Fantastic Four #574 review

Awhile back Social Services were at the FF's collective throat, fretting that the Baxter Building was too dangerous an environment for raising Richards kids Franklin and Valeria. The team won that battle and seem to have gone on some sort of approved list as this month they take in family free mutants Artie and Leech. That's on top of looking after wee Wingless Wizard Bentley Wittman. Oh, and Franklin's birthday party this month also sees Reed offer ageing Power Pack member and fully certified teen genius Alex Power houseroom. Mr Fantastic may claim he needs an assistant but I see what's going on here - Reed and wife Sue want to be the Brangelina of the Marvel Universe with their very own super-powered rainbow family.

Not that they can be trusted to raise decent children . . . this issue the ever-snotty Val (she can't get through a sentence without declaring her genius) teases less bright brother Franklin with the line 'Happy birthday, retard'. Twice. It's ironic that this particular, and particularly unpleasant, insult is used, given the family's embracing of unusually headed waifs Artie and Leech. Now unless this proves to be a plot point, with Val needing to be taught sensitivity, writer Jonathan Hickman needs to go and sit on the naughty step until he promises not to use inappropriate language.

While he's there he might also assure me he'll pack it in so far as using Days of Future Past storylines goes. The story here is titled Days of Future Franklin, and if you've read the classic John Byrne FF run you'll be unsurprised by Val's visitor. I can't abide 'we must change the future' storylines - too much of that messed up the X-Men - but that seems to be where we're going here.

There's a status quo change so far as the powers of one Richards family member is concerned, which would have served as the issue's big surprise were it not given away on the letters page. How many times do editors have to be reminded that many of us turn to the text pages first? Mind, points at least for having a lettercol, even if most of the responses to readers do 'come' from Frank and Val. Too cute.

A scene focussing on Bentley is good cute, with him informing Sue that until he earns the right to a name, he'd prefer to be known as 32. Wonder if he's related to Charles M Schulz's 5?

Other guests at the birthday party include an unnamed Stan Lee, Dragon Man (presumably another inhabitant of the Fantastic Or4nage) and cover star Spider-Man - Franklin's a fan. None of them have much to do but it's nice Franklin has guests.

This issue is basically a set-up deal and Val's verbal faux pas aside, works just fine. Hickman has the feel of the FF down pat, all we really need is the odd big slugfest involving the whole team.

Neil Edwards' pencils, the odd skanky Reed aside (shave, for God's sake!), look good, though I'd be interested to see him shed the echoes of Brian Hitch and go his own way. This may actually be his natural style, of course, in which case I hope he simply keeps up the good work as alternating penciller with Dale Eaglesham. Andrew Currie's inks are sharp, Paul Mount's colours remain vibrant and Rus Wooton's letters are jolly clear; the script doesn't give anyone a chance to be showy, so simple professionalism is the order of the day. Works for me.


  1. I doubt that Val's retard comments were meant to be insensitive. I'm sure Hickman was using 'retard' as a common insult from one sibling to another. However, I think he could have come up with something less insensitive.


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