Review by Frank Plowright
Whatever rumours might have been spread and excuses given in 2015, the plain fact is that Marvel wouldn’t have cancelled the Fantastic Four comic if the franchise had been generating money. It made taking on a reboot somewhat the poisoned chalice for Dan Slott three years later. While the Fantastic Four might have launched Marvel in 1961, and in superhero terms had justifiably been labelled “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine”, it had for decades been in the doldrums despite notable runs by acclaimed writers. Many other superhero comics matched the thrills, and when had the feature last attracted a top class artist for an extended run? Additionally, the unique selling point of the team being a close-knit family wasn’t something likely to attract new readers.
This volume doesn’t address all the questions hanging over the 21st century viability of the Fantastic Four, if anything tailored more to established older fans than any new audience. The one definitive change is to feature Franklin and Valeria Richards strongly, ageing them five years from the children they previously were via an extended trip in space. It leaves Franklin as a young teenager and Valeria younger, but smarter and more precocious. Franklin’s powers are also curtailed, a necessity, but clumsily handled.
Artistically, it’s a good collection. At the start there’s the charm and competence without flash of Sara Pichelli (sample art), with the improving Aaron Kuder as the next semi-regular artist, and very attractive guest slots from Michael Allred, Mark Buckingham and Adam Hughes before Paco Medina. A few later pages seem rushed, but there should otherwise be no complaint about the art.
Likewise, older FF readers should enjoy Slott’s work overall, although he does occasionally go for narrative convenience over logic. A concept-heavy opening four chapters certainly supply the exploratory wonder of the Fantastic Four, while introducing a viable new foe and establishing the breadth of their connections. In doing that many characters are only seen making up the numbers. The wedding of Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters was always going to please the older crowd, and the full affair is provided from proposal through hen night and stag night to ceremony and the call to duty. That’s to deal with Doctor Doom summoning Galactus to Latveria in a clever plot that delivers the spectacle and trickery associated with Doom, some great traps and a cheeky, but well foreshadowed ending.
Want to sample without the expense of a hardcover? Fourever, Mr. and Mrs. Grimm and The Herald of Doom supply the same content in paperback, with the middle of them featuring the desirable guest art. Follow the links for greater depth about the individual stories, and these hardbacks continue, naturally enough, with Vol. 2.