REVIEW: Fantastic Four #2

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Or – “Preparations, Reparations, and Secrets Left Untold…”

Reed Richards has decided, after the events of the last few years of Marvel, to take a vacation with his family, giving his kids (Franklin and Valeria) an educational tour of the multiversal realities as only the Fantastic Four can provide…

Oh, and there’s a good chance that he and the rest of the F.F. are slowly decaying at the cellular level.  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

FantasticFour2CoverFANTASTIC FOUR #2
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker(s): Mark Farmer & Mark Morales
Colorist(s): Paul Mounts with Wil Quintana
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor(s): Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Fantastic Four:  Reed Richards is not well.  Something is wrong with his cellular structure, and whatever it is has him shaken to the core.  In order to find a cure, Reed has decided to set out on a journey through the universe, keeping the true nature of their travels a secret from his family, and recruiting a new foursome to protect the Earth in their stead.  (The first chapter of that story was told in the first issue of their companion title, FF.) Preparations continue as Marvel’s First Family set off on another grand adventure, albeit one with hidden consequences.

ANT-MAN’S BACK FROM THE DEAD, AND ACTUALLY SEEMS TO BE DOING SOMETHING…

The best part of most Matt Fraction stories, for my money, is the characterizations involved.  Some claim that his work derails established characters, but I find it more of a rounding effect, adding nuance to existing moments with dialogue and cool interactions.  Thus it is with the beginning of this issue, as The Thing returns to Yancy Street, his home turf, with a message for his old nemeses, the Yancy Street Gang.  “This is my last will an’ testament,” yells Ben Grimm into the night, “and I’m only gonna holler it once!”  The sequence is wonderful, as it cuts straight to the heart of Ben Grimm, of his beliefs in family and community, and ends with The Thing stomping away with a gruff farewell to his home neighborhood.  Equally intriguing stuff is happening back at F.F. headquarters, as Ant-Man and Mister Fantastic discuss the breakdown of Reed’s molecular structure, while the leader of the Fantastic Four swears his understudy to secrecy.  Ant-Man bitterly snarks that Reed at least has a family to support him, but agrees, while the other members of the team make their way with the Future Foundation and the legacy they’ve agreed to carry, if only for a few minutes.  Medusa’s interactions with the kids of the Foundation are pretty smirk-worthy (“They’re not bowing.”) and the interplay between the new FF and the old F.F. show not only the depths of each character, but the importance of punctuation, something about which my English teacher grandma is undoubtedly posthumously proud.

THE CALLOUS MISCALCULATIONS OF MISTER JOHN STORM.

Of course, Johnny Storm, even having grown up, hasn’t grown ALL the way up, and suddenly recalls that he, too, was supposed to choose an understudy, and hurriedly asks his rock star paramour to be part of the makeshift “home team.”  The second half of the issue features her first moments with the madness of the Family Fantastic, and further complicates the timelines of Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy, a history already inexorably tiffany-twisted.  Even so, there’s some wonderful character work here, and Mark Bagley’s art is on its best behavior.  As Rodrigo notes, there are some times when Bagley’s faces are horribly misshapen and assymetrical, but I don’t recall any moments with this issue (which could be at least partially attributed to good inking by Farmer and Morales.)  The ending is both uplifting, unnerving and exciting to read, with Ant-Man counting down the two-hundred-forty seconds of his team’s tenure, while the Fantastic Four plus two rocket off into the wild blue yonder.  Of special entertainment value for me is the Franklin and Valeria’s facial expressions as they start chanting “Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?” at the top of their lungs as the journey begins…

THE BOTTOM LINE: STILL PROLOGUE, BUT AT LEAST IT’S INTERESTING…

All in all, I was a bit surprised to find that this issue was still all build-up to where the team was heading, as I figured we’d have a time-jump to cover the actual departure from the Baxter Building (or wherever the team lives now.)  All in all though, the issue works for me as it continues to build the tension about the trip, and what might possibly end up going wrong in their absence, and gives us character work for all EIGHT of the major players, a pretty impressive bit of business in itself.  Fantastic Four #2 has a lot of talk, but doesn’t fall apart on the job, serving as a showcase for art and dialogue, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  If next issue is still prologue, though, I expect to feel a little bit of consternation…

Rating: ★★★★☆

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