Friday, 21 November 2014

Fantastic Four Vol. 1: New Departure, New Arrivals (Marvel NOW!) Review

Fantastic Four Vol. 1: New Departure, New Arrivals (Marvel NOW!)

There's a lot of confidence in that caption
up the top.
Writer: Matt Fraction

Artists: Mark Bagley and Micheal Allred

Collects: Fantastic Four #1-3 and FF #1-3

Background Information:

I don’t think there was a single comic more significant to Marvel’s history than Fantastic Four. They’ve been called Marvel’s First Family for a reason after all, and they were, to my knowledge, Stan Lee’s big debut to comics.

In terms of their history, Reed Richards, his buddy Ben Grimm, his love interest Susan Storm and his love interest’s brother Johnny were on a space adventure when hit by a strange power source- it did crazy things to the molecules in their bodies giving them each a very distinctive power. Now Reed is Mr Fantastic, able to stretch his… everything, Susan, now married to Reed, can turn invisible and create forcefields as the Invisible Woman, Ben, the Thing is a walking, talking, clobberin’ rock and Johnny calls himself The Human Torch when he lights himself on fire.

Oh, and side note- their book’s officially cancelled.

Review:

Hey, look; it's She Hulk, Medusa, and people who have an
uncertain future in film!
Let’s face it; comics are generally a very fighty medium. The high point of each issue is usually when characters are hitting each other. It speaks a lot about our modern culture, I think, that we often fail to envision adventure without violence or tension without fighting.

Yet that is exactly what New Departure, New Arrival does, and even though this is by no means a great book, it’s more than a little bit fun to read.

Even though this collection contains issues from two different series, FF and Fantastic Four, both written by Matt Fraction (who wrote the awesome Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon and the comparatively underwhelming sequel Little Hits), there’s still a single, coherent story that runs throughout. Reed Richards is dying, the power source that gave him his abilities is finally back to get him and now Reed has no idea how much longer he has to live. Instead of telling anyone about it, he takes the entire Fantastic Four and his two children for what’s billed as a “holiday” in the unknown universes. While they gone, they get other heroes (Ant-Man, She Hulk, Medusa and Johnny’s girlfriend, Darla) to watch over earth for them. Sure, Reed only thinks he’ll be gone for four minutes, but just in case, right?

The only real, this-bothers-me problem is the assumption that earth in the Marvel universe needs to be “watched over” because the Fantastic Four aren’t there. I mean, their home of New York has the Avengers, multiple teams of Avengers; what do they need the Fantastic Four for, exactly? It’s an error that, for me, makes the whole story less credible.

Be that as it may, though, New Departure, New Arrivals does plenty right. For starters, it’s a surprisingly fun book. I can’t remember reading a title that was this light-hearted. Not just in the sense that there’s the occasional joke, but everything is just plain light. There is literally no darkness here. It’s refreshing to see this kind of storytelling, and it’s helped by the fact that there’s very little violence in the whole collection. The Fantastic Four’s journey features no central villain, and really focuses on the escape from a monster rather than killing one. It makes this collection one of those ones that you have no problem showing to the kids.

This is as much stabbing as you're going to see in this book.
That said, the Fantastic Four portions of this collection really get outshined by the FF issues. Fraction is at his best as a writer when writing these issues that actually mirror the feel of his work on Hawkeye, and the art by Allred is so much more distinctive than Bagley’s, which feels too much like it’s playing by Stuart Immomnen’s rules.

New Departures, New Arrivals isn’t going to make you fall head-over-heels in love with the Fantastic Four, but it’s a fair title and recommended for readers who want to get a feel for the first family. It gets a three out of five Avengers who apparently aren’t watching over earth.

+ Actually fun.

+ Accomplishes Excitement without villains.

- One major plot hole.

- FF chapters outshine Fantastic Four ones.

Alternate Option: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon

Fraction’s best writing to date. Read this.