Episode #19: Frightful
Original Airdate: August 18th, 2007

A new team of heroes has arrived in New York, and they’re stealing the Fantastic Four’s thunder! The Wizard, Klaw, Trapster and Dragon Man are always one step ahead of the FF, saving lives and becoming media darlings -- much to the team’s chagrin. But while the two teams butt heads, Reed begins to suspect that this ‘Frightful Four’ doesn’t have such noble intentions. The FF will have to save the city from its new team of heroes, whether they like it or not.

Story By Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
Written by Bob Forward
Directed by Franck Miohel
Music by Noam Kaniel
Animation By Sunmin/ The Animation Studio/ Fantasta

Mr. Fantastic - Hiro Kanagawa
Invisible Woman - Lara Gilchrist
The Thing - Brian Dobson
Human Torch - Christopher Jacot

S.C.B -As I watched this episode and took in all the different reactions I found myself having, I decided something. Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes is a sitcom. The ingredients are there; ordinary couple, joined in their house by rambunctious younger brother and grouchy best friend. It’s just, instead of dealing with hilarious misunderstandings and awkward dates, they save the world from time to time. Oftentimes I find myself thinking I’m watching an episode of, say, The Venture Bros or Harvey Birdman. Just not as offensive, obviously.

Take the Frightful Four, for instance (or, as everyone but Reed calls them, the Wizard’s Four). On a purely visual basis, they’re clearly villains. The Wizard has an evil goatee and a smug, evil genius voice. The Trapster has a vaguely evil looking mask, and a power that just couldn’t be used by a hero; it’s far too lame. And Claw… look at the guy. Just look at him. Jagged lines on his costume, sharp teeth, monstrous voice and glowing yellow eyes. How is that notevil? And of course, Dragon Man, who I had assumed was created for the show, but lo and behold, some Wikipedia research later, I find myself humbled at the bizarre array of comic book knowledge the creative team have at their disposal.

As I said, they’re obviously evil people. And yet the public of New York embrace them with open arms. Yes, they saved lives, but so did the Fantastic Four, many more times previously, I might add. It’s just a little bit ridiculous, which bring me back to my point about the nature of the show. Taken as a serious superhero show along the lines of X-Men: Evolution or Justice League, FF:WGH just doesn’t cut it, because it’s not serious. Just look at Johnny’s ‘slideshow’ of trying to save people in, as he puts it, ‘really cool ways’. Very funny stuff, but not something you associate with superheroes. Which, I think, makes the show stand out amongst the pack. Similarly, when the aforementioned serious superhero shows have attempted humorous episodes, more often than not they fell flat on their face.

Very much the opposite situation with Fantastic Four.

And there is just so much to laugh at in this episode, from each member of the Four. Sue’s complete and utter hatred for Claw, her emotional reaction eclipsing anything the others feel. Ben and Johnny snickering at the Trapster’s ‘Paste Pot Pete’ nickname. Johnny’s aforementioned ‘slideshow’ and his huffy announcement that he is moving to Japan. Hell, even H.E.R.B.I.E got a good laugh out of me (“I’m sorry, but I’m not going down like that poor warehouse! I won’t!”).

And, of course, Reed. He gets one of the best punch lines I’ve heard on this show. It had me laughing away during the credits. His distaste for the Wizard, so well hidden for the entire episode except for one disinterested ‘Really?’ about halfway through. It just made that one line so worthwhile

Something else I’ve seen the show lambasted for is the fight scenes. I’d just like to point out right now, however, that the animation itself is superb. It’s just beautiful to look at. It’s the storyboarding that’s at fault with this show. It always feels like the action’s going on just off to the left. I never feel like I’m getting a good look at it. That said, the fight scenes weren’t that bad in this episode. I got a clear idea of what was going on, there were enough funny bits and sympathetic ‘ouch’ moments (Claw being hit by the subway train, particularly) to make it entertaining. They weren’t (ahem) fantastic by any means, but they got the job done.

I think it’s a matter of remembering where the storyboard artists and animators are in terms of how much they’ve done. People are comparing the fight scenes here to Justice League Unlimited and Teen Titans, which really isn’t fair. The people working on those shows had a huge backlog of superhero cartoons (with complicated fight scenes included) behind them. Remember, the fights in Batman: The Animated Series weren’t anything to write home about, either.

In any case, this episode was a lot of fun. But I do think the show could benefit from having some villains that can be taken seriously. Even Doctor Doom has been made the punch line a bit too often, which to some is a crime against mother nature herself. As much as his episodes in the 90s show were sometimes difficult to watch, the good Doctor always gave the Four a run for their money, which is something that needs to happen every once in a while.

Otherwise, you know, the show just ends up being a sitcom.

I give ‘Frightful’ 3/5, but I’ll add on another point and make it a 4. Why? Because we all know who that freelance photographer was supposed to be. Stan Lee bless the makers of this show.


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