The future is now and the Future Foundation is here.
The Future Foundation is the new “FF” of this title, and they’ve added to their ranks. The expansion of the ranks, the choice of the new costumes, and the abandonment of the old Fantastic Four togs – even though a fourth member is asked to join here – are all explained in the pages of this issue.
Jonathan Hickman does a very good job of setting up what is happening with Reed Richards, Sue Storm, and Ben Grimm following the death of their teammate. Hickman puts us alongside Spider-Man to learn about the world around this Future Foundation, the Foundation itself, and life in general within the walls of the Baxter Building. While many of the questions are answered, some questions (and other pieces of exposition) are left unanswered. Those missing answers are less of a void than presumed points of discussion to be revisited later when their purpose is more relevant.
Readers who expect this to be the “Fantastic Four” with new costumes will be surprised, maybe even pleasantly so. This is a new ground floor for one of Marvel’s oldest concepts and some of their most beloved characters. Hickman is bringing us in the front door for a guided tour.
While I appreciate the mastery of craft expressed in Steve Epting’s work, his pencils for the characters are a little rigid. I had the great fortune of picking up a Mike Wieringo-drawn “Fantastic Four” hardcover recently, and that style of art, to me, captures the sense of adventure of these characters. That’s no discredit to Epting as an artist. He does a fantastic job of setting up the world around these characters and meticulously draws the characters themselves. By all accounts, this is a beautiful book. It is, however, a book that is grounded due to the meticulous nature of the art. Using Wieringo as a benchmark, and like Jack Kirby and John Byrne before, the base concept of the core characters in this book is the fantastic and amazing. These are, as Mark Waid labeled them, imaginauts; The art in the adventures should be full of wonder and expression. Epting’s art worked for the “3” storyline as the team’s future was shrouded in gloom and doom, but this brand new day/fresh start/grand re-opening feels less hope-filled with such grounded art. His characters all look great, but they’re not energetic.
While the impending demise of a member of the team helped drive interest in “Fantastic Four,” and the death issue certainly brought in some new readers, the set-up and approachability in Hickman’s story then is nothing compared to the first issue of the new “FF” now. This issue is dense with facts and information, brilliant art, and compelling characters, but it feels open. The characters that aren’t thoroughly explained in this first issue do not have an immediate impact. Hickman addresses the power players early and thoroughly so future issues can begin to cover other cast members.
That guided tour I mentioned earlier also includes a legend of the characters in this first issue for quick reference upon re-reading. Yes, this book demands re-reading. It helps the story soak in a bit more and offers more for the reader on a second pass. In short, this is a near perfect first issue for readers to jump into this fantastic new world.