“FF” is the little comic that could. Overshadowed by its parent title “Fantastic Four,” and full of B- and C-grade characters, Matt Fraction and Michael Allred have quietly turned “FF” into a series that begs to be read as soon as possible. “FF” #10 is a perfect example of why this comic is so much fun, with two storylines running side by side that juggle comedy and drama.
On the sillier side, the Fantastic Four, Artie and Leech take writer Matt Fraction, artist Michael Allred and editor Tom Brevoort on a ride into the microscopic world as part of a way to pump up interest in the team through their official comic book. I always forget that it’s been long established for there to be a “Fantastic Four” comic within the Marvel Universe itself; its presence seems solely to come up with goofy self-referential stories like this one. It’s deliberately silly; Fraction writes his own fictional counterpart as a mixture of free-swearing and a little pompous, while Allred has an almost childlike innocence and Brevoort is always looking at the business side of manners. Allred’s art is just as much fun, drawing his in-story version with a “Madman” shirt on, and taking the sitcom styled plot of a tiger being smuggled onto the expedition has just the right level of whimsy in the adorable-yet-deadly beast in the way that Allred draws it.
At the same time, there’s the smaller group of kids and their dangerous game of 20 Questions. Fraction and Allred have the real heart of the issue here, as the kids who are slightly different from the others potentially step into something more than they can handle. Allred impressively draws each of the kids as they make their guesses, get frustrated with one another, and look genuinely puzzled. It doesn’t hurt that Fraction makes Maximus’ statements chilling, from his take on each of the five kids, to that final sentence that closes out the issue. As the children stand in postures that range from confusion to fear, Fraction and Allred’s story and art combine for a moment that serves as a perfect cliffhanger, that threat of something awful having been unleashed.
“FF” #10 is another winner of a comic from Fraction and Allred. I’ve come to regard this as of late as the true Fantastic Four comic; this collection of substitute heroes and the kids they’re sworn to protect has such charm and inventiveness that I’d read dozens of issues about them so long as Fraction and Allred were behind it. If you haven’t been reading “FF” up until now, this is a good place to begin.