Goodbye Fantastic Four, Hello Future Foundation
Well, Fantastic Four #588 has come and gone and FF #1 Is on the stands and I thought I'd share my impressions with all the FF fans out there.
On one level, the whole thing is silly. There is not a fan boy (or girl) out there who doesn't know that Johnny Storm will return someday. All that his return requires is a writer or editor who wants to make use of him... and this is inevitable. The only question will be whether or not the story of his return will be a good one. (I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed with Steve Rogers recent resurrection. I didn't particularly like the the whole lost in time bit, but I never-the-less liked the story and was glad to have Steve back.)
It is also only a matter of time before FF disappears and Fantastic Four returns (or, FF stays on the stands and Fantastic Four returns, if Marvel thinks they can make twice as much money on our fabulous foursome... they will). My best guess is that we will see the return of "the worlds greatest comic magazine" in around a year when Marvel can tack the numbering of FF onto Fantastic Four and they can put out a high priced special Fantastic Four #600.
None of this is surprising to we the comics geeks. These are all now standard marketing ploys. Those who don't regularly buy the book want to see the "death", so the company sells more issues. Everyone wants to get a copy of a first issue, so the company sells more issues. The same will be true for the inevitable resurrection, the return of the traditional title and the big 600th issue.
I for one don't blame the businessmen, or the creative types who want to put an indelible stamp on the mythos. Hey, the company has to make money or they have no reason to put out the product and... all those writers and artists gotta eat! Further, the creative types want to create. They may be thrilled to be chronicling the adventures of characters that they've loved, but they also want to do something new. Create something of their own and maybe.. be remembered throughout comic book history, however long that lasts.
For me the important question was, how good were the story and art? I'm pleased to say that I really liked them. There was a really good and subtle build up. Once Upon a time I really liked the character Johnny Storm. I liked his friends, I liked his girlfriends, I liked his relationships with Sue and Ben and Spider-Man. Heck, back in the 60's it looked like he was going to be the member of the FF to have a successful solo career. However, for the better part of the last decade Johnny has seemed to become increasingly shallow. Some of this is because the writers weren't interested in him (or just more interested in the other two thirds of the team). Some of this may have to do with keeping the character in line with the way movie producers wanted to characterize him for the silver screen. (I hate the fact that comics often change to reflect the movies.) But, I think over the last year or so, the creative team has been deliberately making Johnny seem more shallow just to enhance the dramatic effect of turning the last page of Fantastic Four #587 and being hit in the face with the words "The Last Stand of Johnny Storm". In an explosive burst of emotion, a piece of masterful storytelling reminds us of the point that ultimately, heroism is about self sacrifice, and Johnny Storm was a hero and that there is nothing shallow about being a hero.
Then, in Issue 588, we're hit with the number two of a one two punch! I think Fantastic Four #588 is one of the best comics I've ever read, or rather, viewed, since.. there weren't that many words. Nick Dragotta proved that he is as good an artist as any of the legendary fan favorites. Now, as much as I love the FF, my favorite has always been the Avengers and the first page of 588, where the Avengers arrive too late to save the day was exciting and heart wrenching. Then again, the whole issue is heart wrenching. As tired as I may get of corporate hoopla and creative hyperbole, it's all worth it for a couple of comics like these two.
As to FF #1, well... the new costumes don't do anything for me, though, I don't hate them. However, to be fair, the old costumes didn't do anything for me either, though, I didn't hate them. The only time I ever really liked an FF costume was when Mr. Storm went red for awhile in the 70s... but that's just me. Orange is my favorite color and the red and yellow combination made me see orange. (This is probably why I'm such a big fan of Human Torches in general and the original Human Torch in particular.) I do think that the new costume is a better look for Spider-Man than the traditional FF costumes would have been.
But, as I said, for me.. it's about the story. I liked the story. It wasn't big, or ground breaking. It really wasn't anything new at all. It picked up where the old book left off and went in exactly the same direction the book had been moving in for awhile now. Somehow, I think that I expect something more spectacular from a first issue... but... this isn't really a first issue and after the proceeding two issues, a pause to draw breath seems appropriate. I do like the fact that Spidy is now in the FF and the Avengers, and I like the fact that Peter, whose scientific genius has never been played up enough, is now going to spend quality time with Reed Richards. So, I'm looking forward to the next year of FF. I hope that the death, last issue and first issue brought in a lot of new readers who stick with the book so that it stays with us a long time... and I look forward to your comments. Oh... one big big complaint.... calling the new book FF rather than something like Future Foundation is really going to screw up the abbreviating. Traditionally Fantastic Four has been abbreviated FF. So, when I see something like "I really loved FF #1". Am I supposed to think Lee and Kirby or Hickman, Epting, Magyar? I would love to know how the folks at Marvel are going to refer in brief to the old series.
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