Mul­tiver­sal mishap

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Our cos­mic ray de­tec­tors go wild as Marvel’s first fam­ily fi­nally re­turns to comics.

re­leased OUT NOW! Pub­lisher Marvel Comics

Writer dan slott Artists sara Pichelli, Nico leon

Su­per­hero ab­sences aren’t all that un­com­mon, but for the last few years Marvel’s “First Fam­ily” have been an es­pe­cially odd case. De­spite be­ing the char­ac­ters who launched the Marvel su­per­hero rev­o­lu­tion in the ’60s, the Fan­tas­tic Four ended up strug­gling sales-wise fol­low­ing the 2012 de­par­ture of writer Jonathan Hick­man, and the comic was can­celled in 2015, with the team it­self be­ing forcibly split up af­ter the re­al­ity-al­ter­ing Se­cret Wars saga in 2016.

Since then, the fate of Reed and Sue Richards (along with their chil­dren) has re­mained a mystery, and while Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm have acted as sup­port­ing char­ac­ters else­where, it’s only now that the Fan­tas­tic Four are mak­ing their of­fi­cial re­turn.

This new se­ries fea­tures long-time Spi­der-Man writer Dan Slott at the helm, and has the tricky task of giv­ing new and lapsed read­ers a fresh jump­ing-on point, while ad­di­tion­ally deal­ing with the con­vo­luted, multi verse re­lated threads left hang­ing by Se­cret Wars.

The story picks up with Johnny and Ben liv­ing down-to-earth lives and still try­ing to get used to the idea that the Fan­tas­tic Four no longer ex­ists. How­ever, they’re un­ex­pect­edly sum­moned across the mul­ti­verse by Reed and Sue into a con­fronta­tion with the Griever, a bizarrely sexed-up rep­re­sen­ta­tive of en­tropy and de­struc­tion who’s out to kill all the new uni­verses that Reed and Sue’s son Franklin has cre­ated.

This nat­u­rally leads to a big su­per­hero fight, and while Slott does his level best to hit all the tra­di­tional FF touch­stones – the fam­ily squab­bles, the cos­mic ad­ven­ture, pranks from the Yancy Street kids – he can’t pre­vent these three open­ing is­sues from feel­ing mas­sively over­stuffed. The stakes go from zero to uni­verse­shat­ter­ing within a cou­ple of pages; the Griever is a weird, un­con­vinc­ing choice for an open­ing vil­lain; and there are so many char­ac­ters to rein­tro­duce (in­clud­ing the en­tire cast of the Fu­ture Foun­da­tion spin-off se­ries) that the sto­ry­telling is largely a hap­haz­ard jum­ble.

Slott un­doubt­edly gets the in­ter­play be­tween the main char­ac­ters right, and pro­vides some heart­warm­ing mo­ments, while Sara Pichelli’s well-ex­e­cuted art shows off her ex­pert han­dling of ex­pres­sion and char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, but the end re­sult feels weighed down by the FF’s comics his­tory to an ex­tent that’s frus­trat­ing. It’s pos­si­ble that some of these teething trou­bles may re­solve them­selves now that this three-part ad­ven­ture has sorted out the bag­gage from past sto­ry­lines, but so far this lat­est Fan­tas­tic Four in­car­na­tion is off to an in­con­sis­tent and rather un­sat­is­fy­ing start. Saxon Bullock

Slott can’t pre­vent these three is­sues from feel­ing over­stuffed

Ben couldn’t help tele­graph­ing his fight­ing moves.

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