An Optimistic, Back-To-Basics Debut From Fantastic Four #1 By Slott, Pichelli, Bianchi & Young

by Oliver MacNamee

The Fantastic Four #1 is a comic that plays out like a classic split-story comic with Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm both being the main focus of this debut issue by Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli, but having their separate perspectives presented, moving back and forth between the two ‘surviving’ members of the FF, pondering on the continued absence of Reed and Sue Richards, just like its readers will no doubt be doing. As to whether you get any answers or not, well, you’ll have to buy the book to find out. It’s a great way to contrast the two polar views of Ben and Johnny too. Never have they ben so far apart, Or, rather, on the brink of this. 

Johnny is the chalk to Ben’s cheese as both air very different feelings on this subject, with the ever loving blue-eyed Thing being the more optimistic of the two, seeing a silver lining in even the darkest of storm clouds (Storm clouds. Geddit?), and acting on this in the most startling of ways, as you’ll witness just over half-way through this oversized first issue.

Anyway, while The Thing tries to turn a negative into a positive, Johnny isn’t in any mood to see anything positive from the loss of his sister and brother-in-laws. 

Along the way, we are reacquainted with some of the Fantastic Four’s supporting cast from over the years. There is Alicia Masters, of course, but also the return of Wyatt Wingfoot and even a cameo appearance from Jennifer Walters, AKA The She-Hulk. Are these clues to Slott’s background reading, maybe? Might we be seeing Slott go back to the seminal run by John Byrne – and my own introduction to the Fantastic Four at a time when this title was riding high – as inspiration? I do hope so. Or, is he simply paying tribute to what has come before? These stories are as rich and worthy of returning to as the Kirby and Lee run in some ways. Given we are similar ages, I imagine the Byrne run won’t be too far from Slott’s mind. Surely that run will be weighing on his mind. The whole book is dripping with nods to the FF’s amazing (or, should that be ‘fantastic’?) legacy.

But then The Fantastic Four is a family rich in history, even before Byrne got his hands on this well loved family. A family that seems to be on target for going back to its core values of family first and adventuring second. That’s certainly the vibe you’ll get from this book once you’ve read it. The odd clue hiding itself in the dialogue – for instance, Ben’s comments on family stand out – or the air of optimistic that permeates this issue, even if Johnny Storm is on hand to sour that mood. A comic that is unashamedly ready to push the family dynamics, melodrama and the more poignant, everyday moments of family life too. And, with the Baxter Building in the hands of an as yet unknown new owner, I am left wondering whether we will we be seeing the FF move back to suburbia? It helps that Pichelli’s airy, breezy, zippy artwork really lifts this already fun script and adds to the joy, hope and optimism of the issue. She’s already a great fit to this book, even after one issue. 

This is a book that has so much potential, especially if Slott is planning to stay on this run for a similar time as he did on Spider-Man. And why not? A canvas upon which to explore the many different dimensions, universes and various, diverse cosmic characters Marvel has to offer, as well as the odd new edition to the Fantastic Four mythos. 

As for the back-ups, well Skottie Young’s one pager is exactly what you’d expect from Skottie Young, and it’s a fun way to end this book on. I do hope his one-pagers are a regular occurrence.

As for Simone Bianchi’s illustrated Doctor Doom story – written by Slott – well, it is even more proof of Slott’s back-to-basics approach to this team, which is a step in the right direction if you want this book to shine once more, as it hasn’t in recent years. And, if Pichelli’s art fit the mood of the main story, BInachi’s darker, muddier art certainly fits the return of Doom to Latveria. Get rid of the clutter and just focus on what made this book the ‘World’s Greatest Comic’ in the first place. Family, fun and good old fashioned adventures in time and space. Buckle up, fellow adventurers, and enjoy the ride.

The Fantastic Four #1 released today, August 8th, 2018, from Marvel Comics.

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