I’ve never been a huge Fantastic Four fan. It is one of those comics that is made or broken by the storyline, guest-stars, and villains. So really, Matt Fraction’s take was sort of doomed for me from the start. By limiting the cast to only the core team (and Franklin and Valeria), my interest always had a ceiling. Bouncing the team around space in time from one mad situation to another is certainly in keeping with the tone of the FF, but again, there isn’t anything to maintain my interest.
The only unifying plot is a big one; something is wrong with Mr. Fantastic, and his stretching abilities are breaking down, possibly killing him in the process. That’s a strong motivation, but I’m not exactly worried that the FF are going to die. I hate to be one of those people that need violence and angst to maintain my interest, but when I don’t love the characters, I do need a bit more drama than what this book is currently delivering.
Fraction has a great take on the whole team, including the kids. There are numerous moments that as a parent, just feels recognizable and real. Franklin and Val’s need for their Mom after a nightmare in particular looked like a glimpse into the Fraction/DeConnick household. It’s quite telling that the Thing and Human Torch come off wonderfully too. The Torch is perhaps a bit more stupid than he’s been in recent years, but there is no debating how funny he is. And the Thing’s tough guy dialogue is cranked to 11, even while he maintains that sadness that is so central to the Thing’s character.
But Reed Richards and Sue Storm. I just don’t care about them. How telling is it that my favorite scenes between the two of them are the flashbacks of their college days? The secret-keeping, the drama, I’ve seen it between the two of them before. It just isn’t compelling enough.
The art is perfect. Mark Bagley was born to draw the FF. His take on the power sets, the alternate uniforms, and the Kirby-esque science of the settings is fantastic. There is a scene where the Thing catches on fire where he looks awesome, and Bagley’s depiction of the FF tech is fun. But thinking back, I’m trying to remember how often we’ve seen the whole team involved in fisticuffs. It has been at least two months since the whole team had to get involved and get their hands dirty.
I’m reading this book with my daughter, but she now routinely asks for X-Men instead of this one. (That said, she loves FF!)