(p) Mark Bagley
I’ve never been a big fan of the Fantastic Four. They’ve always existed in a weird middle ground for me — somewhere between science-based adventure books and superhero-filled action titles. For some, the mixture of pulp and ‘weird science’ is a welcome alternative to comic books that provide only one or the other…not me. I don’t ‘gel’ with the Fantastic Four, though I’ve tried for years to figure out why. Turns out it’s the writing.
Fantastic Four #1 is just good fun. After a few years of concept-heavy storytelling from the masterful Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction brings his signature style to Marvel’s first family. The issue starts off with a “One Year From Now” full-page spread featuring what looks to be a de-Thing’ed Ben Grimm, then we’re thrown 2 million years into the past where Reed Richards gets seriously injured for the first time since the accident that gave him his body-stretching ability. It’s all very bombastic and ‘in your face’, which would normally go against Fraction’s more subtle nature, but at it’s core, this story is about something universal, something we can all relate to — family.
Recognizing their need to balance life as a family and as super-powered heroes, Reed convinces Susan, Ben, and Johnny Storm to take a year-long vacation (with, “Less action. More adventure,” as Reed puts it) in a vessel that can travel through all space and time. The catch is, Franklin and his older sister Valeria will be accompanying the team. The young Franklin Richards indirectly drives Fraction’s story, as his distressed emotional state during his parents’ absence leads Reed to develop one of the team’s old ships into a multi-dimensional classroom wherein Franklin and Valeria can learn from first-hand experience as they jet off through worlds and times unknown. Oh, and because it’s a time machine, too, they’ll just return minutes after they’ve left even though it’ll feel like a year for Richards & Company. It’s a high-concept idea that comes in an extremely easy to swallow form.
After reading Marvel NOW! Point One, I was mainly just interested in reading Fraction’s FF, but after this debut issue of Fantastic Four, I will most certainly be following the adventures of Marvel’s first family as they steal away through the multiverse in search of adventure and knowledge. If nothing else, ‘Marvel NOW!’ is most assuredly bucking my usual preferences, which was kind of the point in the first place, right?