The Fantastic Four Presents: FRANKLIN RICHARDS Son of a Genius # 1

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Microspcopic/Tons of Fun/Veggin’ Out/ Weather or Not/ Send in the Clones

Story by: Chris Eliopoulos and Mark Sumerak
Script: Mark Sumerak
Art by: Chris Eliopoulos
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Mackenzie Cadenhead
Publisher: Marvel Comics

There aren’t all that many literary models for childhood. Just like High School kids can be reduced to a finite number of archetypes, so too with young children. There’s the troublemaker, his opposite the ruler follower, the inquisitive one, the ball of energy, and (in case of accidental cloning) the chip off the ole block. Many well-known storybook non-adults fit into those molds: Linus (of Peanuts fame) is the ruler follower plus the inquisitive one, Curious George (of not exactly human fame) is equal parts inquisitive one and ball of energy, and Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes is equal parts troublemaker and ball of energy. In this one-shot comic, obviously geared to the child in all of us, Franklin Richards is a nice mix of three archetypes, the inquisitive one, the troublemaker, and (at rare moments) the chip off the ole block (Reed Richards, naturally).

This makes complete sense given his surroundings and genetic heritage. While his Mom and Dad are obvious rule following, sedate people, his Uncle Johnny Storm sure isn’t. And living with the world’s greatest set of explorers (the Fantastic Four) and getting a kid’s eye view of their lifestyle would certainly inspire a child to think out of the box. So if he seems a bit too adult at times, or a bit too eager to do something in an unconventional/science fiction manner, blame it on watching his Dad trounce Occulus of the Inniverse or something.

The stories in this volume aren’t the most original ever conceived. Two of them ape plots from Calvin and Hobbes a bit too closely, truth be told. But in the defense of these tales, lots of underage literary devices are reused (think Narnia, Harry Potter, Oz, and Dark Materials novels) without many raised eyebrows. If the spirit of adventure is maintained, and the characters evoke genuine emotions in the reader, their relationship to previous characters and events ought to be overlooked. The shorts in this book are fun, and the take on Franklin is enjoyable, so the shortcomings in plot are overcome provided the reader keeps a positive frame of mind.

The art in this issue does have a Sunday comics feel, and it is appreciated. Large panels, bright colors, and obtrusive onomatopoeia give the art the zip a struggling reader would require to maintain his interest. The big head little kid interpretation of children’s anatomy helps with Franklin’s expressions, and so it’s certainly acceptable if derivative. The depiction of H.E.R.B.I.E. is a bit too Playskool Toys, but Eliopoulos manages to render his “emotions” with a minimal of details, a nifty feat in itself. The good natured riffs on the Fantastic Four members themselves, especially the breakfast table sized Ben Grimm, compliment the artist’s warm accessible approach. The book is certainly as fun to look at as it is to read, more so if the marvelous mixed media cover is taken into account.