We're one month and two issues into the relaunch of the Fantastic Four franchise relaunch. The replacement team has yet to be completed, and the team they are replacing have yet to leave Earth. Can a decent story rise out of the extended setup and character moments? Read on!
The second issue of the Marvel NOW Fantastic Four continues very much in the same vein as the first. Which is to say that there are some lovely character moments, some great art, but very little in terms of actual development. In fact, by the end of this issue, we are still to move beyond the initial pitch for the series.
In terms of structure, this issue feels closer to FF #1 than it does to Fantastic Four #1. Matt Fraction writes with an alarming economy, refusing to let any scene stretch beyond two pages. An incredible amount happens in these 24 pages, as the team set their affairs in order and bond with their replacements in the run-up to their departure.
In many ways, having an extended setup is uncommon in comics today. The New 52 started with 52 bangs – most big, some small, a few rather wet – and Marvel have been treating the majority of the NOW books to date as big events. To have three issues dedicated to setting up a new status quo is a rare luxury, and Fraction is making the most of this. However, by the end of the issue, my reaction was one of impatience to move into something new, to see what happens on this voyage in space that was promised way back in the initial announcements for the series.
Putting this aside, there is a lot to like about this issue. I love the silliness of Ben’s edict to the Yancy Street Gang. There’s something very appropriate – almost retro – about the repeated use of the word ‘dummies’, and this whole scene tickled me. Less effective was the Thing/She-Hulk workout scene, which didn’t seem to develop either character or their relationship from what we’d seen in FF. The Reed/Scott scene went some way to addressing the issue of why Reed isn’t talking to his family about their condition. Darla finally gets a chance to be more than a punchline, and the read of her character from this issue shows that she may get to fill the role of heart/moral compass in the FF title.
Mark Bagley’s art continues to impress, despite Mark Farmer sharing inking duties Mark Morales. The line detail that I enjoyed so much is still present, but Morales’ inks seem to fit Bagley’s faces a little more. The colours from Paul Mounts and Wil Quintana also superb.
With the dialoguing and art working so well, it’s just a shame that the plotting has not been as fast-paced as the rapid-fire scene changes would lead you to believe. Still, as the tentacles creeping into view on the preview of nest issue’s cover would lead us to believe, things are about to pick up.
Writer: Matt Fraction, Penciler: Mark Bagley, Inkers: Mark Farmer and Mark Morales, Colorists: Paul Mounts with Wil Quintana, Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles, Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas, Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch, Cover Artists: Mark Bagley, Mark Farmer and Paul Mounts