By: Matt Fraction (Writer), Michael Allred (Artist), Laura Allred (Color Artist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
The Review: Despite its creative pedigree, I still worry about the levels of commercial success this book will find. The Future Foundation is so intrinsically linked to its ‘big brother’ title The Fantastic Four that I guess a lot of people may feel that if you’re not buying the latter, there’s little point in buying the former. After all, this series was originally born out of necessity; Jonathan Hickman had too much story to fit into his Fantastic Four title alone, and now that Matt Fraction has taken over the franchise the same is true. With Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben heading off into Space for (‘relatively’ speaking) a year, someone needed to take their place keeping watch over Earth. This relaunch follows the team formed for that purpose. Their first challenge? Proving that they’ve got what it takes to hold your interest and to make this series a standalone essential.
As far as the plot goes, things are pretty straightforward. Taking place shortly after the events of Fantastic Four #1, each member of the team has to select and approach their own temporary replacement. For Ben this job is easy, choosing She-Hulk for her strength, fighting skill and experience, while for Johnny it’s ridiculously easy, narrowing his choice down to, oh, whichever girl he’s been dating for the last five minutes. It’s a little harder for Sue, who offers her position to Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans, who would seem to have enough on her plate ruling a floating Kingdom without joining the Future Foundation. However, it’s that burdensome responsibility which helps make the offer so enticing, a chance to escape her “world of politics, war, murder, madness.” That makes it three for three, piece of cake.
Of course, Reed is obligated to make things extra difficult for himself. He approaches Scott Lang/Ant Man, the size-changing scientist and ex-Avenger who recently witnessed his daughter’s death during the Avengers: Children’s Crusade mini-series. So, as a man still grieving over the loss of a child, Reed asking him to look after a bunch of kids for a while is…pretty much the most insensitive thing ever. Of course, it’s also typical Reed, and at least he means well: “I’m not asking you to adopt them Scott. And I know none of them can ever replace your loss. But maybe…maybe there’s a way you can all be of use to each other in my absence.” I guess when the smartest man in the world sets his mind on helping you, it’s impossible to resist. Aaaand that makes four.
Matt Fraction has a lot of fun with all this, dare I say more fun than he appears to have had with Fantastic Four #1. The humour in particular feels a lot more natural, with a lot of the best laughs prompted by the extended cast that the Future Foundation allows; the book has a clever framing device that utilises several one-page, six-panel vignettes of the Foundation kids taking it in turns to explain what makes the group so special. Bentley-23 and Dragon Man are brilliant, though my favourite was definitely the Moloids. After all, they understand better than anyone that “All things are to serve the Ben.” Squee!
What really sets the book apart however is the art from Michael and Laura Allred. They have the kind of style that feels like it should engender a binary love/hate response, but truth be told I’ve never actually come across anyone who hates it…and really, how could you? To my mind, alongside its inherent weirdness there’s something intrinsically magical about it, something that just screams ‘Comic Book Perfection’. The bold outlines, high contrast shading and brash, saturated colours (as well as Michaels’s wonderful Kirby-echoing treatment of the Thing) all give the impression that this is some great long lost comic from the Silver Age. And really, is there any more fitting a series for that look to be applied to? It’s a blank canvas for Matt Fraction’s imagination to take flight upon, one that captures the fantastical wards of the FF just as easily as it does the subtle emotional moments between Reed Richards and Scott Lang. In the interests of word count, I better stop the praise lavishing there; it’s just too good looking a book.
Conclusion: A friend of mine recently commented that Matt Fraction’s Fantastic Four #1 somehow felt like a “very 90s comic book,” and, as you probably know, that ain’t the greatest of compliments. I think what he was inferring is that on first impressions it felt too safe, maybe a little predictable, devoid of the risks we’re used to the title’s creators’ taking recently. I couldn’t help but agree, and though I love the concept at the root of that series (and am sure that Fraction will still ‘wow’ us in the end), the release of its companion book makes it feels like it’s playing the straight guy to the eccentric and wonderfully weird FF.
Its quality is such that I really hope Marvel score a huge success with this title. Despite its apparent status as a bolt-on to Fantastic Four, there’s more than enough here to see this book stand on its own two feet. The eclectic cast and offbeat art exude a universal appeal that welcome all comers, no matter how well- or ill-versed you are in the history of comics’ first family. If you were tempted by the critical praise heaped upon Hickman’s run but wary of dipping a toe in mid-run, feel free to jump on in at this brilliant new starting point.
Filed under: Marvel Comics, Reviews Tagged: | Ant Man, Ben Grimm, Clayton Cowles, Darla Deering, FF, Future Foundation, Human Torch, Inhumans, Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm, Laura Allred, Marvel NOW, Matt Fraction, Medusa, Mike Allred, Moloids, Mr. Fantastic, Reed Richards, Scott Lang, She Hulk, Sue Storm, The Ben, The Thing