Wednesday, 19 December 2012

FF #2 review

The Fantastic Four were only supposed to be gone for four minutes. As the deadline comes and goes, with no return of Ben, Johnny, Sue and Reed, the replacement FF get to know the Future Foundation kids. And a villain comes a-calling.

This is more like it. After a slow introduction via Fantastic Four #1-2 and FF #1, some action and a chance for substitutes Ant Man, She-Hulk, Medusa and Ms Thing to make this book their own. Which they do, showing off their characters as they settle into their new roles. It's easiest for Medusa and She-Hulk, having both served with the FF previously. Medusa relaxes and wonders why a Royal such as she isn't being waited on hand, foot and hair. She-Hulk touches base with her Jennifer Walters day job by giving the students a lecture on law as it relates to superheroing.

Ant Man is also a longtime FF associate, having been hired as electronics expert while Reed was missing, so he knows the score. Scott Lang isn't hugely perturbed when the kids quiz him about what the papers mean when they describe him as an 'ex-con'. He even uses the moment to teach the sprogs a life lesson - it seems that despite Scott's own doubts, Reed did indeed pick the right man for the job.

It's the ultra-sweet Darla for whom this is hardest. The Human Torch's pop star girlfriend, she signed on for a lark, an unpowered placeholder. But when the Mole Man attacks, mighty steamed at the 'imposters' usurping the name of his greatest enemies, she realises that this is serious. Even an old Thing suit mooched out by Dragon Man doesn't settle her nerves, and crisis over, she makes a decision about her future.

Even the oft-annoying kids are good value here, constantly challenging the senior staff with humour and not a little charm.

Writer Matt Fraction and artist Mike Allred produce one of the most enjoyable Marvel comics for years. With economy and skill, they focus in on their major cast members, while throwing in the Fantastic Four's first-ever foes, Mole Man and big green lackey Giganto. The fight sequence is a lot of fun, with everyone but poor Darla playing their part. I still don't quite understand what Ant-Man's new droopy costume strands do, mind. Can't we just have a few flying ants?

Have I said that the pages rendered by Allred and colourist wife Laura are pure Pop Art Comics (click on image to enlarge)? If so, it bears repeating: the work is big, friendly, fun - and very skilful - cartooning. Allred, Mike can get more personality into a face with a few lines than bigger name artists can with hundreds. He can do a mean Kirby machine. And with three out of four members female, it's a real boon that Allred isn't one of those one-face-fits-all guys; Darla, Medusa and Jennifer have their distinct faces, and would be recognisable uncoloured and bereft of hair.

Not that that's how I want to see them - I love Medusa's flaming, spidery locks, Jen's green mane, Darla's pink hair. These are the best-tressed heroines around. And in a Marvel line featuring mostly 'realistically' coloured books, I treasure the super-vibrant world of the FF.

Oh, and there's a cliffhanger. A very good cliffhanger.

Throw in a truly splendid cover by the Allreds that's no doubt bound for a trade collection and you have probably the best comic this week from Marvel.

And having said that, I'd better go and read some more to test the assertion. I'll be back here if anything jumps out. Preferably not Giganto ...

27 comments:

  1. Hy Mr. Gray, great post^^
    Allred does shine revisiting the work of the King doesn't he?
    I've read this whole comic hoping someday someone with the power to make it happens realizes that Allred should be drawing a New Gods comic.
    And about today comics: have you tried hawkeye? Fraction is doing a really god job there also...It would be my call for a good candidate for the podium of this week also =)

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    1. Hello Thomaz, thank you kindly!

      Allred and the New Gods, what a wonderful thing that would be.

      I reviewed the first Hawkeye, but have fallen a couple of issues behind. I believe that this week's is a Christmas issue. I have it right here ...

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    2. I first read that as "Alfred and the New Gods" which would be the most original Batman book in YEARS.

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    3. Ha - that's as nutty an idea as Alfred dressing up as Owlman and leading the Outsiders!

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  2. Mart i do have a review for you , Atomic robo and the fighting scientist's of tesladyne although for health concerns I don' recommend it for people who can't withstand 100 percent concentrated awesome in one tpb,if you do want to try I assure you will not regret it

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    1. I've not tried Atomic Robo, though I've heard great things. Oh Santaaaa ...

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    2. You will not regret it, robo has heart, action, nazi head in jars. steam powered pyramids, and even discussion on time travel during a shootout between said robot and a dino that claims to be a doctor

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  3. The writing is good on this but I have never ever liked Alred's art. Too retro and ugly for me. I can't buy this book...

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    1. Hi Steve, who would be your artistic choice for this book?

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    2. Art usually isn't a deal killer for me. I buy more for the writing. I just don't like the odd faces, the figures doing odd things, and the way the characters don't usually appear to be interacting with the backgrounds in any sort of believable fashion. Alred joins Liefeld as the only artists who can keep me from reading a book...

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  4. I think Giganto was actually the name of the Sub-Mariner's Leviathan in the original Fantastic Four #4 (1962), though I should probably look that up--unless someone beats me to it. And I've long wanted to see Chris Sprouse take on the FF. That is, the actual Fantastic Four, not this mag. Based on his work on Tom Strong he would probably be great with the Four.

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    1. Ah, thank you for the Giganto information, Joe - it's misnamed in the comic, then.

      Christ Sprouse would be great!

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  5. Nothing on Avengers Arena this week? It's disappointing, but reviews are always more fun when they follow a title regularly.

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    1. Im not planning on following that one Mac, sorry!

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  6. At the moment my two favorite Marvel titles are FF and Avengers. I have to say that the FF is a smooth title, it kicked off slow, but issue two I thought gave us a good jump by a classic FF foe. The team is the typical Mike Allred weird combination of players, but it works. And yes I agree it would be great to see Allred do a New Gods series.

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    1. Hi Florida Geek Scene, glad you're enjoying the book too. The four-minute time period, though, is passed in the first few pages of this issue.

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    2. Oops, that should have gone to your response to issue one. Oh well, hello again, hello.

      And from what I've read, it seems we're going to see Allred drawing another classic FF enemy very soon.

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    3. Hi Martin,

      Actually, the four minutes passes in issue 2. When I was stating that, I just meant I thought it was cool that the series is based in a 4 minute increment. I think this title will go well with Allred and Fraction on it. I just hope Marvel doesn't decide to change up the team any time soon.

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    4. Thanks - yours is very smart!

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  7. Very succinct review.
    Im glad youve started reviewing the FF books again, its been a while.
    I rather like this new run, it feels like a fresh start all round, a nice detour from the dialogue psychobabble of Hickman's run.

    As you probably have heard thru our APA, my mum passed away a couple of weeks back so this year we wont be celebrating Xmas. Even so, may I take this moment to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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    1. I'm really sorry to hear about your mother's passing, Karl. Mine died in 2008 and it really is unbelievably awful. I hope the next few days aren't all hideousness, though. Al the best to you and yours.

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  8. Love, Love, LOVE this- Allred's work is so damn good

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  9. This issue was WAY too jokey for me. And they were lame jokes. If next issue sucks this bad, I'm gone and that's just due to all the good will I have for Allred.

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  10. this book and mart's review and a reading at my lcs makes me want this book as much as i wanted hawkeye's book, why do people rag on fraction his books seem good, do you know why mart.

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  11. Having re-read this issue for the second time yesterday I have to agree with your assessment completely.

    Mike and Laura Allred are superb. Kirby-esque dynamism, bold lines and a perfectly balanced colour palate working in perfect unison to 'pop' off the page like very little else can. It doesn't translate as well to the PC monitor as well as a lot of comics art but my oh my it makes for some gorgeous printed pages.

    Fraction has impressed me recently, compared to his Feat Itself just over a year ago the FF and Hawkeye issues so far represent an astonishing turnaround. I was never enamoured with his UXM or Iron Man but now I see why he has been so highly praised within the industry. He seems to know how to write for the Allreds and FF #2 really plays to their strengths.

    There's the line in the recent Ant-Man strip in 'Point One Now' (or whatever its called) "sometimes art can be silly... and sometimes silly is okay too" which struck me as a sort-of rebuttal to the painfully melodramatic fare which seemingly dominates the Big Two's output these days and a mini-manifesto of what we can expect to see in Fraction/Allred's FF. More please!

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