midnight lunch is interrupted in the opening scene of Full Circle by that imposter’s unexpected return to the Baxter Building, although this time he’s just a vehicle for something far more sinister. A voyage back to the Negative Zone is necessary in light of the bizarre phenomenon and fresh threat. Everything that began in Fantastic Four #51 comes full circle by the time the secret is solved.

Fantastic Four: Full Circle Review: An Artistic Odyssey and Silver Age Love Letter
Fantastic Four: Full Circle Review: An Artistic Odyssey and Silver Age Love Letter

Sending the FF into the Negative Zone gives Ross the opportunity to cut loose artistically. Fantastic Four: Full Circle looks unlike anything else from his career. The figures are a blend of Ross’s realism and Kirby’s expressive figures, with Reed Richards’s wide, square jaw feeling like a clear tip of the hat by Ross to the King. Ross also imitates Kirby’s unconventional angles in his panel framings. Rather than painting, Ross inks his lines here, which make everything feel less statically rendered and more dynamic. Coupled with the flat coloring, each page is brimming with an energy that feels as far removed from the classical leanings of Ross’s previous interiors as one can imagine while still being recognizably his work.

On September 6, 2022

Written by Alex Ross

Art by Alex Ross

Colors by Alex Ross with Josh Johnson

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Letters by Ariana Mahar

Cover by Alex Ross

Ross pushes himself on page after page with one artistic flex after another. There are pages where he drops the colors entirely, using black and white and grey tones to imitate the collage pages Kirby would pepper into his work. There are others where he turns the dial in the other direction, using the color palette of a blacklight poster to soak the story in the negativity of the Negative Dimension.

Fantastic Four: Full Circle Review

There are two-page splashes possessing incredible scale, but Ross’s most impressive pages are the two-page spreads with diagonally oriented layouts. These are complex layouts that could be confusing, but in Ross’s skilled hands they flow easily from one panel to the next, and Ross has the characters break through the panel borders. Combined with the tilted layout, it creates an almost three-dimensional effect that makes it appear as if the heroes are actually bursting out of the page.

Fantastic Four: Full Circle is an absolutely mesmerizing artistic feat. Its story may be relatively simple, but it fits the spirit of the Silver Age comics that inspired it and works well as a thematic coda to one of the best-loved issues of the original Kirby and Lee Fantastic Four run. Any Fantastic Four fan is likely to find Full Circle a welcome addition to their library, and those simply looking for stunning comic book artwork will find just as much value in its pages. Ross has created a Jack Kirby tribute that does the legendary creator justice.

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