Wednesday, 30 November 2011

FF #12 review

Last week, in Fantastic Four #600, the Future Foundation kids teleported the Baxter Building's upper three levels away in order to escape Annihilus' insectoid incursion. We rejoin them as they phase onto the top of a mountain in Latveria, just as an alternate world Reed Richards, time traveller Nathaniel Richards, super-villain Dr Doom and his adopted son Kristoff waltz around one another.

Coincidence? Unsurprisingly, no - infant genius Valeria Richards arranged the destination at the behest of Grandad Nathaniel, so he can use the FF's mixed bag of prodigies to, er ...

I have very little idea. Writer Jonathan Hickman is playing a very long game involving a gang of parallel Reeds, Nathaniel's connection to the Illuminati-ish version of SHIELD, four hidden civilisations and heaven knows what else. When there's a chart, I'll get back to you.

I do have hope of being able to work things out soon, now FF has split into two books - this one, and mother series the Fantastic Four. With two locations in which to tell his convoluted epic, Hickman can wrap things up much more quickly.

Or allow the various story strands to breathe still further. Maybe add some new ones.

Oh Lord.

Anyway, as a unit, this instalment is a more-than-pleasant diversion. The kids get some nifty dialogue - I love the contrast between manipulative Val and wannabe hero brother Franklin, while mini-Wizard Bentley has a delicious black streak of humour - and there's definite forward motion in the story, as alt-Reed bids to return home. Oh, and it's amusing to see Nathaniel Richards mess with the other adults' heads, and experience a Doombot with a sense of theatre.

The big revelation this issue is new penciller Juan Bobillo. On She-Hulk, a few years back, he produced delightfully whimsical superhero art. He's recognisably the same guy here, but his work has gone up a notch or two - it's a little more dramatic, as the more serious FF series demands, but it's also brighter, more open and attractive. Thankfully, he draws terrific children - moppet brainiacs, mutant scrappers, otherworldly urchins, all with appropriate expressions and body language. He's not half-bad at adults, either. And landscapes. Castles. Dragon Man. Doombots ... (Click on image to enlarge)
I especially appreciate that unlike lots of artists, he remembers that Franklin and Val aren't the same age - he's about eight, she's just beyond toddler (making her machinations all the creepier).

Credit, too, to longtime inking partner Marcelo Sosa for some splendidly delicate finishes, and colourist Chris Sotomayor, whose only 'sin' is to tint Alex Power's hair mouse rather than blond. Clayton Cowles supplies the commendable lettering. A demerit to whoever laid out the much-appreciated recap page, for misspelling 'Bobillo' (and merely mentioning this guarantees that this review will be full of typos, but you never know, someone at Marvel may actually see this and fix the error).

Previous FF artist Steve Epting provides a cover that's not in keeping with the new artistic approach, but goodness, it is lovely. Sadly, the FF logo remains rubbish, a clever design but bereft of any impact on the shelf.

Marvel could easily have labelled this as a new #1, given the slight tweak of emphasis, so good on them for not doing so, likely in recognition of the fact that most first-time readers wouldn't find this the most convenient jumping-on point. But for fans of Franklin, Val and their mates, students of Hickman's challenging tapestry of the Marvel Universe and devotees of wonderfully characterful artwork, this is the place to be.

10 comments:

  1. I found this issue to be an indecipherable mess, thanks to Bobillo's art. I have nothing wrong with the whimsical art style, but readability is a separate issue and I can't read this. I've read through the issue three times now, and I still can't figure out who the characters are based on the art. And I've been keeping up with Hickman's run; it's not like I'm not familiar with the supporting cast. But every one of the boys looks exactly the same, with just slight differences in hair color and goggles. Look at the image on page 2 where you see everyone. There are five people there with normal skin color. I know that four of them are Val, Franklin, Alex and Bentley (though I wouldn't swear by which is which). Who's the fifth?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh Mory, you star! There does indeed look to be a spare character there ... unless it's Jonathan Hickman subtly seeding a new plot. Which I very much doubt. Have you emailed Marvel? Could be a No Prize there, I bet you could explain it.

    I do agree that the lads look a little too alike, but this is Marvel where every blond hero looks exactly the same (Cap, Johnny, Clint - ok, maybe not Thor). Alex is definitely being drawn too young.

    Thanks so much for the comment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. FF...whatever it is....is no longer recognizable as the Fantastic Four.
    I don't even care that one of my favorite books is on the ash heap. Killing long established characters is bad story telling when it comes to comics.
    While writing yourself into a corner is a challenging way to tell a story, I don't see myself giving a damn about this book any more. Maybe Marvel will shift back to the old FF someday, but as long as they hack out stuff like this, I have little hope for the 'future' of the title.
    Instead of just killing the Human Torch, they should have offed the lot of 'em.
    What a lousy, uninteresting book the world's greatest comic magazine has become.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Fantastic Four was the first comic I ever collected (Not hard when the towns only store carried four titles anyway), and I've collected the highs and lows ever since.

    I haven't picked up this book because I think the FF needs to be kept all in the family, all under the one roof. For too long the great characters of the FF were in other sandpits and I'd have liked a bit more time with them all in one title before the franchise started expanding.

    Its not that I wish this series ill, just it'll be a book I'll keep up with through your great reviews, that is if you keep up with it too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think 'hack out' is a tad harsh, Claude - I reckon Hickman and co are doing their best to produce a compelling series. It's not what I'm looking for in a Fantastic Four series, but I can see they're trying to do something different.

    I'll let you know if this comic goes a tad more trad, Dan!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I actually just finished catching up on my stack of Future Foundation comics and the anniversary issue of Fantastic Four. I thought that they missed some moments to capitalize on in Fantastic Four #600 (emotional-wise), but overall I thought it was solid. As for the Future Foundation I think your review is spot on. Like you said once a chart is produced I think the mad mind of Hickman is beyond us at the moment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Its a bit unfair of Claude to disparage the new book like that; I agree with everyone about the wrong colouring and what-not but its wrong to dismiss the entire run [even if it goes at a snails pace].

    ReplyDelete
  8. Falling behind is a pain, AR, but then again, catching up is great fun - I read 11 issues of Thunderbolts the other night, great book.

    I agree that more emotional connections are needed - we're always told this book is about family, but it doesn't always feel that way, with everyone going off and having their own adventures and the kids being left alone so often.

    Karl, I do think 'offing the lot of them' would be over-egging the proverbial pudding just a tad, but I get where Claude is coming from.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I found the art to be awful in comparison to FF #1-11. It's inconsistent and sloppy. The story is ok, albeit a bit dense. I've liked this title so far, so I'm hoping the art improves or we get new artists.

    ReplyDelete
  10. #2 came out today, Ground - I've not read it yet but a glance at the art has me thinking you won't like it any more than #1's. Still, this is Marvel, there'll likely be someone new along very soon!

    ReplyDelete