Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artists: Greg Smallwood, Mark Bagley, Luciano Vecchio, Pere Pérez
Colorists: Greg Smallwood, Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Esad Ribić
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ever since Fantastic Four finally returned to comic stands last year, the Marvel Universe has felt a little less empty than it did after Secret Wars. It seems the company is aware of how badly their presence was missed, and this week’s 4 Yancy Street #1 is the first in a series of planned quarterly releases (see: Web of Venom) meant to flesh out the world of Marvel’s first family. As you could probably guess from the title, this issue spotlights Ben Grimm, AKA everybody’s favorite ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing.
Although Ben never actually went anywhere during the F4’s absence (he and Johnny remained on Earth while the Richards clan and the Future Foundation were MIA), there was definitely still a spark missing whenever he appeared. With his family back together, Ben has since gotten married to long-time flame Alicia Masters, and he’s arguably in the best place he’s ever been in his life. So when his pet project, the Daniel Grimm Jr. Youth Center (named for his late brother) is vandalized, Ben takes it upon himself to find the culprit.
One thing I really appreciate about 4 Yancy Street is how low-stakes it is, especially compared to the usual cosmic shenanigans faced by the F4 (4 Yancy Street, of course, being the F4’s current residence on the street where Ben grew up). The thing about superhero comics that people often forget is how their action-packed adventures are really just Trojan horses for character drama and social commentary. If professional wrestling is secretly a soap opera marketed to (predominantly) heterosexual men, then superhero fiction is precisely that for geeks (there’s a reason why there’s so much overlap between wrestling and superhero fandom!).
As much as I’ve been enjoying Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four thus far, it has felt a bit on the lighter side in terms of perspective, which makes perfect sense knowing how Marvel likely wants to keep things simple for them since they just came back. 4 Yancy Street, however, feels like it has something to say about community and grief, which makes an otherwise innocuous one-shot feel worthy of existing.
Ben is a classic example of ironic characterization: he’s the big-hearted softy who looks like a scary rock monster. He’s the emotional core of the Fantastic Four, and the best Thing stories put that front and center; writer Gerry Duggan seems to have a good understanding of that. There’s one notable line of dialogue where, upon being told he’ll never be a viable “solo artist” by an antagonist, Ben replies by saying, “But I ain’t solo, am I?” That soundbite serves as the perfect encapsulation of Ben Grimm as a character and how he relates to the world around him. He’s unselfish and community-minded, which is why the vandalization of his YC hits him so hard.
The art of 4 Yancy Street is uniformly great, switching between four talented artists who all deliver great visuals, even if their clashing aesthetics make for a somewhat jarring reading experience. Greg Smallwood’s pages are definitely my favorite, especially the early ones that recount Ben’s upbringing, presented with flat coloring and grainy sepia overlay that evokes the feel of older comics after decades of aging. I’m not sure if this issue will actually be printed on specific paper stock and not the glossy lightweight kind that Marvel usually uses, but it would really lend a little something extra to the proceedings if they go with the former.