Marvel NOW! Review: Fantastic Four #1 by Matt Fraction & Mark Bagley
by Michael "Skitch" Maillaro on November 14, 2012

Fantastic Four #1

Unstable

Written by: Matt Fraction
Pencilled by: Mark Bagley
Inked by: Mark Farmer
Colored by: Paul Mounts
Lettering by: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $2.99

Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from Marvel Comics on Comixology

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

I have always been an on and off Fantastic Four reader. I always liked these characters, and when the right writer is on the book, I usually enjoy it quite a bit.  Mark Waid’s run on Fantastic Four is one of my favorite runs on any comic. That said, it just has never been a book that always ends up on my must read list.  I kept wanting to get into Kickman’s work on Fantastic Four and FF, but I just could never get the time to catch up.

I was really glad that Fantastic Four and FF were both relaunched as part of Marvel Now! Putting Fraction on both books, with art by Mark Bagley and Mike Allred definitely seemed like the right time to get back into Fantastic Four.

Summary (contains spoilers): This comic starts with one of the best opening pages I have ever seen. A simple caption tells us “ONE YEAR FROM NOW” and we see an image of Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, Sue Richards, and a very human Ben Grimm along with Franklin and Valeria Richards on board a space ship being bombarded by cosmic rays. Pretty much right from the word go, I was hooked on this book and knew I was going to be in for a hell of a ride.

We find out that this image came from a nightmare Franklin was having…but since that kid has had some crazy powers in the past, I think we can all assume that it’s some kind of vision of the future. The rest of this issue starts to point us in that direction.

2.6 million years before, the Fantastic Four are getting eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. While this is going on, Reed’s arm seems to be undergoing some kind of cellular degeneration.

The team is able to return to the present, and while Reed tries to put on a strong face, he is certain this is a sign something dangerous is happening to his body and it could happen to the rest of the team as well.

Meanwhile, Franklin is still terrified by his nightmare and tells his mom “I don’t wanna go into space, okay?” Sue isn’t sure what he means by that.

Later, Reed is talking to HERBIE about his problem…

Inspired by this conversation, Reed tells Sue that he has a plan for Future Foundation. He modifies Johnny’s ship “The Pestilence” to make it into a school that can travel through time and space to take the Future Foundation kids anywhere they want to go. If they want to see the Big Bang, they can just go see the Big Bang. Sue can’t help but think of Franklin’s warning about not wanting to go into space.

The plan is to be gone for a year (though since it is a time machine, Reed does suggest that they can be back moments after leaving), so Reed plans to find four replacements to stand for the team temporarily, which leads into FF #1 coming out in two weeks.

Review: It was especially nice that Marvel put a 3 buck price tag on this one. I mostly enjoyed Iron Man last week, but felt 4 bucks was a rip off. I am willing to give comics more time to develop if I am not paying 4 bucks an issue. It’s not even like I can wait a month for the digital price to drop like I can for EVERY OTHER COMIC COMPANY!  But I am not bitter….

One thing this comic did perfectly was develop the characters in a nice quick shorthand. Ben and Johnny each got a little side story which helps show Ben’s work with the community of Yancy Street and Johnny’s attempts to impress a girl by taking her to the Negative Zone. Also, I liked how Reed focused on his physical deterioration as a scientific problem. I also liked the quick look we got at the Future Foundation characters. All of this seems designed to set up for some big pay offs later on.

That does bring me to my one big concern about this issue. It really did feel like a lot of this comic was just setup for later stories. Tthe story was just getting started when it ended with “To Be Continued in another series in two weeks.” I had planned on buying FF anyway, but the last two pages really just felt like a cheap plug to get the reader to buy another comic.

I also did think that for a first issue that seems like it could have been a good jumping on point, this comic really didn’t feel new reader friendly.  I only know what Future Foundation is in passing, I have no idea why Johnny has his own spaceship called the Pestilence and the issue doesn’t quite make all the relationships clear either.  It assumes that the reader is coming in with a lot of knowledge that they just might not have.  It wasn’t a real major problem, but I definitely noticed it.

One thing that I did think was clever was with Reed saying “We can come back moments after we leave…but we should get some temporary replacements.” At first I kind of thought this was a contradiction, but thinking back on Reed’s conversation with HERBIE, I think he really is concerned that the Fantastic Four might be coming to an end and they really will need replacements. This was done very subtly, but I really think this is what Fraction was going for.

Mark Bagley has long been one of my favorite artists, and this book shows off exactly why. From the action-packed scene with the Fantastic Four fighting a dinosaur to the deep concern on Sue’s face while trying to comfort her son to Johnny’s dinner in the Negative Zone, Bagley manages to work in a wide range of styles and settings, all of which helps show off the many aspects of what a Fantastic Four comic is capable of being.

All in all, this was my favorite of the three Marvel Now books I have read so far (Uncanny Avengers and Iron Man being the other two). But all three did suffer from the problem of feeling more like lead-ins to bigger stories than comics that stood alone as good reads on their own. That said, the first page of this comic pretty much guaranteed I would be reading this series for the long haul. I just hope that the pace really picks up in the next issue.

Final Score: 8.0 I thought the writing, characterization, and art was really solid in this book, and it worked great as a lead in issue. But I did think it could have used a little more meat to it. I really felt like it ended just as it as getting started.



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Michael "Skitch" Maillaro

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