Jen Van Meter and Joanna Estep never really identify the date or the time for this comic book, but “100th Anniversary Special: Fantastic Four” #1 is supposed to be set in 2061. The opening scene peeks back on “Fifteen years ago,” and the assassination of Reed and Franklin Richards, Victor Von Doom, and Johnny Storm who are branded as “time terrorists.”
Van Meter sets that quartet up for a fall, provides narration from Valeria Richards’ point of view, but then launches the reader into space aboard the IGSS Fantastic to meet Fantasm, Trin Richards-Banner; her brother, Kirby, also known as Slip; Victoria Harkness, the Enchantress; and the Human Torch of this era, Lee Minh Cam. The expressions on the characters’ faces on the credits page offer a glimpse into their personalities, as does the text piece on the page, but their actual adventure in this issue is limited to a pair of pages and readers never get to see this team in action. Instead, Van Meter crafts a plot by which the original Fantastic Four (remember the time terrorist thing?) is called upon to come back together. The biggest takeaway from “100th Anniversary Special: Fantastic Four” #1, though, is the fact that Sue Storm is still regarded as one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe in this possible future and she spends some quality time with Valeria. Van Meter clearly has fun writing these two characters as the story finds levity and charm when Sue and Valeria take turns righting wrongs.
While I applaud the experiment to give the characters’ hair a more natural look, the incomplete black outline on the characters is distracting. That effect applied on a larger scale would have definitely given “100th Anniversary Special: Fantastic Four” #1 a dynamic appearance. As it stands, the art looks like it wants to be different, but instead is limited by accepted conventions. Estep should have taken the next step and carried the elimination of black outlines throughout the issue. After all, what better time to do that than in the future, or at least with a storyline set fifty years into the future?
For a miniseries that has the potential to launch a whole new line of books — or possibly a timeline to be revisited in future stories — this adventure never really does more than introduce some characters and emphasize the fact that the Fantastic Four is always about family. I wasn’t sure what to expect from “100th Anniversary Special: Fantastic Four” #1, but it wasn’t this. Van Meter and Estep open the issue with promise, but before too long, the “traditional” Fantastic Four is back in action, but against a less-than-inspired foe. I’d like to see more of the Richards-Banner twins, the “future” Human Torch and the Enchantress instead of the Fantastic Four once more besting a borderline generic foe. Perhaps, like the refugees of “Days of Future Past” did throughout X-Men history, these new characters will be able to check in from time to time. This issue, however, doesn’t really pack enough of a punch on its own to sustain in readers’ collective memories until 2061.