Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Matt Fraction's Fantastic Four is actually pretty good

For my first foray into the new Marvel Now, I decided (or rather, it was decided for me what with release dates) that I would start with a book that is close to my heart; the Fantastic Four. Now my collection of FF issues goes back a long way. I have the run's by Waid, Straczynski, McDuffie, Millar and Hickman and have seen the great, the good and the very bad (yes I'm talking about Millar's run). Although I was hesitant after the greatness of Jonathan Hickman's venture on this title, I've now read the new issue 1 of Marvel's first family, written by Matt Fraction and art by Mark Bagley and Mark Farmer, twice and I've gotta admit, it's actually pretty good.
This issue saw Fraction re-introduce the Fantastic Four for the benefit of new readers, as well as set up the premise which will no doubt define much of his run. After starting with a tease of what the future may hold, the story focuses on the present, where the Fan four are under attack by a dinosaur back in the distant past. Upon returning to the present, and realising how much of his children's lives he is missing, decides to take them, along with the rest of the team, on a road trip of time, space and any other dimensions that happen to show up on the way. A sweet gesture you might think, wanting to spend more time with his family. Unfortunately, the reason for this trip has less to do with family bonding and more to do with something that might finally finish off this team....
In truth, I thought Fraction pulled off a great first issue here. While maybe not as good as others in the FF's long and illustrious history, this first issue of his run has Fraction not only set up what is going to happen, but has him beautifully define each character and what makes them tick, sometimes with hilarious effect (I really liked the Ben vs Yancy Street scenes). While the issue doesn't focus too much on the prior run by Hickman, there are nods entered in there, some of which help move the book forward, which is a nice touch and makes me thankful that the past isn't being ignored (DC should take note here).
Mark Bagley and Mark Farmer, have really brought a strong game on this book, based on the first issue artwork at any rate. The characters look and feel more real and more themselves, which is a plus after some of the more outrageous concepts from the last run. The art here, however, isn't perfect and does feel a little off in places, but this is most likely settling in on the title and will no doubt improve, but the fact this art looks more reminiscent of the art from the Waid era seals it for me.
At the end of the day, this book isn't perfect, but then what is? To me, Fantastic Four gives away exactly what it is that I've enjoyed from this series over the years; a light-hearted adventure series starring a lovable dysfunctional family told right with good art. For this, I am more than happy to come back in a month for the next issue.

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