Fantastic Four: Season One
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (words) & David Marquez (art)
There is a part of me that takes a look at something like Fantastic Four: Season One and wants rail in rage and frustration. Truth is, I don’t want to be that guy. It helps that the art and writing in FF: Season One is solid and actually does breath some new life into the characters. Reviewers have also been praising Jonathan Hickman’s run on FF, Hickman’s track record with science fiction comics is near flawless, and I have to wonder why he wasn’t given the reins on this original graphic novel. That isn’t to say that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa does a bad job but the minor tweaks to the familiar origin story are slight and just enough to keep the FF relevant in a modern world. On the one hand this a good thing, it doesn’t have the radical newness of the more angsty Superman: Earth One or the New 52 titles that might alienate old fans but its strict adherence to the familiar story lends the story a peculiar flatness. I would love see what Hickman (or any good creative talent) said “Here’s the Fantastic Four origin story. Update it, go nuts.”
Like I’ve said already Fantastic Four: Season One is actually quite an enjoyable tale that definitely hearkens back to the fun (a vaguely silly) nature of comics of old. In many ways it reminds of the Marvel Adventures imprint of books though one directed at an older audience. But how old? For some readers (me) FF: Season One doesn’t seem to make too much sense and I think most long-term comic book readers have sort of come to grips with the notion the ageless comic book character. Comics make a big deal about continuity (or at least comic fans) but we latch on to familiar characters so often that the attachment to continuity begins to make less and less sense as characters get trapped in a recursive loop, perennially stuck in young adulthood.
There have been interesting experiments to solve this problem. Marvel’s failed MC2 universe about Marvel’s near future (Spider-Girl, J2, A-Next) and the Ultimate line are a start and the Ultimate line especially actually seems better at progressing characters along specific arcs then the current Marvel Universe (Ultimate Spiderman is a great example of this). DC took the more radical approach destroying its entirety continuity and deciding to rebuild from the ground up. Rage at that all you want but from a sales, and arguably a creative, standpoint it isn’t really a bad call. A radical and gutsy call but in order to unlimber oneself from the weight of history that is a step one has to be willing to take.
I’ve gone a bit off topic I think but the main problem with FF: Season One is I can’t quite understand how it fits in with the rest of the Marvel universe. If the answer is “not at all” that’s fine but the event of its release, perhaps drowned out by Marvel’s other big guns (the gear up towards AvX, Amazing Spiderman, and The Avengers), seems to have passed so quietly and unobtrusively. The bottom line is if you like the Fantastic Fours origins, if you like the characters as you know them, then FF: Season One offers very little to complain about and simultaneously offers too little that is so new as to justify shelling out $15. This is a title that seaks to appease longtime fans but doesn’t seem to go out of its way to attract new ones either particularly given what feels like a tangential connection to the current ongoing (at least before November, and the relaunched Fantastic Four title). A titled reads and looks greats Fantastic Four: Season One is a title for new readers and one that is best recommended by a fan looking to turn someone on to Marvel’s First Family.