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Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules #1 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics – James Sturm (w); Guy Davis (a)
I’m a big believer in the notion that James Sturm is an unappreciated genius. His prior works, which include the absolutely awesome The Golem’s Mighty Swing, were all books that I enjoyed. So I was a little bit nervous about seeing him make his mainstream debut.
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Partially it was because I wasn’t sure how well suited he was to the type of books that Marvel produces (and by that, I mean that Sturm makes good books, books that qualify as art; Marvel, on the other hand, historically produces crap, for the most part). My other worry was, quite simply, that it wouldn’t be all that good and, hence, mainstream readers might not be inclined to seek out his more obscure work (i.e., like Kyle Baker on The Truth, easily his most underwhelming artistic performance to date).
But when the moment of truth arrived, I realize that I shouldn’t have worried. My faith in Sturm’s abilities is more than justified. Unstable Molecules is, to me, quite similar to Grant Morrison’s FF: 1234. And by that, I’m not implying that it’s dark or “twisted,” simply that it’s a more honest look at Marvel’s first family, dealing with the sometimes unpleasant subtexts inherent to the relationships those characters have with each other, than would otherwise with taken within the regular series. In Unstable Molecules, I don’t mind if Johnny Storm (or Sturm, as the case may be) is portrayed as being juvenile. It’s appropriate, given the setting (take note, Mark Waid).
However, I must complain about something and it has absolutely nothing to do with the creative team of the book. It’s to do with Marvel (what a surprise). Clearly, Marvel’s and my idea of what constitutes a “PG” book are two entirely different things. And seeing Mature Content below a book with that rating just seems, y’know, contradictory. If it has Mature Content (which the book clearly does, as Johnny not-so-subtly masturbates to one of his sister’s Vapor Girl comics and Reed essentially verbally abuses Sue through his domineering personality), how can it be a “PG +” rated book? What exactly about the “+” is supposed to make me think of teenage masturbation and unhealthy relationships? It’s a minor complaint, I admit, but it just struck me as wholly idiotic. If you’re going to have a ratings system that you either ignore or that makes no sense, why bother having one at all?