Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Mike Allred
Expectations are a tough beast in any medium, but they can be especially deadly for the reader buying books on a monthly basis. These days, with advanced solicitations revealing what creators are taking on what new assignments, press calls that reveal key status quo changes and story directions, and twitter leaks of penciled, inked, and colored pages months before the book even hits the stands, it is very easy to find oneself hyped up into a frenzy.
It's often times very difficult for a debut issue to meet high expectations because the creators only have 20 to 22 pages to work with, it's more common for the creators will hit their stride several issues in. Try as I could to temper my expectations for FF #1, I couldn't. One of my favoritel writers was launching a new book with one of my all time favorite pencillers, how could I be anything but deliriously excited? So you can imagine my relief when I tell you that this issue surpassed my expectations.
With the Fantastic Four leaving earth for a family vacation like no other, a new four needs to stand guard in their place, so each member of the family sets out to choose their replacement. Connecting these scenes are interviews with the young members of the Future Foundation a large, eclectic group who will continue to share the spotlight with the new foursome under Fraction and Allred's tenure on the book.
When the title was first announced, some worried that the brilliant children introduced by Hickman would be dropped in favor of a focus on Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa, and Miss Thing. But Fraction fans knew that the chance to work with a group of characters as diverse and colorful as to include talking mole children, an android dragon, a former child superhero, and a clone of an evil genius not quite as evil as he'd like other to believe was probably what sold the writer on the book in the first place.
Fraction uses two great devices to introduce a lot of characters in a short span of time. The first, letting the Future Foundation describe what the group's mission is and what it means to them, really suggests the breadth of imagination Fraction wants to employ in this title, and underscores the theme of the family that comes together through circumstance rather than biology. The second, each member of the FF choosing their replacement, succinctly describes what makes each of the new foursome unique and special by highlighting the qualities that led to them being picked over hundreds of other Marvel heroes.
Allred makes a slight tweak to his style here, almost barely perceptible, he leans into the Kirby influences that were always there in his art to begin with while still remaining undisputedly quintessentially Allred. The resulting effect is something I can only imagine would be akin to dropping bubble gum flavored acid and flipping through the classic Kirby issues of the book (this is a compliment, I swear, just look at the sequence between Thing and She-Hulk and tell me I'm wrong). Allred's pages are a joy to behold. Little details sell the individual scenes, like Mr. Fantastic always being stretched out, or Franklin making faces while Val is talking. He also auditions his ability to convey wonder and action in this title in the scenes featuring Attilan and the aforementioned Thing/She-Hulk training session respectively.
This was a phenomenal debut issue, and a great primer for what is to come. If you love the classic themes of the Fantastic Four and are open to a fresh and wild re-imagining of them, look no further than this title. Fraction and Allred will not disappoint.