Over just a year ago Marvel separated out one of its franchises into two separate titles, Fantastic Four and FF. Both titles are back as part of Marvel Now. In what could be a stroke a genius (or madness) Matt Fraction is writing both titles, with different artists penciling the titles. For Fantastic Four he teams with Mark Bagley and on FF it's Michael Allred.
Now I know that there is an old adage saying that you should never judge a book by its cover, but considering that both these comics are penned by the same writer you could certainly get the chance to ignore that rule. However, with that said, I think the distinct difference in artwork between the two will divide the camps.
Personally I prefer Bagley’s work and as a result felt the Fantastic Four comic was far more appealing. Michael Allred’s art style is most definitely a marmite decision - either loved or hated. For me I’m the former. Whereas Bagley uses much cleaner and finer lines, Allred’s work comes across as a far more basic with a greater emphasis on bold linework and colouring too. One thing that can be said is that it is incredibly distinctive.
Fantastic Four was purposely released two weeks ahead of FF as it sets up both titles. Fantastic Four will follow the path of a sci-fi safari and a medical crusade, while FF takes the arduous task of creating hope and a safer future world too.
Reed has made another discovery, and one that isn’t favoured by him at all. He is dying. It turns out that the cosmic force that gave the Fantastic Four superpowers is also now ending it. There is nothing in the known universe that can save them, so it is the unknown universes that must be explored and used to provide a cure. There is a lovely little aspect to it as well which I enjoyed - even though they will go through a lot they will only lose four minutes of our time. Something I will return to.
This also leaves a second dilemma. If the Fantastic Four are away then who will be responsible for the world in their place? This is the pitch for the new FF title. Interspersed by “interviews” with the Future Foundation children, issue #1 works to establish pretty much all of the characters involved. Due to the quick punchy method it uses, it doesn’t necessarily give you everything but does work to establish their characters. For example the opening shot with Val and Franklyn, where you have a super genius child being eloquent and educated - able to understand and communicate effectively - whilst her older brother is pulling faces in the background. Quite impressive for a child who is possibly one of the strongest mutants there is - casually broaching it with a comment that he has a pet Galactus.
The meat of the story follows the main Fantastic Four players visiting allies and essentially recruiting them into the fold to look after things while they are away. Each of them uses their own style tailored to whom they were speaking with. It is only Ant-man who shows some apprehension as his elation of being a Fantastic Four member wanes when he realises that entails also being the Future Foundation babysitter too, something that I feel most readers will realise he has underestimated completely.
The thing I liked most, as I mentioned earlier, is that throughout this it is made clear that Reed feels that this will only be for four minutes and yet none of our heroes find this strange, odd or out of the ordinary. It’s a quirky element to pick on I know but I liked it. The reverence that is held and understanding that even in such a tiny amount of time so much can happen is right there.
Looking at both comics, and even though they have the same writer, I know I will gravitate towards Fantastic Four simply because I like the artwork as well as the story. Fraction’s quality shows on both titles, but I think you’ll need to be a fan of Allred’s work as well for the full impact.
This is a split decision for me as I know the story will be great but I don’t know my eyes will agree.
Matt Puddy is not responsible for this review being so late.