Since at least Jim Shooter’s tenure as Editor-in-chief in the Seventies, Marvel Comics has been built on the illusion of change. A shocking romance here, a change of identity there, the destruction of the Savage Land, No More Mutants… pretty much everything gets reversed, but it’s often fun while it lasts.
There’s one corner of the Marvel Universe where things really do grow, and stick – the Fantastic Four. Reed and Sue got married, had kids, Johnny wed Alicia… OK, that never stuck, but it had many story consequences. My point is that character growth happens, situations change for good. Just recently, Ben Grimm – the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing – and Alicia Masters finally got hitched after a 50-year romance. And as of this issue, they have kids.
Well, adopted ones, as space orphans Jo-Venn and N’Kalla settle in with them.
Elsewhere, Invisible Woman and part-time super-spy Susan Storm Richards is being assigned a mission by Nick Fury Jr.
Mr Fantastic, Reed Richards, is watching daughter Valeria show how much she takes after her pop.
And big brother Frank is explaining that Uncle Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, just doesn’t get it.
The quiet evening is interrupted by the coming of… Galactus.
Kidding. For once the purple people eater isn’t invading Earth. Nope, it’s a couple of newcomers, Cormorant and Helmsman. They’re looking for one of those boxes that have been going missing. And guess which super-stretchy, super-secretive superhero had one secreted away in his former HQ.
By the end of the issue we’ve seen what’s inside Container Zero. We’ve also seen Frank cut loose, the return of She-Hulk (sort of), upstart FF wannabes the Fantastix humbled and Victor Von Doom sign up as charter member of the Franklin Richards Fan Club.
I like that. Dr Doom is Valeria’s godfather (ah, comics) so it’s nice that he likes Frank too; if anything will stop Victor and Reed warring for good, it’s their shared fondness for the kids.
Frank is pretty great this issue, not just taking on a massively powered new foe, but coming up with a pretty creditable Plan B when things go awry.
Valeria is impressive, her big brain as useful as any super power, but not so great – she’s pretty bratty in the disrespectful way she dumps Alicia to take the new kids into battle. Val has the poor emotional intelligence of her father and the arrogance of her godfather – a pretty terrible combo.
She does, though, have a cute new hairdo, courtesy of new series artist RB Silva. As for those fresh uniforms Sue mentioned, they’re great – different enough to count as new but very much based on the Jack Kirby template.
Silva impresses from the off, the opening panels of Cormorant speeding towards New York being slickly dramatic.
The artist keeps the quality throughout this double-sized 670th issue (don’t you just love ‘Legacy numbering?). The established characters look tremendous while the new foes slot (no pun intended) nicely into the FF’s world, despite Cormorant apparently taking his wardrobe tips from Dr Manhattan,.
Actually, not everyone looks brilliant, but it’s not Silva’s fault, necessarily. Reed’s furry jaw… it’s terrifying.
Writer Dan Slott is a beardie, he’s likely the one keen for Reed to have that thatched roof on his chin. Honestly.
Slott does deserve credit for a very good script, full of great lines and set pieces that go to make up the larger story. So we get classic Day in the Life stuff, secrets uncovered and action aplenty. Plus, there’s Victor Von Doom.
Dr Doom is, of course, Marvel’s greatest villain, and I always love it when he and the FF are in truce mode. He’s in New York on Latverian business, and recognises when it’s time to put rivalry aside. So, while there are still barbed comments, he and Reed team up, because two big brains are better than one.
The issue is titled ‘There shall come a Reckoning’, meaning this is the start of the Reckoning War, a storyline Slott’s been dropping hints about for years. And if subsequent chapters are as great as this, I’ll be around for the whole show.
I do have one problem – Johnny uses his nova flame, puts his entire body of heat into a single blast.
Sure, Sue has force fields, but shouldn’t everyone else have been cremated?
Anyway, that’s Johnny’s power burnt out for the issue. Frank is also running on empty after his battle with Cormorant, and what happens next begs a question.
So, Krakoa doesn’t acknowledge Frank. If Frank is considered a mutant, rather than the mutate child of parents with super powers, he has the x-gene. Surely that’s there whether his powers are active or not? It’s not five minutes since Scott Summers and friends were courting Frank to join their creepy community; did they only want him for his god-level abilities?
Questions like this will bring me back, as will the events of the issue’s second story, a short featuring Nick Fury – the real one – and an old friend of the FF.
Thank the stars, finally Nick is no longer a substitute Watcher, chained literally and metaphorically to the moon. Maybe he’ll even get his hair back. As for the magical return of Uatu from death, who cares that his extinction is waved away, he’s one of the great universal forces and the Marvel Universe was the worse for the Watcher’s absence.
Slott’s script is illustrated by Paco Medina and the work is gorgeous. Like Silva, Medina has the benefit of a wonderful colour artist in Marcio Menyz; Silva works with Jesus Aburtov. While I still prefer traditional comic book colouring to the painted stuff, I have to acknowledge that both colourists make a huge contribution.
The issue is rounded out with a super-cute page by Slott and artist Will Robson introducing a new piece of FF kit that also serves to encourage reader mail.
I loved it. Menyz colours once more, while the talented. Joe Caramagna letters, as he does the whole issue.
Marvel stalwart Mark Brooks provides an impressive cinema-style poster cover showcasing the extended cast. Have you ever seen such a fiery Human Torch? While it’s not classic Johnny, it’s fascinating to look at… Brooks knows what he’s doing.
Having bought it on ComiXology, I don’t actually know how much this comic cost – they’re sneaky that way – but I can say it’s worth the money. This is the Fantastic Four at their best.