Up until now, the "Fantastic Four" and "FF" re-launches have left me a little cold. It probably hasn't helped that both comics have felt like they've been moving a bit slowly, and not in a good or memorable way. But with "FF" #2, I feel like Matt Fraction and Michael Allred have hit their groove, telling a story about the replacement Fantastic Four in a way that has grabbed my attention.
It helps a great deal that the set-up is finally over; the Fantastic Four are now missing in action and the new team members are all in the hot seat. Unsurprisingly, the majority of attention this issue is centered on Darla Deering, the non-powered last-second-selection from the Human Torch to take his slot on the team. While it would have been easy to go with the cliched bimbo routine, Fraction instead goes for a much better (and more interesting) angle. Darla's not stupid, she's just a normal person who believes that she's in something slightly over her head. But from her independently deciding to watch the chronostellar manifold, to her suiting up in her own armor, she's not doing a bad job at all even if her own self-doubt makes her believe otherwise. She's the star of "FF" #2, even though she herself doesn't know it just yet.
The rest of the main cast gets their own little moments, too; Medusa's downshifting from an empress to normal person feels not quite entirely in line with the character's past, but it's funny enough to let it slide. Ant Man's desperate attempts to control things are also fun to read; you can see him fumbling to try and take charge even as everything keeps spinning just slightly out of control. Only She-Hulk doesn't get much to work with this month, but considering that even a bunch of the Future Foundation kids get their own little scenes, it's understandable that not all 16 characters will get a spotlight this month. It's ultimately Leech (with Artie in tow) who steals just about every scene he's in; from telling Darla about her pancakes to his explaining "the Machine that says 'Boop Boop' room" he's a riot, and it's I feel like Fraction is making him a star.
Allred's art is unsurprisingly beautiful. His soft, gentle ink lines are nothing new, even though they're always attractive. What makes this issue stand out for me on a visual level, though, is how well he's using other styles as need be. The Machine that says Boop Boop, for instance, looks directly out of a Jack Kirby comic. It's wonderfully complex and heading in every which way; it's not the sort of thing I'm used to seeing Allred draw. And when the huge monster attacks, well, if I hadn't known better I would have thought that Arthur Adams had stopped in to draw those panels. The monster looks amazing, with all of his little ridges and carefully executed teeth. It's got a power and a detail that I don't normally associate with Allred, and I love that he's stretching himself and going in these different directions as the script requires.
"FF" #2 has me much more confident about this title. Despite a lackluster first issue, "FF" #2 is fun and has a spring in its step that makes you eager to see what happens next. It's nice to see the book having found its voice, now; if you hadn't looked before, this is a good place to start. The Fs in "FF" stand for fun.