Surprising in that the FF title was continuing beyond what many thought was a natural ending point with the departure of Jonathan Hickman. Surprising in the makeup of the new team. And very surprising in the announcement of art team beyond compare, Michael and Laura Allred.
And now that we have the first issue of this title, we can see that it is not only the most surprising title of Marvel NOW so far, but also the best.
The issue is neatly divided into two separate plot strands. In the first, the Fantastic Four head to recruit their replacement for four minutes – the previously announced Ant Man, Medusa, She-Hulk and Miss Thing (just don’t call her that yet – it’s pretty clear that at this stage, she has no idea what’s about to happen). In the second, the wide and varied cast of the Future Foundation introduce themselves to the reader and to Scott Lang.
Matt Fraction is on top form with both of these plot threads. He neatly captures Scott Lang’s pain at his recent loss without overplaying it (and an AR extra takes us through the death of his daughter if you missed it), and gives Sue and Medusa a wonderful conversation about motherhood in the worlds in which they inhabit.
An even better job is done with the Future Foundation itself, an organisation whose numbers have been growing for nearly three years. It currently comprises 14 members, most of whom will be completely unfamiliar to readers not intimately acquainted with the Hickman years. But in a wonderful series of one-pagers (which need to be reread once you’ve finished the issue), Fraction manages to bring all readers up to speed with who these characters are and why the Future Foundation is important.
But what takes this issue to the top of the Marvel NOW must-read list is the artwork of Michael Allred, coloured by Laura Allred. Their art is a great fit for the title, celebrating the weird, grotesque and fantastical elements of the Foundation and the wider Marvel universe.
Michael Allred is a wonderful cartoonist as well as one of the industry’s most exciting artists, and his command of facial and body acting is on a par with Kevin Maguire’s. Each Foundation page is a joy to look at, from the disinterest of Dragon Man to the fooling around of Franklin Richards, from the awkward nervousness of Onome to the subtle nervousness of Leech, conveyed only in his shifting eyes.
Laura Allred’s colouring is, as always, superb, working with the artwork to create a visual identity for the book that is unlike anything else being published in Marvel today.
Between this title and Fantastic Four, the First Family and Foundation have had a superb launch in Marvel NOW. It looks like Fantastic Four fans are in for some great comics.
Writer: Matt Fraction, Artist and Cover: Michael Allred, Colour Artist: Laura Allred, Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles, Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas, Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch