Friday, 17 January 2014

FF, Volume 1: Fantastic Faux Review (Matt Fraction, Mike Allred)

With the Fantastic Four on their great space adventure, the FF have stayed behind to look after Earth in their stead. The FF, or Future Foundation, are: Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Medusa, Queen on the Inhumans, Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk, and Darla Deering aka Ms. Thing. In this first FF-only volume (the first three issues of Marvel NOW! FF were collected together with the first three issues of Fantastic Four), She Hulk goes on a date with old flame Wyatt Wingfoot; Johnny Storm from the future wreaks havoc in New York, and Bentley Wittman aka The Wizard tries to disrupt the FF family through mind-controlling Medusa. 

Like his companion series Fantastic Four, Matt Fraction’s FF is episodic – almost sit-com-ish – in its approach and it works really well. It allows him the freedom to do done-in-one issue stories like the She-Hulk date or Darla having her concert sabotaged by the Yancy Street Gang, both really fun stories, and it’s these issues that make the book worth reading – that and Mike Allred’s art! 

Where I think the book falls down is twofold. The Doom storyline isn’t particularly interesting. Johnny Storm from the future says they have to kill Doom but the storyline doesn’t advance much in this book and there’s nothing about it that I really want to read. Doom’s too serious a villain for Fraction’s comedic FF and the whole killing thing sticks out awkwardly. Then the Bentley Wittman story with The Wizard looking to create his own nuclear family was just plain dull. More than that, it felt overly preachy on the part of Fraction. 

This book deals with progressive ideas really well. Tong, one of the moloids, decides to change sex – he’s a woman trapped in a male moloid’s body – and rather than make a big deal out of this, Fraction does it all in one page. The coming out, the acceptance, the joy – moving on! It shows Marvel’s own progressive nature and is a positive reflection of the readership that it’s a scene that’s barely noticed, which is as it should be. 

Continuing the progressive theme is the idea of a traditional nuclear family – the one The Wizard is looking to forge – contrasted with the FF’s unorthodox family structure, which nevertheless works. Ant-Man and co. punching The Wizard while declaring that his idea of a family is outdated and boring felt very on the nose. If Tong’s sex change scene was handled perfectly, Fraction fumbles the affirmation of the 21st century family, one which doesn’t necessarily have a mum and dad but provides real structure and love. That and the dull story overall didn’t make me love this book as much as I’d expected to. 

There’s still lots of great stuff here like Darla trying on various hats and taking selfies, only to have her phone hacked by the Daily Bugle, and the John Hughes-esque escapades of Bentley-23 and the moloids as they try to disrupt Jen’s date (the moloids fancy The Jen!). And then there’s Mike Allred. How best to describe his art - transcendently beautiful? He has one of the most visually unique styles in mainstream comics where the drawings are striking and vivid without looking cartoonish or cheese-cake-y. He’s one of those artists whose work instantly makes the comic that much better where, even if the script is lacking and not holding your attention, the pop art style makes up for it. 

Fraction’s writing these days is so up there that even if FF isn’t of the same standard as Hawkeye or Sex Criminals, it’s still head and shoulders above many other Marvel titles. It’s because of the high quality of his other comics that I was disappointed with FF not being of as amazing but I still enjoyed parts of it. FF’s not the best comic Fraction’s done in recent years but it’s definitely still worth a read.

FF - Volume 1: Fantastic Faux

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