Fantastic 4
The Official Movie Novelisation

Author: Peter David
Pocket Books
RRP £6.99
ISBN 1 4165 1104 0
Available 07 July 2005

Reed Richards and his friend Ben Grimm have a dream to harness the power of a cosmic storm to find genetic information that could aid all mankind. Having been turned down by everyone, and finding himself in financial difficulties, Reed turns to an old scientific rival, the industrialist Victor Von Doom, for help. With Victor's financial backing, and with a crew that includes Victor, Reed's old girlfriend Sue Storm and her brother Johnny, the five find themselves on a space station hoping to find knowledge that will change mankind, but due to a horrible miscalculation they themselves are changed. Can they overcome their internal squabbles to fight an increasingly paranoid Doom? Can they become The Fantastic Four...?

The Fantastic Four started as a 1961 comic book, from the fertile minds of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby - quite possibly the two most influential creators of the modern comic book genre. The Fantastic Four was a very different type of book; the main characters had no secret identities, and were presented as more of an extended family. In the case of Sue and Johnny they were brother and sister and eventually Reed would marry Sue, and Ben Grimm took the part of the grouchy uncle. The main difference, comic wise, was that, like any family, the stories were just as much about their relationships as they were about beating the baddie of the month.

This novelisation is written by Peter David, who has had a very successful career as an adapter and writer of television genre novels as well as comic books, so you would think that this would be an easy gig for him. But the first quarter of the book seems very badly written. It's a shame that the characterisations are so poorly handled. Prior to the launch into space Victor is described as living behind a mask, Sue feels invisible to Reed and still has her emotional shields up and Johnny is described as fiery in nature - King Lear this isn't. As the book progresses the terrible pun-smacks across the head ease down, but never really go away. Okay, so Peter David is restricted to a large extent by the original screenplay, but as Dennis O'Neil's Batman Begins novelisation shows it is possible to use the medium to improve on the original.

Stay with it and it does improve, though it never really captures the growing sense of family that was an integral part of the original comic. Victor's growing madness and his transformation into Doctor Doom is handled well, but ultimately he fails to include an added dimension to either the film or the characters; they remain without a doubt two dimensional. Maybe it's a fault of the type of stories that invariably have to be written to introduce a new team of superheroes - establish the characters, set up conflict with a baddie and end on a fight.

So, not a bad book, but one I think he most probably wrote in his sleep. It certainly doesn't detract from the film, but at the same time fails to add anything really new.

Charles Packer

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