After what felt like forever, the Fantastic Four is returning to the Marvel Universe. The team was shattered after the events of Secret Wars with Reed and Sue presumed dead. Ben and Johnny were left back on Earth to pick up the pieces and go on with their lives, but that’s easier said than done. The Fantastic Four was more than just a team. It was a family. How do you just move on when people you’ve spent nearly your entire life with are suddenly gone?
Fantastic Four #1 deals with grief and acceptance in two very different ways. Ben is pragmatic about things, recognizing that his best friend is gone and he can’t keep hoping he’ll return. He has to live and that means spending more time with Alicia Masters. Johnny on the other hand refuses to believe Reed and Sue are dead. This is understandable since it wasn’t that long ago that everyone thought Johnny was dead, but he was just trapped in the Negative Zone.
This bright-eyed optimism ends up bringing Johnny down when a pair of Yancy Street kids steal an old signal gun and send up a false alarm. Imagine the heartbreak of thinking your lost loved ones have returned only to see two punk kids there instead. It must be what dogs go through when they think their masters have come home but it was just the mailman. This is a crushing blow that comes to a head in a confrontation with Ben later on.
This emotional difference is perfectly displayed by Sara Pichelli’s artwork. When the signal goes up, Ben is not joyful and excited. He looks sad, like he knows this isn’t real. That signal serves as a crushing reminder that his friends are gone. Meanwhile, Johnny is like a kid on Christmas morning…one that can set himself on fire and live to tell the tale. He takes off in a burst of infectious excitement. People he passes on the street are wishing him luck. The difference here is night and day.
It’s easy to get caught up in Johnny’s hope. That feeling comes through in Marte Gracia’s colors. This is a bright, beautifully colored comic. It’s like Johnny’s flame pushes away all the darkness. If he can just burn hot enough, he can will Reed and Sue back home.
The dialogue throughout the entire issue is consistently well done. Writer Dan Slott reminds us why these characters are so important to the Marvel Universe. The family dynamic is what elevates this book. It’s what has always made the Fantastic Four great. They poke fun at each other, not out of anger, but out of love. It’s the same thing we all do with relatives and that makes this book feel so natural, like these are real people.
This is perfectly encapsulated in a flashback as Ben reminisces about a past adventure where they’re forced to sing their way home. Admittedly, this is a little silly, but it just works so well as they bicker over who’s the best singer when they’re only one obvious answer. Take this out of context for a moment. Instead of traversing through outer space, what if they were lost on the interstate? To pass the time, this family could decide to sing a few songs before that gets too annoying. That’s exactly the mindset at work here and it’s so much fun.
Letterer Joe Caramagna puts this scene over the top with the singing word balloons. They’re big and bold, imbued with the personality of the singer, so they’re just a tad irritating. They start out just a little larger and then get to the point where they’re practically taking over. That’s when it gets over-the-top and everyone else wants the singing to stop. Again, this is the family dynamic at work.
This is a welcome return for the Fantastic Four. It comes at a time when they’re needed the most, but within the Marvel Universe and our world. We can always do with a little more hope and love in our lives. This issue builds to a tear-jerking final page that’s filled with an ample amount of both of those things. If you’re a new to the Fantastic Four, this issue will get you up to speed quickly and organically. This also serves as a back-to-basics setup, especially with the backup story featuring long time Fantastic Four nemesis Doctor Doom. In short, this is an incredible comic.