“FF” is an interesting book; it started out as a continuation of “Fantastic Four,” then a year later became a title in its own right starring the group of kids and teenagers associated with “Fantastic Four.” We’re on our fourth issue of the focus on the new cast, and while it’s still fun to read, it’s also starting to feel like it’s losing a bit of its new identity.
“FF” and “Fantastic Four” are two heavily intertwined books to the point where “FF” #12-14 often felt like we were getting extra pages intended for “Fantastic Four” moved into its own comic. In the case of “FF” #15, there isn’t any pretense that this is anything but extra plotlines that couldn’t fit into “Fantastic Four.” (They’re even reprinting the “Fantastic Four” letter column in “FF” now.) Jonathan Hickman’s script for “FF” #15 pointedly won’t make much sense if you aren’t already reading “Fantastic Four” now and I’m becoming less convinced it’s a good idea.
Part of the attraction to still read “FF” is to see what all of the kids are up to. These characters were the best addition to “Fantastic Four” in a while and I love the idea of a strong focus on them. Here, the kids whose names don’t end in “Richards” are getting quickly shuffled off-panel. (Even cover-appearing guest stars Power Pack have awfully little to do in “FF” #15.) It’s frustrating because one of the best scenes in the book involves the Moloid kids and every single scene of Bentley’s is comedy gold. Those characters getting quickly sidelined removes a significant amount of entertainment.
For those who are into Valeria and Franklin, there’s still some gold. Valeria’s interactions with everyone are strong and Franklin shifts more into the spotlight this month as he gets positioned for an important role in the conclusion of this storyline. The moment with Franklin interrupting the narration stream here is wonderful and in general I think Hickman has an especially strong handle on this strange, slightly out-there kid. While the rest of the cast getting temporarily removed is annoying, at least those who remain are fun to read about.
Nick Dragotta takes over the art starting with “FF” #15, and it’s a tremendous relief. Dragotta is a talented artist to begin with, but even more importantly he can draw children who look their age. Valeria in particular looks adorable with her goggles perched on top of her head; she feels like a little girl and it makes the dissonance created when her adult-levels of intelligence appear that much more effective. When Franklin’s talking to his companion on the ship, it looks great. From the outlined form perched next to him to the look on Franklin’s face when he first glances up, it’s a firm reinforcement that Dragotta is a much better match for “FF” than Juan Bobillo was.
Hopefully once this current story ends, we’ll get the rest of the cast back in a more substantial role. Having all the kids around is the big strength of “FF” and the longer they’re gone, the less entertaining “FF” might become. “Fantastic Four” bonus scenes are nice, but “FF” needs to get its own voice again.