Fantastic Four 2099 #1
Written by Karla Pacheco
Art by Steven Cummings and Chris Sotomayor
Letttering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10
Behind the cosmic radiation and the Kirby madness, the Fantastic Four are rooted in a simple, universal concept: family. For nearly six decades, the FF have been synonymous with a scientist, his wife, her brother, and his best friend, all having adventures (and trying to survive each other in the process).
I mention this because that simplicity hasn’t translated to Marvel’s futuristic world in Fantastic Four 2099. While there’s certainly a twist at the heart of this issue, the rest of this story is so convoluted and haphazard that it’s hard to justify picking it up - whereas the original FF have withstood the test of time, their 2099 counterparts feel secondary in their own story, making this one-shot a disappointment for new readers and diehards alike.
It’s a shame, too, because the wayward robot H.E.R.B.I.E. was one of the highlights of last week’s 2099 Alpha, but writer Karla Pacheco seems to be putting the cart before the horse - because she spends so much time focusing on H.E.R.B.I.E. and his cyborg cowgirl protector Venture, the rest of the cast is barely established. Venture bounces from recruit to recruit through the flimsiest of contrivances, and because these characters’ personalities and power sets are so ill-defined, it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on. These characters barely know each other, they have no shared history or relationships - they’re just conveniently bumping into one another. Combine that with Pacheco seeming more interested in the world-building of the 2099 universe versus that of her actual heroes, and you’ve got a distracting, muddled read.
That said, I can’t say this is artist Steven Cummings’ best work, either. To be fair, he can’t maneuver his way out of an ill-structured script, but his characters don’t do much to stand apart, either - some of this is because half the FF are obscured in cloaks through the majority of their appearances, but it feels like even he’s trying to get a bead on a story that lacks a concrete direction. Still, when you get continuity errors like Andie Mugh’s car suddenly growing in size (to the point where the writer has to lampshade it), you’re not in for a great time. To his credit, however, Cummings is able to shift gears nicely for the end of the book, as he turns this would-be superhero book into a surprisingly horrifying affair.
But just because this is the sole bright spot in execution doesn’t mean it’s exactly earned. Pacheco has a twist for readers that completely upends what has already been a patience-testing story - she goes from a story of some degree of optimism to one of abrupt, bleak nihilism, and I’ll be honest, after the shock value subsides, it can’t help but feel a little cheap. Because we don’t know enough about the characters, it’s hard to care when their transformation into the FF doesn’t go exactly as planned, and the way that Pacheco has to clean up loose ends only reinforces all the structural missteps made getting there.
If you’re a fan of the recently relaunched Fantastic Four series, you will likely be disappointed that Fantastic Four 2099 shares very little in common with their classic predecessors. This is a scattered, meandering read that does so little to establish its titular concept that even diehard fans will likely feel swindled - and given Marvel’s other 2099 one-shots being offered in the coming days, this is one family gathering you can easily avoid.