Best Shots Advance Review: Marvel NOW! FANTASTIC FOUR #1

 

Fantastic Four #1

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Mark Bagley, Mark Farmer, and Paul Mounts

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Just when you think you know someone's game, they switch it up, and start scoring again. Ever since Fear Itself, Matt Fraction has seemed a little weary, like he's been ready for a change, and it's been palpable in his writing. The snark's gotten snarkier, the abstractions have gotten... abstracter? But, apparently, there's nothing like a change of pace to really reinvigorate a creator, because Fraction's Fantastic Four is spot on, and while the writer's voice is still obvious on the page, he nails the attitudes and characters of the Richards family. Fraction's Fantastic Four feels like the logical next step after Jonathan Hickman's undeniably incredible run, focusing on family, adventure, and super-science. And with the Fantastic Four, what else is there?

There's a balance between the four main characters of this book that is very obvious, and still very delicate. When a writer gets it, it's easy to make it work, but skew too much in any one direction, and it can easily fall apart. I was most worried that Fraction's take on Reed Richards would be too much like his take on Tony Stark. After four-plus years on Invincible Iron Man, that would be an easy trap to fall into. But, fortunately, he gets directly to the heart of these characters, showcasing each member of the family in brief vignettes that truly signal what they're all about. The thing that really hits home is the way Fraction captures the essence of each family member, while still managing to frame them in his own way.

Everybody gets an introduction here; not in a way that feels like exposition, but in a "show, don't tell" kind of way. From Sue's night time rounds, checking on each sleeping inhabitant of the Baxter Building, to Johnny's date in the war torn Negative Zone, to Ben's impotent rage at the Yancy Street Gang's efforts to humiliate him, to Reed's fascination with a possibly dire problem, Fraction finds ways to lay everything out. In a way, this issue reads a lot like a pitch, like it's Fraction's attempt to prove that he knows these characters, and that he can get it right — and he more than does so.

Almost as big a surprise is Mark Bagley, who has been hit or miss lately, but who knocks this issue out of the park. The opening action sequence has a few panels that seem like they could have been better used, but all in all, his real strength is the characters, and like Fraction's writing, Bagley nails their nuances and emotions. Also, almost as important, he convincingly and elegantly renders the strange and wondrous aspects of the F4's world, from the Negative Zone, to Reed's laboratory, to the F4's new space ship. Of course Mark Farmer, Bagley's usual inker, is in tow, and their work together is as strong as any they've done, and Paul Mount's colors set the perfect visual tone.

Fantastic Four #1 is a perfect example of how to launch a title. Everything you need to know to enjoy this book is on the page, from the characters, to their story, to the set up for what comes next, it's all there. Following Jonathan Hickman on Fantastic Four is an unenviable task, but Matt Fraction seems more than up for the challenge already.

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