(a) Joe Quinones
I haven’t written about FF in a while. I reviewed the first issue, wherein I exclaimed that Matt Fraction and Mike Allred’s new tale of a replacement Fantastic Four was one of the best new series I’d picked up in a long time. Those initial issues really grabbed me and did a good job of making the Future Foundation a franchise I actively wanted to pursue. Then, there was a weird lull. Fraction’s non-F4 related series, Hawkeye, went through a similar period where the issues were good, but they weren’t necessarily building to anything. In the end, there’s nothing wrong with releasing more self-contained stories, but coming off the heels of Jonathan Hickman’s heady first volume of the series, Fractions began to feel a little lacking.
Now, however, things are starting to get back on track and a few of the plot lines Fraction has been laying out in Fantastic Four and FF are starting to come to a head. Fraction frames FF #9 through the lens of Bentley 23 filming a documentary about his fellow students, the Uhari siblings. Not much is known about these fish-like people, and Bentley believes a pool party hosted by Julian Enterprises CEO Charles Cotta would be the perfect time to document his sea-faring peers. Bentley’s fascination with the Uhari quickly infects the reader as the more we learn about Vil and Wu, the more questions arise. Bentley interviews various students about their feelings toward the Uhari, and each one explains how Vil and Wu are great kids and that’s about it. No one knows who the Uhari kids really are, only that they’re nice to everyone else and are good students. That’s nice enough, but in comic books, every character has a reason for being there. The final few pages of FF #9 confirm this through and through.
Over on the adult side of things, Charles Cotta lets the FF in on a big secret; he is the alien who was once known as Julius Caesar. Oh, and he helped out the Fantastic Four back in Fantastic Four #5. This is really where things get interesting for the Future Foundation. Us readers have known for a while that Reed Richards intended the F4’s journey to be more than a family vacation, and that this mission might take longer than expected. What we didn’t know, was to what extent their journey would go awry, or that their replacements would turn out to be halfway competent in their new roles. This is the issue that begins the shift in focus from fleshing out the Future Foundation to an epic journey to save the Fantastic Four from the space-time continuum. And the best part is that this build-up felt organic. Since the first issue, there’s been a voice telling me that at some point, Scott Lang would have to lead his gang of unlikelies on a mission to save the wayward F4, but Fraction’s writing style made me lose sight of that prediction as I became more and more enamored and engrossed in the day-to-day lives of the Future Foundation. Then, when Caesar appears in the present day, it all started to click and make sense.
Over the previous eight issues, Fraction was positioning pieces on the board, and FF #9 is the first move toward an even bigger story. I truly love this series, not only because it features one of my favorite regular creative teams — Matt Fraction and Mike Allred — but also because Fraction has taken a wholly unique approach to FF that pays homage to the past while moving the concept of the Future Foundation forward into new territory.