Fantastic Four
War Zone

Author: Greg Cox
Pocket Books
RRP 6.99
ISBN 1 4165 1127 X
Available 04 July 2005

Out of nowhere creatures from the Negative Zone are invading New York. Although the initial incursions are halted by the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards fears that this may be the prelude to a full invasion. Leaving behind his wife Sue; the Invisible Woman and her brother Johnny; the Human Torch to defend the Earth, Reed and the Thing travel into the Negative Zone to confront their unseen adversary...

War Zone, by Greg Cox, is just the latest of many genre books that he has written; having previously published works which cover comic book heroes, Star Trek and Alias. From a comic book fan there is a lot to commend this book, though I'm not sure what the general public, whose only access to the characters is the film, are going to make of it.

The book is densely packed with references to the Fantastic Four's past; indeed the first few pages are a virtual catalogue of some of the most important races and characters to appear in the comic book. It does not end there as the references, though not coming so thick and fast, are provided as a steady stream throughout the remainder of the story. For an old fan boy like me, who grew up on the comics, this is a smorgasbord of nostalgia, but I can imagine that the casual reader will spend much of their time utterly confused by this.

The individuals, which make up the Fantastic Four, are drawn well and I particularly liked the fact that Greg Cox just takes their super powers for granted. As in the comics the story happens on an almost parallel world that looks and feels very much like our own, except for some landmarks and the fact that super heroes exist. As such, there are no long drawn out explanations as to why they are; they just are.

On the down side much of the book, like the comic, appears to be little more that a very long drawn out fight scene, fine for a couple of pages, but it makes for heavy going in its relentlessness. This also leaves little room for character or emotional development. The villains suffer most from this with only the most cursory examination of their motives; the character of Annihilus does a little better than does Blasraar, who remains an overblown pantomime character (should be played by Brian Blessed). But still you feel that, with a little less fighting, more time could have be devoted to developing a more engrossing narrative.

So over all not bad, its not going to make anyone's top ten fantasy or sci-fi book list, but its an easy Saturday morning read, which wont take you long to complete.

Charles Packer

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