Paul Mounts

Review: Fantastic Four #2

Fantastic Four #2 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

Review: Fantastic Four #1

The age of the Hickman is over.

Marvel NOW has arrived.

Matt Fraction comes to the book, fresh from his lengthy and lauded run on Iron Man, and critical darling The Defenders. Mark Bagley arrives from the disappointing Avengers Assemble title.

With the shadow of the most impressive writer on the book in a decade cast across this relaunch, can Fraction and Bagley provide a fresh, interesting and fun take on the First Family of Marvel comics, or will this new number one sink under the weight of expectations?

Read on!

Well, the good news is that this is a really strong first issue, full of fun, light on action but heavy on character, and setting up not only the main thrust of this title but justifying the existence of companion title FF.

The premise is simple: Reed's body is starting to fall apart, and it's possible that the same will happen to Sue, Johnny and Ben. Unable to find a cure in the known universe, he decides to take his family into the unknown universe, handily returning mere seconds after leaving thanks to some convenient time technology. Just to be safe, he decides to recruit a new team, just in case...

The first thing that struck me on reading this book was the vein of humour that ran throughout, whether it was the dark humour of the mombots in the opening scene, the bickering whilst the team battled against the dinosaur, or the hilarious 'dummy-off' between Ben and the Yancy Street Gang. There were times where the scale of the plots and the reality-endangering consequences of Hickman's run made for some dark reading, and it's refreshing to see that Fraction has remembered that 'fun' is a key component of the Fantastic Four.

The next thing is how great Mark Bagley's art looks in this book. Like many people, I immediately associate Bagley with Ultimate Spider-Man. Over the years, his other projects (Trinity, Justice League of America, Avengers Assemble) have been distinctly underwhelming. Not so here. The addition of Mark Farmer's inks lifts Bagley's pencils, providing a more detailed line that I'm used to seeing, without losing what makes his art so distinctive, such as his unique and expressive faces.

There were a couple of elements that stuck out for me. New character Darla Deering is given short shrift, getting to function as the silent straight man to Johnny's attempts at providing a date. Reed being dishonest to his family is a well-trodden plotline, and there is a general feeling that the colourful extended cast of characters introduced by Hickman during his run is going to brushed to the side.

But of all the Marvel NOW number ones released so far, this has been the most enjoyable, growing organically from what has come before without immediately putting it in a box yet standing on its own at the same time.

With the promise of some gorgeous Michael and Laura Allred artwork and the unexpected-but-welcome 'Continued In FF #1' caption at the end of the issue, I can't wait to see what we're going to get in two week's time.

Writer: Matt Fraction, Penciler: Mark Bagley, Inker: Mark Farmer, Colorist: Paul Mounts, Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles, Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas, Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch, Cover Artists: Mark Bagley, Mark Farmer, Paul Mounts