The Fantastic Four are no more. Reed, Sue and the kids are off creating new worlds, while Johnny and Ben have been left behind on Earth. Johnny continues to seek thrills as a racing driver...
... while Ben, who’s lately been adventuring with the Guardians of the Galaxy, is making a speech. And not a bad one at that.
Afterwards he meets somebody new.
They never do meet inside, as a plea from a rather natty Spider-Man sends Ben looking for Johnny.
So the rumours are true. This book is indeed about reuniting the Fantastic Four. The memory of the team, their legacy, runs throughout this debut issue by Chip Zdarsky, Jim Cheung and friends.
There’s even an encounter with Dr Doom, there to set up a maguffin.
Oh aye, the Multisect for the Multiplane, I can totally believe Reed ‘Solve everything’ Richards had such a thing and never bothered to mention it. And of course he’s still deciding he knows what’s best for his family rather than letting them find their own path. Ben is perfectly capable of getting through to Johnny - Spidey can see it, but ‘Big Brain’ doesn’t trust them. Is he right? Is Johnny lost because Reed’s no longer around to point him in the direction of new worlds and old villains? Maybe a little, but he’s a human being who’s lost his sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew... he and Ben apparently think they’re dead. Isn’t a time of grieving pretty normal? Sure, his way of working through things is more dramatic than most, but he’s a superhero in the Marvel Universe, he’s not going to just sit and look sad in the Coffee Bean.
I’ve not been following many Marvel comics of late - how long has Victor Von Doom been looking like this? The visual is an utterly characterless take on Jack Kirby’s classic design. Let’s hope it disappears as the Fantastic Four are reunited and Doom is allowed to be a villain once more.
Now who’s this Rachna dame? She seems friendly, but again, this is the Marvel Universe and her name sounds like Arachne, which equals a spider woman of some sort - a black widow, perhaps?
When did Ben give up smoking? Did he go to a support group with Wolverine? I know Marvel bigwig Joe Quesada hates smoking, me too, but these are invulnerable characters and I’m pretty wedded to the visual of Ben with a stogie in his bricky gob.
Zdarsky does a great job with the script: from an opening Fantastic Four films in-joke through Peter’s concern for Johnny and respect for Ben, to the encounter with Doom and reunion with Johnny, this feels like Real Marvel after far too long.
Cheung’s pencils are fine; it’s not outstanding work, but the storytelling is decent and the finishes by John Dell and Walden Wong are OK. The pages lack an enthusiastic hand - maybe if Cheung was allowed to draw Doom and Johnny in their iconic looks he’d be more excited.
And since when did Ben need glasses? Maybe he’s also feeling the lack of vigour Johnny mentions?
I love covers with characters smashing through. Here, our heroes seem to be biffing a ‘4’ logo, when they might be putting one back together. Ben comes off better than Johnny, who never looks like himself sans those Kirby body stripes.
I like this book a lot. It’s not perfect, but it’s a very enjoyable read with, it seems, a laudable intent - putting the Fantastic Four back at the heart of a Marvel Universe that’s lost its way. And that can’t come soon enough.
Marvel 2 In One #1 review, Chip Zdarsky, Jim Cheung, John Dell, Walden Wong, Fantastic Four