Seriously, get the box set DVD before it disappears!
21 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I liked the 2005 Fantastic Four Movie. It also think that the 2007 follow up was entertaining as well. But, this cartoon based off of the movie universe trumps them hands down. The characters are something they have never been before in an animated series...human.

Reed Richards is still the staggering intellect who can stretch, but there's more to him than that. The voice actor for him, Hiro Kanagawa, brings a slight pipsqueak quality to him which instantly makes Mr. Fantastic endearing and vulnerable---even if he is smarter and richer than you are. It's a blast to see him sigh to himself as his teammates often don't think things through. Susan Storm receives the short end of the stick. However, this isn't because of bad writing. This is because she is usually the heart of the team and is mostly depicted as being neutral, yet still formidable. But, in certain situations, such as in the two episodes involving Namor, we see a more off center side to her personality emerge. The Human Torch is, as in the movie and the comics, the team's comic relief. It's really funny to hear him blast away at enemies with his mouth while he's also blasting away at them with fire. Finally, there is the Thing. Whereas Johnny Storm is the jester, Ben Grimm is played as the perennial, gruff straight man--and it works every time. Last, but not least, is H.E.R.B.I.E. A former black mark on the history of the Fantastic Four, it is now the neurotic, hopelessly high strung operating system for the Baxter Building and Reed's Lab. Think 2001's HAL crossed with Woody Allen and you get the idea. There are also the numerous villains.

In this series the F.F. deal with the Mole Man, Annihlus, the Kree, the Skrulls, Prince Namor, the Puppetmaster, the Frightful Four, Terminus, the Impossible Man, el Diablo, the Elders of the Universe. and, of course, Von Doom. In most cases, each villain has his own arc which goes over anywhere from two to eight episodes (in Doom's case). Speaking of Doom, he is always treated as a deadly serious villain. Even though he shows up in roughly a third of the episodes, each time the ante is upped. Be it time travel, launching the Baxter Building into space, body swapping, or even trapping the F.F. in the Negative Zone, he is always portrayed as nothing less than a dire threat to the F.F.'s survival and a bitter rival to Reed. I also need to mention the numerous, heroic guest stars.

The Hulk, Iron Man, Ant Man, and She Hulk all grace this series in guest starring roles. Usually in cartoons based off comics, when there are guest stars the show tends too loose a few I.Q. points. That's not the case here. The brawl between the Thing and the Hulk is masterfully drawn, paced, and though out. Tony Stark was shown to be both arrogant and a genius on Richard's level, without taking anything away from the F.F. Hell, even Ant Man, who talks to ants, was handled in a way that made the character engaging. A large part of what pulls this off is the animation.

This show treads that fine line between detailed imagery and fluidity that often cancel each other out. The flame covering the Human Torch is shown licking all around him in great detail. The cracks on the Thing's thick hide have a slight 3-D quality to them. Even so, no one ever stops moving. There is absolutely none of that awkward stillness that usually follows a sharp increase in detail. As a fan of animation, I find this amazing. Yes, some of the character designs (the Torch and Thing) take an episode or two to get used to. Once you do, they are hardly a problem.

The stories are well written and animated. The characters are true to their roots, with no compromises being made. The writers of this show even found a way to balance grave danger with mild humor in a way that manages to never pull any punches. In short, this show surpasses every previous animated incarnation of the Fantastic Four to ever grace the screen by miles.

One last thing, buy the season box set and not the other smaller releases. This way you can sit back and enjoy the story lines in the order they were meant to be seen. Trust me, it really makes a difference and puts this program on top as it has a fairly tight serial quality to it. Season one of the Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes costs about $26.99, at Amazon, which is pretty much a dollar per episode. I cannot stress how much this was money well spent on my part or how blown away by this series I was. Shame on you, Cartoon Network, for not giving it a fighting chance.
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