“Fantastic Four” #3, written by Matt Fraction with art by Mark Bagley is what a typical “Fantastic Four” comic should be. There’s an air of mystery, an unsolvable dilemma and a reminder of the importance of family. Ben is melancholy, Johnny is impetuous, Reed is scheming and Sue is the glue that holds the family together: nothing exceedingly new or enlightening but still another comfortable issue.
Granted, Jonathan Hickman put some extreme work into this title during his run, giving the extended Richards family a whole new perspective and freshening things up while challenging the established status “Fantastic Four” had settled in to. Fraction has some big shoes to fill, but rather than fill them, it appears as though he has picked a different path, choosing to deliver widescreen adventure to readers of “Fantastic Four.” Fraction gives Reed Richards a challenge that sends the team into space, searching for a cure to Reed’s molecular decay. That leads to some scheming on his part as he employs a lie of omission once again. Around that lie, the team voyages to a new world that crafts the perfect setting for Fraction to sample each persona just enough to prove he has a grasp on them. Additionally, the sibling rivalry between Franklin and Val gets panel time as well.
While Mark Bagley’s storytelling is strong, Val and Franklin are more slippery age-wise than they’ve been in quite some time. There are some panels where Franklin and Johnny appear startlingly close in age while Val and Franklin vary in height throughout the issue. Bagley does a good job of making the alien planet of Zeta Doradus truly seem alien without overpowering the true stars of “Fantastic Four” #3. Paul Mounts has remained onboard for the colors, which may at first blush seem inconsequential, but he provides a solid layer of consistency to the recent history of this book, maintaining the look of Human Torch’s flamed form and the tones and textures necessary to really sell Thing’s rocky hide. Once Bagley really settles in on his depictions of these characters, the art for the series should look quite nice.
“Fantastic Four” #3 is a decent enough, if unspectacular, story. Fraction has a nice sense for the personalities he writes and he does a fine job of delivering complete stories in each issue of the series that tie into a larger big picture. It may not be as grand in scope as Hickman’s run, but it does a sense of wonder and fun, which are critical to this first team and first family of Marvel NOW!