The name Neal Adams means a lot to the American comic book. From his lithe, acrobatic Batman to his dashing and dangerous Green Arrow, Neal Adams is a legendary artist to which many owe a great deal. However, as anyone who has follows the career of Frank Miller can attest, it can be sometimes difficult to reconcile a creator in their prime with their twilight achievements. With that in mind that, we crack open Neal Adams' and Mark Waid's Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1.
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Neal Adams, Laura Martin, and Mark Farmer
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Fantastic Four alumnus Waid puts on his best impression of a Marvel Silver Age script here, throwing in as much exclamatory dialogue as he can fit onto the page. Opening mid-attack from Annihilus, he turns in a breezy script here that gives Adams loads of room to show off. He continues the issue in a strictly traditional fashion – there's a distracted Reed Richards, an irritated Sue Storm, an antagonistic Johnny and Ben, before a frazzled Silver Surfer triggers a cliffhanger finale. Waid's script is a perfectly adequate vehicle for Adams' artwork, reading like a script that might have gotten lost behind John Romita or John Buscema's desk back in the day, re-earthed and finally drawn by one of their peers. The only modern-day revision that Waid makes is to dispense of verbose narrative captions, instead letting Adams tell the story with his artwork. It's fun, with very little to give your brain to chew on but lots for Adams to flex his artistic skills with.
Visually, there are diamonds here. Annihilus in all his gaudy glory makes for an arresting splash page, whilst Adams' animated posing and lively composition are the perfect recipe for a memorable action sequence. Even so, the modern workflow of Laura Martin's digital colors and Mark Farmer's heavy-handed pen struggle to elevate Adams' classically rooted and sometimes more impressionistic pencils. The inking is sometimes so thickly laid on that it begs the question of how much linework was even on the original page. Martin's palette works better. She splashes blue, purple, and red on to the page, daubing the issue in an unsaturated color that evokes a 12¢ past.
Adams' work is especially wild in the close-up. His Fantastic Four grimace their way through the issue with clenched jaws and bared teeth. He etches intensity on his characters' faces with deeply textured shading, turning the classically handsome into grotesque. There's a page here where the Thing plays a light-hearted prank on Johnny Storm, but Thing's impossibly pinned-back lips and Storm's aged visage twist Waid's silly script into an unintentional horror show.
This duality of beauty and beast is exemplified by the cover. A beautiful, tortured Silver Surfer - the very picture of agony, looked on by a goofy Thing - whose poorly rendered features barely resemble the Ben Grimm we know and love. The interior of Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 is equally inconsistent. You'll cheer for Adams' twilight triumph for one panel, then wish he'd stayed retired the very next. Despite all this, he saves the best for last here – the issue's final panel is gorgeous. It is impossible to fault Neal Adams for wanting to finally put his mark on the Fantastic Four. His passion for the material shines through, a bold vitality trying to escape from erratic pencils.
Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 is a victory lap from a pair of creators with nothing to prove. It's great to see Neal Adams doing more Marvel work, although his modern-day work understandably pales in comparison to his heyday. Mark Farmer's incredibly brute-force approach to inking does not help matters, exaggerating Adams' lines and highlights his weaknesses. Atop it all, Laura Martin's coloring ups the contrast and blasts you in the eyes with classic primary tones. Mark Waid's script is serviceable, hitting all the essential beats to showcase Adams' work. You already know if you want this or not. Prepare for an interesting curiosity from two legends.