Thursday, December 6, 2012
Fantastic Four #1, FF#1
Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley, Mark Farmer, Paul Mounts
Matt Fraction, Michael Allred, Laura Allred
Reed Richards is a largely absent father, a scientist of questionable ethics. . . Sue is always right. . . Ben's just a regular guy. . . Johnny's an impetuous hothead. . . blah blah blah there are a whole bunch of writings about the timeless (read: BORING) dynamic of Marvel's First Family, so I'll try not to waste your precious internet browsing time with all of that junk. However, it is important to note that every time a new writer takes over Fantastic Four the challenge is always about how to make readers believe we've got something new on our hands while also insisting that they're staying true to the classic sense of family that's been at the core of the series since the good ol' days of Stan 'n' Jack.
Rather than trying to figure all of this out in one book, Matt Fraction and the fine folks at Marvel decided to split up these two objectives into two books: Fantastic Four-- the family book, and FF-- the "new" book. The problem is that those of us who've been reading superhero books for a while know that the Fantastic Four's dynamic will ALWAYS be the same, and no amount of editor-approved shakeups could actually permanently affect the movie studios' little idea farms. Really the most any new writer of the Fantastic Four (or most any superhero book, for that matter) can hope to do is to introduce an idea (that, of course, could never really affect the precious dynamic of the core characters) in their run that gets to live on in the book once they inevitably get shuffled off somewhere else.
The previous writer, Jonathan Hickman, was able to meet this goal while writing a story that was ultimately about how badly we all want to tell our dads we love them. It looks like his enduring carry-over achievement, his new toy in the shared universe sandbox, will be Reed's Future Foundation, a think tank of the Marvel Universe's smartest kids setting out to solve every problem except cancer. Fraction gets to pick this up in FF and invert Hickman's dad-epic formula by making the focal point of FF whether Scott Lang (Ant-Man, the second one) can learn to open his heart to the magic of children again after his daughter died in a crossover that happened back when I wasn't keeping up with superhero comics, most especially ones that decided to come out every six months or whenever the hell they felt like it.
On the other side of the dad-coin, over in Fantastic Four, Fraction gives us the story of a father trying to keep his family together and make up for years of neglect with a last-ditch forced family vacation. Except this is the Fantastic Four, so it's a family vacation. . . THROUGH SPACE AND TIME! Also, because this is the Fantastic Four, Reed's been keeping a horrible secret from his family-- they're all dying of cosmic ray cancer or something and while eveyone's off sight-seeing Reed's gonna be busy searching for a cure. I thought this family vacation was supposed to be about togetherness, Reed? Why are you so busy analyzing junk in your lab? You don't seem to be the least bit interested in the dimension's largest roadside thermometer. . . .Dads, man. All they want is to show their family a good time and cure them of their horrible space diseases, but the family won't SHUT UP about how you "wasted" all the video tape on shaky shots of lakes and trees or whatever. It's scenery, Susan. I took us here to show the family something new (and to find a cure for our rapidly deteriorating cell structures) so forgive me if I take a couple of goddamn pictures.
I don't know, guys. I really like Fraction, and I'm confident that he has a lot of fun ideas for these series because he seems really excited about it, but we've read corporate comics before -- we know what happens. Moreover, when did Fantastic Four become the official realm of dad stories in Marvel? We get a lot of talk about how superhero comics are adolescent male power fantasies, which is partly true, but I guess those angry kids have grown up into regular old dads. Fantastic Four is a dad fantasy now. Reed is the well-meaning, but severely flawed patriarch. Sue is the dependable wife who you treat like shit, but she's been with you for years now, so where's she going? Ben is your best bud. Johnny is your Corvette who fucks supermodels. Welcome to Marvel NOW!, where comics have finally accepted what we already suspected was true anyway -- that they're going to grow old, get boring, and die.