Matt Fraction (Writer), Michael Allred (Artist), Laura Allred (Colorist)
The Story: Marvel pays a visit to the FF to write a comic book in order to create a better reputation for the replacement team. Meanwhile, Alex Power tries to find help in order to be free of Dr. Doom.
The Review: How far can charm push a title forward? That’s a legitimate question that most people could ask themselves when reading certain comics. A lot of comics nowadays (and even before then) relies a lot on the likability and the feel-good attitude of their characters and setting in order to bring readers onboard. It’s a strategy that has its appeal, though in the long run it may not be the most efficient.
FF, a lot of times, relied a lot on the kid characters and the awkwardness of its setting in order to bring readers there, bringing in emotions and a certain light-hearted attitude towards its stories. While none of the issues have been empty of content plot-wise, it has never been as big as a Jonathan Hickman comic or serious as a Greg Rucka penned issue. While it can give us some nice issue like the pool party issue, it creates a mystery as to where the book might actually be going. Where is the book going and what shall be the major themes that will drive the book forward?
With this issue, it seems that we might have some kind of advancement in term of plot as we get some more connections building between the characters as they try to help Alex Power out of a bad situation. However, we are also treated to a meta-fictional scene where Matt Fraction, Michael Allred and Tom Brevoort themselves meets the team as they accidently live an adventure together. The two scenes makes for pretty much the entire comic, as we follow two plots with two groups of characters, with both having their strengths and their weaknesses.
The scene with the kids benefits from having the greatly written and characterized children, who in most instances are the true stars of the book. Fraction understands the pack logic of those kids, as they gather together and tries to follow and help Alex. This culminate in a scene that is brilliant, yet at the same time utterly flawed with the kids playing twenty questions with Maximus the mad of the Inhumans. What shines here is the way Fraction writes how they play the game, as the personalities of each characters is presented to us as they ask their questions and react to Maximus. With Bentley being exuberant, Ahura trying to sound cool, Tong being the logical one and so forth. The one character that is both amazing, yet utterly confusing to read, would be Maximus. While it is a credit to Fraction that he really plays with the ”mad” aspect of the character, it seems a tad bizarre to be greeted to the character with him in a prison for no explained reason. Having seen him before in New Avengers and having done nothing wrong, it seems there is no reason for his imprisonment besides making the character look threatening and mysterious. He does look the part, yet this does not make much sense when one takes the long history of the character in retrospect to this situation of his.* This makes a memorable and well-paced scene, yet there are some holes in the logic of it all.
What’s also a bit illogical, yet in an entertaining manner, would be the appearance of the creative team in their own book as they tag along in the second plot going on in the book. As the FF goes on showing how atoms look up close, they soon have to fight a tiger that is growing back to a bigger size, trying to show the creative team how their adventure could look like. As the team tries to fight the tiger and capture it, we are then treated to meta-jokes and some tidbits from everyone, peppered with some neat concepts like A.N.T.H.I.L.L.1. While the sequence brings some good action and some good jokes (Tom Brevoort and his @#$!* Formspring), the whole scene does not do anything to move the bad reputation plotline or does not bring any satisfying conclusion, a fact stated even by Matt Fraction in the comic. While it is fun that Fraction makes the remark about the rushed conclusion, it still rings a bit true as the whole sequence is almost halted in a few panels after a good deal of build up during the whole comic.
Still, as rushed as the conclusion to one of the plotline may be, the art of Mike Allred certainly isn’t as it is still beautiful to look at. In many ways, Allred takes his cues from Jack Kirby himself* as he allows the personal moments to mesh organically with the weirder stuff, like the close sight of the atoms, the Inhuman architecture full of squiggly square and intersecting lines. As he allows the characters to be expressive, he does so in multiple panels, always putting them in the front row. It is a character driven book and Allred knows that as the poses, action and faces feature them heavily.
Laura Allred also participates quite heavily in the energetic script, as her colors create a very sharp contrast between each elements. In the atom scene, we get the very weird and curious vibe that was present in a lot of exploration scenes in the old Fantastic Four issues by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. She uses a very rich and diverse palette, allowing the fun and chaos to be spread everywhere as she also does darker aspects without letting it overwhelm the very tone of the book.
The Conclusion: Even though the book stumbles in one of its plotlines and create one or two problems of its own in the use of certain characters, it is nonetheless still a fun and engaging ride with its characters, charm and wonderfully apt art and colorization.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière
*It is a bit weird to see him confined when in all the appearances he had in the previous years, he was allowed to roam free as the royal family interacted with him.
*These cues made him earn a nickname I use when trying to explain his style to other: ”Jack Kirby on acid”. It sounds insulting, but it is a high praise indeed coming from me.