Review by Frank Plowright
After the slim or stuttering, piecemeal collections of Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four, it’s nice to note Point of Origin features a meaty six chapter story featuring the entire team and one almost solo Human Torch closer. It continues from Thing vs. Immortal Hulk, but can be read separately.
Slott begins with some neat character moments set at a museum unveiling of the craft in which the FF first soared into space, causing them to reflect on the flight that defined their futures. It’s a frequent conceit that a writer heads back to the origins of their characters and tinkers slightly, yet, possibly surprisingly, it’s only very rarely their additions are an improvement, and they’re forgotten by the next continuity reboot. Given the title and early scenes the fear is Slott intends revision, but for a long while he sidesteps that by considering why Reed Richards, and here Johnny Storm, were so keen to travel into space. This is over a smartly pleasing opening chapter filled with touches reinforcing why the Fantastic Four are a uniquely balanced team, and treating Johnny with more respect than usual. What follows is intimately tied into what made the Fantastic Four, but an all new story considering a society skewed by fear of the FF. It’s a disturbing twist on the Inhumans, raising uncomfortable ethical questions that, at a stretch, could be read as commenting on the treatment of minorities. It’s clever for being set on an alien world, but echoing the FF’s own adventures, an example being casting an inspirational Thing in the role usually taken by the Mole Man.
Artistically, Point of Origin carries the curse of 21st century Marvel, where it’s acceptable to have multiple artists working on the same story, and frequently here even on the same chapter, no matter the differences in their style. It would be nice to consider it a misguided attempt to reflect a series where the primary themes are unity and pulling together as a team, but the truth is that it’s either poor editorial planning, or basically not giving a toss. These are all good artists, the sample page being Paco Medina, with some more inclined to provide backgrounds than others, but could it not have been arranged that one of them drew six consecutive 20 page chapters?
Eventually we reach the point where Slott tinkers with the Fantastic Four’s origin, and thankfully it’s only a small alteration. It can be ignored in the future, yet here provides a core emotional redefinition. There’s also an extremely twisty concluding chapter exploring the social ramifications of an engineered society and how it’s undermined by introducing new possibilities.
Were it not for the frequent variations taken by the assorted artists when it comes to the cast this would be an extremely satisfying story with points to make. Even as it stands, it’s the best of Slott’s run to date, also available in hardcover as Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 2, after which the continuity heads into Empyre.
Oh, the Human Torch story. It’s neat. It’s about embracing change, and swerves away from the obvious just when it seems set to sink into it.