On August 8th it will be 57 years since the Fantastic Four went on their first adventure. Marvel Comics editor Tom Brevoort tells us that in his afterword of Fantastic Four #1, detailing how we got here and why the first family is so important. It’s the history of these characters that makes them so paramount in our hearts and it’s why the announcement of their return was so important to the fans. We got a taste of what’s to come at San Diego Comic-Con this year, but on Wednesday, they’re back baby!
So what’s it about?
Read the preview.
Why does this matter?
These characters have been absent from Marvel Comics since 2015 when the title was cancelled with issue #645. That’s a long time, especially in comics, and especially with one of the hallmark superhero books. Sure, the characters like Thing and Human Torch have appeared in Marvel Two-In-One and they were all a big part of Secret Wars, but the team being together as one has not happened in nearly three years. Time to make things right.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The Fantastic Four’s triumphant return to store shelves opens in the perfect way: with a tribute to the late Steve Ditko. The comic (and every comic out this week from Marvel) devotes four pages to his greatness and it suits this book quite well given the history of the characters. The very first page of the story brings the warm fuzzies too with a close up of the Fantastic Four in a family group shot. It’s accompanied with captions from Ben and Johnny (with their own stylized boxes) perfectly explaining why this team is so great. Slott writes excellent opening captions here — it could be the best first page of any comic of the year, and his attention to the characters’ voices shines through clearly throughout the issue.
This is the sort of comic that revels in the relationships of the characters. Johnny and Thing have their scrappy brother dynamic and later we see other first family dynamics in play. There are also big life moments to be experienced, which kick off difficult feelings, and at the center of it all the absence of Reed and Sue. No, they aren’t on the team from the first issue, but it’s in their absence that Slott and artist Sara Pichelli explore the love and need these characters have for each other.
A lot of the feels these characters go through, and we live vicariously through them, are due to Pichelli’s fantastic handle of the characters via body language and facial expressions. Pichelli gets a lot of mileage out of Thing’s stone face, which isn’t easy. We also get a more classic version of Thing who is a bit down in the dumps and a loveable sort of loser. The guy needs his family to really be himself and that’s been missing for too long.
It’s not all about the family and their emotions, though. There’s a fun flashback that centers itself on the interactions of the characters on an adventure which is reminiscent of Slott’s excellent work on Silver Surfer. There’s also an expertly drawn backup focused on Dr. Doom and drawn by Simone Bianchi. This focus is an important one since there’s no Fantastic Four without Dr. Doom. It’s interesting to see where Slott takes this character given his recent past of being a hero (and before that, a god). This gives readers a taste of where his head is at, which is appreciated.
Rounding out this book is a one-page gag story by Skottie Young. It’s self-aware of what we read reflecting on the reveals (or maybe even the lack thereof). As a final period on the issue, it does its job and actually might quell some readers’ nervousness of where this story goes from here.
It can’t be perfect can it?
This is the kind of first issue that will be best enjoyed if you read the second issue right after this one. There are some promises made that’ll make you want issue #2 as soon as possible. It’s also on the slower side pace wise, never attempting to do too much. That can be good from a character standpoint, but I was hoping for more bang (literally and figuratively) for my buck. This is a book where anything can happen and so far not a lot has occurred from a plot perspective.
Is it good?
The expectations for this book are incredibly high and I think it delivers on Marvel’s “fresh start” approach. The narrative is centered on the family aspect and the bonds between the characters. You’re going to feel for them, worry about them, and hope they can pull it all together to be the superhero team we all know and love. Given the attention to detail and approach Slott and Pichelli give to the book we’re in safe hands. This is a wholesome, meaningful, and contemplative story that reminds us the bonds of these superheroes aren’t just the important thing — they’re everything.