Even the Fantastic Four gets some time for a vacation now and then. What could possibly go wrong on a trip to the Grand Canyon? Find out in Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1 from Marvel Comics!
FANTASTIC FOUR: ROAD TRIP #1
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: Filipe Andrade
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: December 2, 2020
Previously in Fantastic Four: If they aren’t having to deal with Galactus, or the fallout from having a portal to everywhere in their backyard, it’s never a dull moment with Reed, Sue, Johnny, Ben, and the rest of the family. Or is it? What do the Fantastic Four do when they have a little downtime? Might they go on…a family vacation?
WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION…
Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1 opens with a brief hint of something weird before we jump to the day before and an open highway in the American Southwest. The whole gang is on their way to the Grand Canyon and they’ve rented the equivalent of a small station wagon to take them on the last leg of the trip. I think one of the fun things about the Fantastic Four is that they are a family, and here we see them as that with Valeria reading, Franklin on his phone, and Ben wedged into the back. But Reed is taking them on a detour – there’s a meteor crater he wants to look at.
They get to the crater and it is just that – a big hole in the ground with nothing else of note in the desert around it. Reed had heard reports of something unusual in the cosmic dust here and he insists on gathering up a little sample to take along, like two hundred kilos or so. By the time they get to their cabin it’s late and it’s dark. Everyone calls it a night, except for Reed who gets to work in the “vacation lab” in the basement.
The following morning, Ben and Alicia head for the Grand Canyon and some hiking while Sue and Valeria opt for kayaking. By the time everyone is doing their own thing, the strangeness sets in. Ben finds that chunks of his skin are falling from his body. Franklin is doing bored teenager activities – watching TV, sleeping, playing pool, scrounging for food – except it’s multiple copies of him doing them all at once. Valeria develops difficulty speaking and Sue’s eyelids disappear. Reed quickly analyzes the samples and recognizes that the soil particles are from Spyre. They’re toxic; this was a trap, and they’ve essentially been poisoned.
Everyone returns to the cabin, and their cellular structures basically go haywire at a genetic level. Sue’s body starts disintegrating. Reed loses his elastic recovery and must carry one of his arms around in a bucket. Ben passes out. Franklin is simultaneously almost everywhere and is losing track of which one he is. Johnny is on fire but feels the pain of it.
It is the youngest two who, by serendipity, start figuring out how to set things right. They decided to join together as a single (if two-headed) person and now they can think somewhat better. This is a family that is all about the thinking. In the meantime, Reed has figured out that there’s a problem with their DNA, and this toxic dust is preventing repair of the damage. If they all combine, Franklin may be able to fix all their DNA with guidance from Reed and Valeria.
And indeed we find out that there was someone behind all of this – someone who has a plan B!
A CLEVER LITTLE TRAP
The art of Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1 fits the story well. The style is a bit loose and with somewhat elongated figures. The opening scene is charming, with the pure stereotypical family-on-vacation trope captured in so many recognizable moments. We don’t really know what’s coming, and this sets up the contrast wonderfully. I really like the crater scene as the epitome of a boring “scenic” stop along the way.
When the trap kicks in, things start going haywire in small ways that grow steadily toward the solution. Every page further accentuates this, not only with the characters, but even the perspective of their cabin appears to be affected. This culminates in some full-blown body horror that is outright weird. Oh, but in the midst of this is a delightful little moment. It’s three panels showing an overlook at the Grand Canyon. In the first, it’s normal. In the second panel, the entire Canyon and surrounding area are full of Franklins. And then they all disappear again. It’s crazy, but what a way to show the magnitude of his problems.
BOTTOM LINE: ENJOYABLE
Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1 exists in its own time and place, an interlude out of the busy lives of the characters. It’s a tidy story with great pacing and it is thoroughly enjoyable.
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Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1
Even in the remote desert around the Grand Canyon, trouble finds the Fantastic Four!