Real Talk: FF #1A comic review article by: Keith Silva, Jamil Scalese
Some comics are too big, hypeworthy or insane for one reviewer to cover. Which is why we have Real Talk, an outlet for a group of reviewers to tackle a comic together and either come to a consensus or verbally arm wrestle until there's nothing left to say.
Keith: You know the old saw: "every comic book is someone's first." Well, FF #1 is my first FF comic and my first Fantastic Four comic. Uh-huh. I never cared for the "Four," fantastic, foundation, H.E.R.B.I.E-fied or otherwise in my (apparent) misspent youth. So Sue me. Or Reed me. Or Ben and Johnny me. As the flatulent warthog says in that old movie where Ferris is the lion, "you got to put your behind in your past." Good advice, that. Always trust the flatulent warthog.
And always assume an Allred brings her or his A-game. FF #1's colors pop. It's like Roy Lichtenstein and Marjorie Strider had a baby and called her Laura Allred. Even when Laura has to color a dun background it's done with a purpose, either to add dimension to the foreground or to create a feeling like labs and lairs have depth and contain mystery.
Spoiler alert, it ain't no stretch for Mike Allred to pull off a great Reed Richards. When the FF does fly, I will miss Allred's plastic fantastic interpretation of the Fantastic Fours's pater familias. One concession is that Allred will continue to draw Medusa's locks of all red. Allred's best character design, however, is She Hulk. She looks like a character who works out… a lot. She has a female bodybuilder's body, solid and muscular, but feminine and authentic. Allred evokes timelessness in his work and his greatest gift is his ability to draw a character that makes the reader believe that that's how a character should (and always) look, traditional and yet modern.
Now, as we all know, FF is another in another relaunch from the "house of ideas" with a narrative that runs parallel to its parent book, The Fantastic Four. Now, for either the sake of convenience or editorial ease, Matt Fraction drives the bus on both titles. The premise of FF holds a whiff of promise: the Fantastic Four are going away (in time and space, what have you) and they need someone to watch the kids of the Future Foundation, for four minutes, give or take.
FF #1 fits firmly within the convention of "putting the team together." To pack in a couple more cliches -- after all people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw boulders -- the team is as rag-tag as rag-tag gets: Ant Man, the girl Johnny Storm is currently sleeping with and the aforementioned Medusa and She Hulk. The "what-could-possibly-go-wrong" scenario makes this little more than the misfits from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" meet Adventures in Babysitting. My guess is that FF is a title one buys because of the pedigree of the creative team. One assumes hijinks will ensue soon, only not yet.
So, Jamil, do you see a bright future ahead for FF, so bright it requires shades, or will you shade your eyes because Marvel has (yet again -- hello [supposedly] All-New X-Men) sold you a bill of goods that can be parsed by the damn cover?
Jamil: About a year and a half ago I was like you, Mr. Silva -- FF #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting represented my first ever Fantastic Four comic. It's those lovely black and white uniforms, I just couldn't resist. And Spider-Man. You gotta buy a comic when it's got the ol' webslinger on the cover.
I have an affinity for all the individual players of Marvel's First Family but for some reason the cohesive unit never really stuck. I followed Hickman's run for awhile, but when the task of buying two titles grew a little daunting I fell off. Apparently, people kept grabbing FF though, and because of that Marvel decides to keep it around it for their soft relaunch. Yay us!
To answer your question, Keith, fuck yeah, I think the future of this title is bright, like as bright as Reed Richards on the drug from Limitless. Between the creative team, cast and concept, a perfect storm of "OMFG, yes!" I felt absolutely compelled to grab this. Fraction and Allred(s)? That's funk in its purest form. Allred possesses a distinctive style that is comparable to nothing, and I completely agree with you, he just has some type of magic style, a combination of classic and contemporary, that manages to hit the mark nearly every time. One of my first forays into serious comicking was X-Force/X-Statix, and while I've read very little from Mike Allred since then, but I'm a still nostalgic about that run with Peter Milligan because when I read that shit I couldn't believe my eyes. There's a little of that in the newest edition of FF.
Although Allred struggles a bit with Ben Grimm's face (also: why is he always yelling?) I thought most of the issue looked superb. You beat me to the punch on She-Hulk, who is the visual starlet of the show. The Allreds might have given us one of the best Jen Walters of all time, as you said, strong and feminine. Somehow, per Mike's magic, the FF kids five through a billion look perfect. He does draw a brilliant looking Mr. Fantastic but I won't mourn that loss because I'm sure Fraction will serve up plenty of delightful oddities.
Keith: "Beat me to the punch on She Hulk" …Ha! I'm sensing from your last sentence, Jamil, (see above) that you feel Fraction didn't go far enough in this first issue. Yes? On subsequent reads, I found that Allred's work provides a quasi-contact high, a faux-giddiness of not "what's on the page," but what the future holds. There's a lot of anticipation in FF #1, in fact, Fraction's fractured narrative technique of interspersing the kid's interviews between the main action of the story is one long set up for that final panel. So, what happens, really?
FF #1 ain't an actioner; it's a talk show, the audience surrogate being Scott Lang a.k.a Ant-Man. Come to think of it, except for that single-page splash of Sue ascending to meet Medusa and the She Hulk work out, Allred draws a lot of conversations in this comic, a lot. Perhaps the "comic-book-first-issue" paradigm is shifting or has shifted. It's all set-up (NOW!) until the inevitable #0 shows up. Odd, I can think of 52 #1s that remind me a lot of this relaunch. That, however, is another topic for another time.
I started with a cliché so why break precedent. You know the saying in sports: "this team looks good on paper?" FF #1 looks good on paper (damn good), but I don't think Fraction and friends are ready to play. It's not that I want (or need) to see the team punch people in the face right off, but shooting the shit for 20 pages is already old -- there's no future in that, not for me at least. Like Scott Lang, FF #1 is a "trust issue." Lang has faith in Richards when he says he'll only be gone for four minutes, but neither one believes the other, right? So, why should I? It's like Emerson says, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." If Fraction and the Allreds keep up this chatty-Kathy steadiness, I'm getting the "F" out.
Jamil: I loved the structure of the issue so the talky pill went down a little easier for me. The recruiting scenes intermittent with the interviews with the FF children are appropriate because, well, FF is an eccentric comic.
Hickman built a hell of a cast in the previous volume: you've Mutants, a giant purple android, a Wakadan, Moloids, a preteen clone of a super villain and the leader of the Power Pack. The presence of so many miscellaneous factions is a nod to how the original Kirby/Lee Fantastic Four essentially built the entire Marvel Universe, from Skrulls, to Surfers, Doom and so forth.
I guess I'm high on this issue because I trust Matt Fraction. The heads at Marvel have said they're giving most of these new Marvel NOW! titles some room to grow, which I assume to mean 12-15 issues, and by that time I'm sure whatever Fraction is cooking will be ready by then. Right now I'm all about that oddball aura that the creative team has manufactured which starts with the mismatched main characters. It's a superhero daycare, but it's got a PG-13 kind vibe to it too.
I've never been exposed to Scott Lang for extended periods so I'm pretty unfamiliar with him overall, but I'll say Fraction and Allred made me care about his journey in this title almost immediately. I'm looking forward to seeing how he handles not only his grieving process, but the heroics side of things too. If you read the Point One short by the same creative team you know that Ant Man views this opportunity to eliminate Dr. Doom from existence, granting himself revenge for the murder of his daughter over in The Children's Crusade. I'm geeked to see how that plays out.
While Miss Thing and Medusa get only marginal page time I'm also eager to have She-Hulk on board. Everyone seems to love Jennifer but she hasn't had a permanent home for many years. Hulk's cousin is a multifaceted character and already Fraction has positioned her as one of the sources of comic relief for the series. However, I have a feeling that all members of the cast will dispense awkwardness and hilarity at their given times.
There is that balance of wackiness and serious that makes this work. Fraction has said that these guys will be treated like the Fantastic Four so prepare for some classic Marvel villains to come out of the woodwork and not hold anything back. Considering who is at the helm here I have little doubt there are more than a few extremely entertaining issues to come, so if it takes a little while to get off the ground I'm willing to be patient.
Keith Silva has a "thing" for red heads. He's ecstatic Medusa's on the FF team, but what about having Raquel Welch or Christina Hendricks as well? Paging Mr. Fraction. Follow @keithpmsilva on Twitter and visit his blog Interested in Sophisticated Fun? where there is a picture of Matt Murdock in a puffy coat.
Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.