Reed - who has lied to his family about the reasons for the trip - wants a big brain like himself, so approaches the second Ant-Man, Scott Lang. Sue wants a mother figure, and asks Medusa of the Inhumans. Ben wants someone as strong as himself, so goes to see She-Hulk. And Johnny wants his head examined.
Seriously. Writer Matt Fraction plays Johnny here less as the flighty playboy, more as a man-child with the brain of a potato. He wakes up in bed with new girlfriend Darla Deering, remembers a memo on his phone, sees that it says 'ask somebody about the thing' and quizzes Darla on her knowledge of Ben Grimm. Going by the cover, her vague awareness of Ben Grimm is gaining her a spot on the team as Ms Thing. Which makes no sense given that She-Hulk already has that slot covered.
On the one hand, the gig's only going to be for four minutes. On the other, well, in that case why cover the roles at all? Earth has a million heroes Reed and co could ask to watch out for the kids (I'm sure Jarvis and Squirrel Girl could set up a day nursery at Avengers Mansion) without an inexperienced young woman being put on the front lines.
I'm a little cranky, as Ant-Man, She-Hulk and Medusa have all served with the Fantastic Four previously and I know lots about them; it's Ms Thing I'm curious about. But while background is given on all of the vets, we learn nothing about Darla here beyond what we saw in this month's Fantastic Four #1 - she's dating Johnny and has pink hair.That's partly because so much room is given to the Future Foundation kids; on the one hand, that's great, as FF has always been their book. On the other, all the Marvel Now! advertising for this relaunch has focused on the substitute heroes, and it's them I'm interested in. (And with Franklin and Valeria Richards going off with their family, why are they hogging a spotlight page alongside the other FF sub-groups?)
Personally, I've had enough of the lot of them - if it's only going to be for four minutes, lock them in a cupboard with HERBIE.
Scott Lang's story picks up on the fact that he's mourning daughter Cassie, the young Avenger known as Stature. Reed reckons that being around the FF sprogs might do him, and them, some good. Scott isn't convinced. It doesn't help that Reed can't bring himself to actually confront the reality of Cassie's death, referring to it as 'all of that unpleasantness'. What a mealy-mouthed loser Reed is; even that daft euphemism 'passing' would be better, because it acknowledges that an actual person has gone. I really wish Marvel writers wouldn't go quite so far down the line of showing Reed as having lots of practical nous, but no emotional intelligence; it makes his relationship with Sue seem unbelievable. And while it's satisfying that we see Scott yell at Reed for his insensitivity, it's a shame Ant-Man is being built up at Mr Fantastic's expense.
Medusa and Sue's chat positions them as equals, queens even. It gives some insight into where both women are, while defining them solely in relation to their families. Hopefully Fraction will show other sides of the women in this book and Fantastic Four as time goes on.
Ben comes across as a bright guy in his talk with She-Hulk, aware that while Reed says they're going away for four minutes, it could be a lot longer. It's a pity, though, that someone's decision to give Ben a BIG SHOUTY FONT implies constant anger. As for She-Hulk, she's calm, confident, the hero the FF needs.
The vignettes with the kids are illuminating and not without charm. The spotlight on Alex Power gives him his best moment in years. But I'd rather be spending time with the grown-ups.
In all, Fraction does a decent job of introducing most of the characters, and giving the book a reason to exist. He doesn't, though, give any idea of what type of adventures this new team will have, in an issue that, while cleverly structured, is all talky set-up.
The biggest draw for me was, no pun intended, the artwork of Mike and Laura Allred. The retro illustrations of Mike and poptastic colours of Laura make for wonderful eye candy. More importantly, Mike Allred is a first-rate visual storyteller, building pages that progress the plot while conveying character beyond what's in the dialogue. Check out, for example, the expression as Medusa thinks about Black Bolt (a husband up there with Reed in terms of sheer awfulness), while her hair cuts to the chase.
I understand that FF and Fantastic Four will be collected in the same volumes. Hopefully that won't mean a back and forth storyline because I'd like the option of just following one title. And with the Allreds on art and two of my favourite Marvel characters (Medusa and She Hulk) around, this book is the more likely winner.