Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Steve Epting and Paul Mounts
The Fantastic Four is gone, long live the Future Foundation? Early on in the issue we’re treated to an explanation by Sue Storm for just why the drastic change in color schemes and logos and….well, going the simple route was the best option. The world is a lot more black and white, and the big 4 in the circle just isn’t the same without Johnny. Nor should it be, despite replacement members and teams over the years, the Fantastic Four is, was, and always will be Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing. It’s fitting that moving forward, that they take on the identity of something different.
The issue features a lot of setup, which, while making the book easier for new readers enticed by the petty covers and big #1 on them all, doesn’t come across as redundant for those who were following around beforehand either. Hickman has been expanding the cast ever since coming on board Fantastic Four, and it’s to the point now where the book can carry itself without necessarily needing to maintain a key focus on the original members. For instance, I’m personally far more interested in Reed’s recently returned father, Nathaniel Richards, and the voice Hickman immediately has him bring to the table (in one scene quite literally). Not to mention that Val has quickly grown too smart for her own good, and the way Hickman has treated the character has made her one of the more interesting parts of the title since his run began.
I also like the way he writes Spider-Man, which I feel deserves its own special mention. The way Hickman brings him in to the title is clever, and doubles as a favor to a friend and the last will and testament of Johnny Storm. On top of that, Peter is a natural fit to fill out any version of the famed quartet, as few characters in Marvel have the same level of shared history despite being separate franchises. Also, Peter is a big brain, and the Future Foundation was set up as a think tank, so even more natural. It also makes two teams he’s on with Ben Grimm, as they’re both on New Avengers as well….the difference is that the Ben here is still reeling from Johnny’s death, and he’s not quite the same “Ever Loving Blue Eyed Thing” that Bendis writes, he’s grimmer, guilty, and it’s fitting. This book isn’t business as usual, and I’d be insulted if it were. The little things like Ben getting attitude when Spidey cracks jokes, or Franklin not letting anyone sit in Johnny’s old chair; this is a family dealing with death in the only way they know how, by trying to move forward.
Right off the bat Hickman starts setting up villains for future use by reintroducing a villain he played around with for a little while in his Fantastic Four run, who is actually a personal favorite of mine. The promise for the future just with that villain included makes me a bit giddy, as he’s definitely a non-Doom opposing number for Reed. With any luck he’ll get the magical touch of Hickman to boost his profile to a serious villain the likes of which he hasn’t been in years.
I’m also really interested in Nathaniel Richards, who I know weaved in and out of the Fantastic Four in the 90’s, but recently has been one of the characters in Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D. title, which was recently shown to be fully canon. Reed’s dad has always been a time traveler, but with the scope that Hickman has given him, with the place in history he has been given….I really want a FF/S.H.I.E.L.D. tie in now.
Steve Epting was a great edition to the title when he joined up for Three, and he continues to prove why with this issue. His isn’t a flashy and traditionally super-hero style, but that’s also why he works so well on some titles. His Captain America worked so well because it felt more real, as his style gave the book the feel of reality, and that pushes forward here. While the Fantastic Four are imaginauts, and they have foes that comes from all walks of life, all realities from micro to negative, a flashy and dynamic style makes sense, but with the tone Hickman is taking this title, Epting’s realistic style is perfect. It doesn’t feel like a superhero title, even with super-beings doing super things, and I like that. It looks the same way it reads, like something bigger.
FF is the first step in the new direction of one of Marvel’s flagship titles, and while there are few that believe that the Human Torch will stay dead, or that this book won’t just go back to being Fantastic Four sooner than later, none of that discounts from the quality here. Jonathan Hickman is quickly raising the bar with his Fantastic Four run, and while he’s still only in his second year with the franchise, there is no doubt on my mind that his will go down as one of the most iconic runs on the title. He simply gets all of the characters, and he does a great job pacing the book out so that everyone is getting attention. He just does a great job not making this title feel like a renumbered Fantastic Four, by refocusing the tone of the book while not discarding plotlines he had created. Sure, new book, same characters, same creators, but it feels like something more.
Oh, and the last page is worth the price of admission.
Tags: Fantastic Four, FF, Future Foundation, Jonathan Hickman, Reviews, Spider-Man, steve epting