Let's begin with some very sad news. Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four artist Mike Wieringo died on August 12 of an apparent heart attack. He was only 44 years old. Mike broke into the super-hero big leagues in the early nineties on DC's Flash series, in which he co-created Impulse (Bart Allen) who, in a sad coincidence, was killed off earlier this summer. In the following 15 or so years, he penciled Spidey (in both "Sensational" and "Friendly Neighborhood"), the FF, Rogue, and others, including his fantasy Tellos, co-created with Todd DeZago. For those raised on Kirby, Ditko, Romita, and Buscema super-heroes, Mike's manga-tinged artwork was initially a shock but once attuned to it, it never left your system. His artistry and craftsmanship were consistently strong, his style unique, his layout and action instincts impeccable. He will be sorely missed.
Now comes the hard part. I have to review Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #4. You may recall the first three issues only got one web apiece. You may recall that I flippantly announced last time that I was saving a half-web for the finish. There was always the chance that the final issue would turn the whole mini-series around and finish with a flourish. It didn't. And though it seems crass to criticize a Mike Wieringo-penciled issue so soon after his death (always noting that my criticism had nothing to do with Mike's artwork in these issues), I feel that my job is to review the comic, not the heartbreaking reality. I had already read and formulated my opinion of the issue before I ever heard the news and I'm going to stick with it. Here then is my half-web review. (Yes, I'm sorry to say, it is a half-web review.)
You may recall that, last time, Reed Richards came up with some intel that he believed would get the lion-like Imperator to reverse the invasion of the H'Mojens. And Spidey puked something up.
It turns out that the green smoking thing vomited by Spidey is the whole P'oppup'ian race. You may remember that the Impossible Man was apparently disintegrated in issue #1. "I must have breathed in what was left!" Spidey says. Impy, you may recall, contained the essence of his whole race within himself and they then rebuilt themselves from a single cell inside Spidey, developing into a huge multi-mouthed blob that is decidedly ticked off.
Meanwhile, Reed returns from space, disrupting the Imperator's "time/space technology" and allowing the Thing to engage in a little clobberin' time. The Imperator grafts various African animals together, creating monsters that fight Spidey and the FF until the P'oppup'ians make their appearance. They trash the Imperator and then announce that they will no longer contain themselves within one member of their race. Now they intend to take over the world. (I know they've been through a lot, but I thought all the P'oppup'ians were cheerful, oblivious guys that previously sacrified their planet to Galactus without batting an eye. Where'd this pissed off attitude come from?)
As the H'Mojens arrive to attack the P'oppup'ians, Reed reveals that the Imperator saved his world from colonization, in true Silver Surfer fashion, by becoming the new Imperator and promising to find worlds for the H'Mojen. The P'oppup'ians start to separate the H'Mojen from their hosts in a process that protects the humans but kills the H'Mojen. Reed convinces the Imperator to recall the H'Mojen into his ship to save their lives. The only option seems to be for the Imperator to take the H'Mojen back to his world to merge with his people but as the P'oppup'ians plan to overrun Earth with "nine billion unique beings", Spidey gets an idea to tie it all up neatly. And so the Imperator absorbs the P'oppup'ians into his ship and takes them to an uninhabited planet Reed found. There they merge with the H'Mojen to "combine the most adaptable yet directionless species in the galaxy with the growth-driven one unable to change on their own." This merge seems to please both races, the Imperator gets to retire and the H'Mojen/P'oppup'ians build a huge stone bust of Spider- Man.
Back on Earth, as Peter and MJ walk by, a cat hacks up a little piece of green glop that "pops" up into the Impossible Man. (I'm not sure it makes any sense that the part of Impy inhaled by Spidey brought back the whole P'oppup'ian race while the part ingested by the cat only brought back Impy but I'm not going to spend any time figuring it out.) No sign of the gold-toothed guy from #1, though. Turns out he was a cheap plot device after all.
Given the circumstances, I see no reason to dwell on this. Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four was a misconceived mini-series to begin with, no doubt motivated by the desire to capitalize on the Spidey and FF summer movies rather than by any creative ideas. Consider the artwork as one of Ringo's final gifts to fandom and ignore the storyline. Let's leave it at that.
With apologies. One half web.