Looks like it’s time to review one of the Marvel cartoons that fell under the radar. The Fantastic Four have had several shows, but they’ve never had the same amount of success as the Avengers or the X Men. I’ve seen episodes from two of the other series, but this is the first one where I got to watch the whole series from start to finish. It’s a decent show, but it makes many mistakes, which keeps it from being known as one of the better cartoons. You can certainly see why it was cancelled, but it’s still a good title to check out.
There aren’t any large story arcs in the show. There are plots that continue like villains who go in and out of jail and Dr Doom’s never ending plans to destroy the Fantastic Four once and for all, but nothing to really talk about in the plot selection. A lot of episodes are stand alone fights with the various villains. We also have the Kree subplot as they start to get pretty fed up with the group of heroes. The Fantastic Four antagonize just about everyone that they meet so they have a lot of enemies. Naturally, Dr Doom is at the top of the list.
There are 26 episodes, which is a decent episode count for a series. It’s not a whole lot when you compare it to the other Fantastic Four shows, but cracking the 20 episode barrier is always something to be proud of. That being said, the show was just not as high quality as we have come to expect back in the time that it aired. One of the main problems is actually the animation.
It’s some of the worst animation that I have ever seen for a superhero cartoon. We can make the case that the CGI Spiderman series looked worse, but it was CGI so that’s to be expected. The character designs here are just pretty off putting and the colors can get very chaotic. The show loves to make everything look red or green or blue depending on how the animators are feeling that day. It’s not very pleasing to the eyes and they just seem to be having too much fun trying to make the show unique. Focusing on the fight scenes would have been a better way to have kept the series afloat. I could not get used to this animation no matter how many episodes I saw.
The soundtrack is certainly better, but it’s still not very good. There’s one classic theme that plays whenever they are about to fight and it’s a pretty decent theme for the Fantastic Four. The problem is that the soundtrack is very limited so you’ll be hearing the same theme in just about every episode and typically more than once. It’s a good theme, but (almost) any theme will get old after a number of times. We need variety!
Those two factors hurt the show, but what hurt it even more is the overall cast. The Fantastic Four are known to argue and fight a whole lot, but they take it to a whole new level here. They are constantly talking and there is never a quiet scene in the entire show. Human Torch is like a music box that you just can’t close and he’s always on screen. The others love to contribute as well and the villains play their part. It wouldn’t be a problem if the lines were good, but that’s rarely the case. I’d definitely compare it to Avengers Assemble since just about every line here is supposed to be witty and make you smile. The scary part is that Avengers Assemble actually does a better job with this, but it could just be that I like the characters a little more there. Let’s look at the characters in more detail.
Mr Fantastic is easily the best character in the show. It’s not even close and I also liked the voice that was chosen for him. He really sounds like he’s full of himself and that’s the Reed Richards that I know. He’s always got a plan at the ready and he doesn’t back down. I’ve never seen an incarnation of Mr Fantastic that I did not like and I’m glad to see that this hasn’t changed so far. His powers still aren’t great for combat, but he definitely has his moments.
The Invisible Woman is not bad, but she definitely gives Mr Fantastic a lot of grief during the series. She blames him for the Human Torch’s disappearance at one point, which was fairly unreasonable. One thing that helps to counter this is that she’s easily the strongest member of the team. When she uses her powers effectively, there are few fighters who can really stop her and almost none of those are main FF characters. She runs the business side of the Baxter Building so she tends to talk to the various inhabitants a little more than the others. This means that she has to keep up a pleasant facade from time to time, but the other members know that she is always ready to fight. Sue Storm is probably the only member who can talk back to one of their meaner neighbors.
I’m definitely not a huge Thing fan and he doesn’t do himself any favors here. He’s a pretty nice guy as he just wants to watch his ball games in peace. Unfortunately, the Human Torch will never let that happen so they get into constant arguments. His side plot with Alisha can also drag on a lot since it never goes anywhere. I think there’s no real excuse for the heroes not to cure her blindness and she should also move somewhere that’s a little safer from the Puppet Master. Alisha’s not a bad character, but she’s always been one of my least favorite heroines. She simply doesn’t have a whole lot of character and she naturally doesn’t get any fight scenes. The Thing is the power hitter of the Fantastic Four, but you’d be surprised at how often he still manages to lose fights. The Mole Men’s minions are able to take him down and that was during a rage moment. This certainly isn’t Ben Grimm’s best collection of moments, but the show did adapt his character pretty faithfully. I’ll give the writers some props there.
The Human Torch is unfortunately the most annoying character of the group. For every good line that he has, he’ll have 10 wince worthy ones. The reason for this is the fact that he never stops talking. He continue going on and on until he’s knocked out by a villain. It’s nice to see his confidence and he does pretty well during some of the events, but this version of Johnny Storm is just a little too exaggerated. Naturally, he is given a rather high pitched voice to make him look even worse when he is knocked out. His fire abilities are definitely useful and I would argue that he could defeat the Thing, but there are also a lot of ways around his fire that make him a risky ally to have. He’s typically fun to watch, but he goes overboard way too often to be a really likable character this time.
The Skrulls naturally get to appear and the writers must have really disliked them. They are shown to have little to no actual intelligence. They are very obvious in their attempts to gather intel on the Fantastic Four and they are brushed aside rather easily once the fighting begins. They have never been the toughest of enemies, but they are typically intelligence. They are masters of espionage after all so they wouldn’t make the rookie mistakes that they exhibit in their appearances. It was a pretty good episode though, but their portrayal should have been a little better.
Namor makes a quick appearance in the show and naturally he is rivals with Mr Fantastic. They are constantly getting into arguments and trying to one up the other. Namor is not as bad as you would expect since he is typically a very unlikable character for me. He still shows some of those traits, but the focus is more on him being a leader than on his other qualities. That helps him a lot and he makes for a good guest star. It’s unfortunate for him that he has to ask the surface dwellers for assistance, but the Fantastic Four are always happy to oblige. I was more than satisfied with his portrayal.
Hulk looks pretty good here in his beast form and as Bruce Banner. It’s sad for Bruce since he’s always so close to getting a cure until things just don’t go his way. Considering how smart Reed is, you’d assume that he’d be able to cure him easily. The Hulk’s design isn’t very good, but he definitely looks tough. It’s safe to say that the Thing was completely outmatched in their skirmish and that’s how all of their fights should end up. Bruce Banner gets the short end of the stick as per usual, but his personality was pretty good and he was a likable guest star.
Ronan appears a few times and he has actually defected from the Kree this time. In the comics, that is pretty rare although I don’t necessarily mind the change. It means that he is now free to do as he pleases and he naturally challenges the Fantastic Four. His skill with his hammer is formidable and he has a nice fight against the Human Torch. I’ve never found him to be an incredibly powerful fighter, but against the Fantastic Four I would definitely give him some decent odds in a fight. He’s around the Thing’s level in strength here, if not a little weaker. He gave us one of the better episodes here in the form of a sort of Olympics competition against the Fantastic Four, which was pretty cool. He was definitely one of the better villains in the series.
The Mole Man is probably my least favorite villain in the series. He can’t fight and his design is pretty hard to look at. None of his plans should have any reasonable chance to succeed considering how weak his forces are. Unfortunately, he is one of the more popular Fantastic Four villains so he gets to appear several times. You end up feeling bad for his minions since they’ll never get to see the sun. He has to rely on his wit and cunning to win his fights since his staff can only get him so far. It’s always wince worthy to see him defeat the Fantastic Four.
The Impossible Man is one of those characters that I never like. His reality warping abilities are something that I never want to see in a show so a character whose whole gimmick is related to that is naturally not my kind of character. He mostly just comes to troll the heroes until they trick him into leaving. His episodes are typically more annoying than entertaining. Ant Man made a surprise guest star appearance in this show considering that he typically doesn’t get to be a guest star anywhere. His portrayal was pretty good and he definitely seems to know what he’s doing. There’s not all that much to say about him, but it would be nice to see him fight someday. Fighting minions doesn’t really count, he needs to take on a super villain!
Ironman gets to appear, which is pretty cool. Tony Stark’s portrayal is pretty great since he acts pretty fearless even as the Fantastic Four begin to threaten him. As Iron Man, he definitely proves to be an impressive fighter as you would expect. His armor does get hacked once again, but it is by Dr Doom so it’s pretty excusable. I liked the armor design here, which is a plus and he was definitely one of (if not) the best guest stars on the show. It’s too bad that he didn’t get to return since that would have been pretty cool.
The Super Skrull naturally gets to appear, which is good since he’s a very iconic Fantastic Four villain. I always liked the idea of a guy who had all of their individual abilities and he does not disappoint. He puts up a pretty decent fight and what he makes up for in personality, he makes up for in attitude. He’s never been a very deep character anyway so I hadn’t been expecting all that much. Still, he was a pretty cool villain thanks to his battles and appearance.
The Puppet Master is similar to the Mole Man in that he can’t really fight. He actually has a very overpowered ability, which enables him to control anyone that he has made a statue out of. Techncially, nobody can really counter such a technique so he cannot lose. Plot hax ensues and they get out of his plot, but it’s one of those cases where the writers just made him a little too good. That happens sometimes I suppose, but it’s why you’ve always got to be careful. Even with that ability, he’s just not likable. He’s a really old guy who’s out for vengeance…not a very original story.
She Hulk gets a guest star role and she shows why she is about as strong as the Thing. She is mainly here to remind us why the Thing is so important to the team, but she’s still pretty likable. She was always a pretty good replacement member on the team and she doesn’t rub it in. She’s a team player, but she’s naturally here for the money. It would have been cool for her to have had a real fight with the Thing, but maybe next time. I was just glad to have another guest star.
Terminus is the final villain in the series and it was an interesting decision to end with him. He’s incredibly powerful, but also incredibly slow, which helps to even it out. The heroes quickly despair when they see him until they remember that Reed will think of a plan. So, all of the pressure rests on Reed and it’s thanks to his quick thinking that the heroes survive. Terminus is pretty gullible and I can’t say that I like him, but I do like the idea of a giant mech running around New York. He makes for a good villain.
The Frightful Four appear as a foil to the Fantastic Four. They pretend to be heroes for a while, but we naturally don’t buy that for long. It’s one of the better episodes as they try to humiliate the Fantastic Four on TV until they eventually begin to fight. Mr Fantastic really lets loose and he gets a pretty epic line to end the episode. The members of the Frightful Four are decent. The Wizard is pretty smart after all, but they are rather simple villains. They’re around, but they aren’t on screen long enough to become likable. They make for good villains and that’s about all that you can say for them.
Diablo is a one shot character, but it’s cool to see him try to convince everyone that magic is real. He’s a villain who is hard to take seriously since his powers don’t have many offensive capabilities, but he really tries and that’s the important thing. He definitely isn’t a very interesting villain, but he only appeared once so it wasn’t a real problem. Annihilius is more interesting and I’m not even a fan of the guy. Annihilius also gets to appear in one of the episodes and things aren’t going well for him when his weapon is stolen. Let’s just say that a team up may be in order unless he can snatch the scepter back on his own. He’s not mindless per say, but he’s not one of the Fantastic Four’s more intelligent villains either. He’s a monster who will defend his territory and I guess that will have to be good enough for us. On the bright side, his design is pretty good.
Ultimately, the show definitely had some fun guest stars. It also had some pretty fun episodes like the olympic games and the one with the Frightful Four. From the 26 episodes, I’m sure that at least half of them are pretty good. There were just other episodes that were not so good and ones that were only decent. The problem is that some episodes can toe the line where they almost feel a little boring. It’s partially thanks to the intros as a lot of the episodes begin rather similarly with the Human Torch and Thing fighting. It can just be hard to really get into the feel of the episode, which hurts its chances. The series definitely has no real replay value since you will never care to watch it again. Other big shows like Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Justice League don’t have that problem since you really want to watch them again. That’s probably due to the fact that this show has no good fights. It’s just the way that it was made, but you never feel the blows here. The lack of a plot only serves to amplify this and your first time around will likely be your last.
As far as Marvel cartoons go, this one still does beat Hulk Agents of Smash though so that’s a consolation win. It’s still not a bad show either since I would have given it a quick 4 in that case. It has its pros and cons and they basically cancel out in the long run. Watching an episode shouldn’t be considered as 20 minutes wasted, but it won’t leave you as fulfilled as other shows. Compared to most western shows at the moment, this would probably seem like an all star in comparison. Compared to most Marvel tunes, then it definitely seems to be under average.
Overall, The Fantastic Four were never the World’s Greatest Heroes so the title may have already started firing off some warning bells. The characters can be pretty annoying and it’s really hard to get invested into some of the episodes. They just aren’t very entertaining and the sub par animation does not help its case. That being said, we still do get a lot of fight scenes and we have a decent amount of guest stars. Some episodes are certainly better than others and at its best, the show can still be good. It’s just not very consistent and you are always playing with fire here. I recommend checking this show out if you’ve always wanted to see a new Fantastic Four cartoon, but otherwise I recommend watching the classic 90’s series instead. It’s a more accurate representation of the team and the comics that spawned them. On the bright side, you’ll get to see the Hulk duke it out with the Thing in this show!