FF 1

Reviewed by 25-Mar-11

I buy a lot of things just to review, including lots of first issues. It’s a while since I’ve enjoyed any of them as much as this.

I buy a lot of things just to review, including lots of first issues. It’s a while since I’ve enjoyed any of them as much as this.

I’ve not read the FF in a while, and Hickman clearly wants new readers, so goes to some trouble to introduce a lot of background in this: Sue is now ruler of Atlantis; Reed’s dad is back from travelling in time, complete with knowledge of the future; Johnny of course is dead; the Baxter Building (is this the Baxter Building? Their base, anyhow) houses a bunch of odd misfits sort of adopted by the family, including Dragon Man, some moloids, a child clone of the Wizard and one of Power Pack; and more. This is mostly done elegantly, with the odd slightly clunky exception (the Atlantis bit), but for the most part we are given tidy little introductions to people, written with enough sharpness and precision and variety to give us instant, often surprisingly strong pictures of characters and relationships. None of the dialogue blew me away, but it all felt right and relevant, and he balances oblique references and exposition tidily.

Of course the perfect device for infodumping has always been showing someone around a place, and the FF need a replacement for the late Human Torch. Since Spider-Man is only in a few Avengers teams and has only a handful of his own titles (as far as I know he’s not in any X-teams as yet), he obviously has ample time to join the FF too. Yes, throwing him (or Wolverine) at every title that comes out is annoying, but in isolation this makes some sense – of course he is who Johnny would have requested as his replacement, as is seen in a video recording he left; and there is a longstanding relationship; and you can see why the FF would want him and why he’d feel like accepting, perhaps even feel obliged to do so.

Having said that about the perfect infodump device, the two oddest things about this comic need mentioning, both arising in the post-story double-page spread. 1. I don’t know what the FF in the title stands for – we get First Family and Future Foundation offered. Perhaps Reed fancied a quantum superposition here. 2. This spread is one of those silhouette images of lots of characters with numbers and identifying text below. These traditionally relate to an image somewhere else, so that we can put names to faces, but the image is not related to anything anywhere else, so it can be a struggle just from outlines. Some small fraction of what I learned in this issue is from this text, including a key plot point that had left me puzzled when it arose in the story.

The plot beyond the Spidey intro stuff starts unpromisingly: AIM have never been an inspiring enemy. Fortunately it picks up when we see who they are working to set free, though as I just mentioned, as a new reader I didn’t understand what he said to Reed before vanishing, until I read that extra spread. The plot is given an extra huge twist on the final story page – one of those moments that comes as a shock, then sort of makes some sense, or you can see how maybe it can be made to make some sort of sense, then you realise there is potential for easily a year’s worth of stories in that final moment.

The art’s pretty good too – I like Epting’s control of emotion and character in faces particularly, and this superteam book, more than any other ever, has always been about people and their relationships, so this is a vital strength to possess. He gets a bit old-Marvel distorty on the villain (reminded me of the Buscemas here), though that is just one panel. He doesn’t do much with the action, but given that all he gets in that line is Spidey swinging in and some AIM cannon fodder breaking into some kind of prison, I guess it would take a genius to make that look exciting. He makes the contents of the building look interesting and appealing, in particular the many people (that keyed silhouette lists 19 characters), and I’ll more than settle for that.

This is actually a perfect model of what I had hoped for from those .1 issues, but none of those have come close to delivering. This fills me in on where the title is, convinces me that Spidey makes some sense here, introduces lots of characters, launches in a small way two potentially enormous plots for the months ahead, impresses me and makes me want to keep reading the book. Other than the stiffly painted cover, this strikes me as an exemplary comic of its kind.

Tags: , , , , , ,

3 responses to “FF 1”

  1. So Spider-Man finally joined the FF. Does this comic tells us how much the job pays?

    (NB If you didn’t get that gag, it just means you’re under forty!)

  2. Mike Teague says:

    I have been suitably unimpressed with Hickman’s writing up until now. I did quite like the way he handled the aftermath of Jonny’s “death” in #578, but this issue was the first one which left me wanting to read more.

  3. Jack French says:

    When does Johnny come back to life? Maybe I’ll give FF a try then, but there’s no way I buy Spidey as a member.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *