Without a doubt, children’s superhero entertainment is getting better and better with each passing year and though perhaps not quite up there with the best of them (like the hugely popular and successful Batman animated universe), Marvel’s 2006 Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes, a 26 episodes long animated television series, certainly warrants more than just a quick glance.
For those of you not familiar with one of Marvel’s original super-powered teams, the Fantastic Four is made up of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), Susan Storm (Invisible Woman), Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) and Benn Grimm (The Thing). Bathed in cosmic radiation after a space flight experiment gone wrong, each of these intrepid individuals gained some rather extraordinary abilities. Mr. Fantastic, the genius scientist of the group, is able to stretch and elongate his body into whatever shape he can imagine, while the hot-head and impetuous Johnny Storm has the ability to generate fire, and literally transform himself into a flying, flaming inferno. Susan Storm is gifted with the ability to turn invisible as well as generate immensely strong, invisible force fields while Benn Grimm had the unfortunate luck in turning into something of an orange bricked monster, possessing almost godlike strength.
These four have now banded together to form the invincible Fantastic Four, a group dedicated to protecting this Earth and saving their fellow man from disaster.
The series itself consists of pretty much a number of one-shot stories (though with a fairly cohesive under-plot for the first half of the series), usually involving a bit of a tussle with some of the group’s most infamous villains, including the likes of the heinous Doctor Doom of course! Just as with the usually enjoyable comic book run, the stories are jam-packed with action but at the same time tempered with a lot of humour and the expected amount of silly quips and in-fighting, and while the series is for the most part pretty faithful to the original source material, it does tend to re-imagine quite a lot of the more familiar first encounter story lines.
Overall the show does mange to find the right balance between laughs, excitement and danger pretty nicely and this leaves you with a package that although not particularly thought-provoking, is at least more than engaging and entertaining enough to keep both young and old alike enthralled with the team’s varied adventures throughout.
The series is produced by French-based animation company Moonscoop, but the styling and overall feel is certainly more Korean than anything else. Some of the designs (particularly Johnny Storm’s hair) are a little off-putting, but despite these small personal niggles, the show looks just too damn awesome for words. Mordern anime-inspired animation, stylish lines and some pretty decent shading and colouring all combine to bring a really good-looking animated show to life.
However, despite all that praise I’ve just heaped on the visual aspects of the show, there is unfortunately one big ‘no no’ that really does need to be pointed out, and that is the rather forced use of some silly looking 3D CG that occurs throughout the show. Unfortunately (and this is in most cases) the meld between 2D and 3D just really doesn’t work – at all, and unfortunately this unsightly combination that the animators seem determined to throw in wherever they can really does detract in quite a huge way from the show’s polished gleam.
(Thankfully though they do redeem themselves ever so slightly with the cool title screens they employ, so I’m willing to forgive them just this once!)
Aurally Fantastic Four features a pretty funky opening and closing track and in general the in-show musical compositions are of a pretty high and enjoyable nature. Similarly, the main set of voice artists that includes Hiro Kanagawa as Reed Richards, Lara Gilchrist as Susan Storm, Christopher Jacot as Johnny Storm and Brian Dobson as Ben Grimm, all put in a sterling effort and manage to just round off what is already a solid and polished package.
So in summary, if you are a fan of one of Marvel’s premier super-powered groups then you are assured that you’ll absolutely love this updated interpretation of the team and their group dynamics. If you’re not, well, most likely you’ll end up enjoying this series anyway – as long as you’re not expecting something on the same level of sophistication as perhaps the original Batman animated series. It looks good (for the most part), sounds polished and will most certainly provide all the action and laughs that you are looking for from a kid’s cartoon series.
Have a look, it certainly won’t harm you.
Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantastic_Four:_World%27s_Greatest_Heroes