Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big In Japan #1

I got the sizzle but not the steak
I got the boat but not the lake
I got the sheets but not the bed
I got the jam but not the bread

But heh I'm big in Japan I'm big in Japan I'm big in Japan

-Tom Waits, "Big In Japan", Mule Variations

I know that Tom Waits' song has little or nothing to do with the similarly named Marvel miniseries by Zeb Wells and Seth Fisher. I don't care. It's my party and I'll free-associate if I want to.

How's this for an awkward tie-in to excuse my gratuitous quotage? "Big In Japan definitely has the sizzle, and I don't even know if I care that there ain't much steak."

Since I'm all about the coloring lately, let me fix Marvel's cover-credit error by giving full props to Chris Chuckry. There's not a doubt in my mind that his playful palette is a good part of what makes Fisher's art pop off the page so much. Every page is a delight for the eyes, a riot of color and form. Fisher's been allowed to go hog-wild in this book, running the Fantastic Four through a variety of deformations from bulging eyes to manga minimizing to .... well, whatever the heck is happening to Reed in the above panel. It's a book like this, I suppose, that delivers on the promise of NuMarvel: let continuity and uniformity slide in favor of letting creators create. This is not the Fantastic Four that's over in the main franchise title, and makes to attempt to be anything other than a fun story. It's over-the-top, existing in a whole different universe of giant monsters and superhero otakus that bears little resemblance to the rest of Marvel, and no apologies are made.

The only problem with the beautiful pages that Fisher and Chuckry produce is that I kept forgetting to actually read. When I did remember, I didn't really find much there. It's a lightweight story that sets up just enough plot to let the art take center stage. Having never read anything by Zeb Wells before, I really can't tell is he's a lightweight or a genius. Though there's not much to the script, there doesn't need to be. It's as if Wells knew that he was just playing in the rhythm section, and that Fisher was on vocals with Chuckry on lead guitar. I'm not sure if the writing can sustain another three issues - it seems like the "steak" needs to show eventually - but I like that Wells is serving a nice fat pitch here for the art team to knock out of the park.

Big In Japan is expensive and ad-heavy, but a complete delight. It'll make for a wonderful trade, and I think I'll keep buying the monthlies just to get a dose of this every 30 days. It's a treat for the eyes, if not the brain, and a great example of what Marvel's more relaxed continuity can produce at it's best.



joncormier said...

Being a huge Tome Waits fan myself I was a bit skeptical about the book at first. He's famous for suing advertisers for using his songs so I had no idea if something like this comic would deserve similar treatment. Thankfully it was a hoot!

Your thoughts are pretty much the same as mine on this one.

Shane Bailey said...

For some reason my comment didn't post, but I said to check out Fisher's other work on Green Lantern Willworld, a Flash one shot he did a while back, and the recently concluded arc to Legends of the Dark Knight called Snowblind.

Ian said...

For a good showcase in Wells's writing check out Spider-Man's Tangled Web #20. It's a good profile of J. Jonah Jameson with excellent artwork by Dean Haspiel.

Mark Fossen said...

Thanks for all the reccomendations.

Shane - does Fisher always work with Chuckry? I say some preview art for the LOTDK arc, and the colors were a lot more muted. Still beautiful, just not with the pop that blew me way in Big In Japan.

I'll defenitely keep an eye out on Wells, Ian. I'd like to get a clearer picture of him.

Shane Bailey said...

Not sure, I'll have to check when I get home. Fisher reminds me of a warped Geoff Darrow with all the detail he puts into his work.