The New Marvel is a series that looks at the changes that the mega-comic empire made following the events of Avengers vs. X-Men and the impact that those changes have on the stories of Marvel NOW! Six issues (or more) into each Marvel NOW! title, we see what our favorite characters are up to and what to keep an eye out for in the future.
Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic), Sue Richards (the Invisible Woman), Johnny Storm (the Human Torch), and Ben Grimm (the Thing) gained their powers a long time ago from a cosmic storm. Their family has since grown well beyond four, welcoming Franklin and Valeria Richards and a group of adopted children from the Future Foundation. But, it’s not easy being parents and full-time explorers, so Reed decides there is only one thing to do: pack up the family and go on a vacation through time and space.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW!
Covering Issues #1-#6
That’s not to say that’s the Four’s only motivation for leaving Earth for a while. Reed Richards is injured during one of the team’s outings and notices that his cells are beginning to break down at the molecular level. The only hope he has of finding a cure for himself, and for his possibly also affected teammates, is to scour time and space looking for an answer. Each issue is a self-contained joyride in a completely different setting. One issue could have the team visiting ancient Rome on Earth and the next on some faraway world that defies the laws of physics as we know them. This consistent change up makes every issue a solid buy and the shifting setting alters the genre and themes explored in that issue, which keep the series feeling fresh.
I’m starting to fall for Matt Fraction just from his writing. Throwing the Fantastic Four on this series of Doctor Who-style adventures with the kids in tow is brilliant and a lot of fun. Getting away from the bulk of the Marvel universe allows these stories to be on their own and engaging. In fact, the only issue I disliked was the Age of Ultron crossover. The Four had no business becoming involved in that arc, and it was a confusing mess just to have a Fantastic Four issue in the big event. Fraction has an easygoing sense of humor about him, and while Fantastic Four doesn’t have the same tone as his work on Hawkeye, it has a touch of it and when Fraction decides to be funny he makes the Fantastic Four hilarious. Ben is usually the butt of these jokes, but damn does that dummy play a good straight man. It would be so easy to focus on the adults and have Franklin and Valeria sort of around, but while the kids aren’t using their abilities, they are more than capable of using their brains. It’s far cuter to hear technobabble coming from 5-6 year olds than it is from old man Reed, and the children’s ongoing education is a great source for plot advancement and introducing story elements.
Mark Bagley’s art is incredible, but we all knew that. He creates a whole new setting for the series every issue, and it always looks breathtaking. Paul Mounts, the colorist, deserves some serious credit, too, for putting that brilliant final coat on the backgrounds and bringing them to life. I’m especially a fan of Bagley’s work on the characters this time around. His facial expressions for the group are phenomenal. Johnny giving puppy dog eyes at one point and a happy Ben grinning from ear to ear are the most adorable things ever drawn.
Every issue of Fantastic Four exceeds my expectations. The twists and turns introduced keep me on my toes and have thoroughly captured my attention. The only things I’d like to see different from the series is an explanation for some of the events in the Age of Ultron tie-in for those of us who didn’t read the entire thing. I’m a little concerned by what will we be waiting for the Four when they return to Earth. Besides that, I say flip the switch and let’s go on another adventure.