Basically, FF is the spiritual successor to Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix. So, if you’re a fan of meta-humor and satire, you’re going to love Matt Fraction’s quirky, off-handed take on the Future Foundation. As we learned a few weeks ago in Fantastic Four #1, Marvel’s First Family is taking a pan-dimensional vacation that will take them away from Earth (and our space-time continuum) for a year, though it will only really be about four minutes of real time. And, as Reed Richards says, the Fantastic Four “do[es] not leave the Earth unprotected,” so they decide to recruit temporary replacements.
And thus, FF #1 is all about preparation—the Fantastic Four getting ready for their trip, the replacement heroes being briefed on their responsibilities, and the audience getting a first-person account of the Future Foundation and it’s members as an effective jumping-on point for new readers.
FF #1 is not a comicbook that will Wow and Amaze most. Though it’s quirky in setting, the story of the Fantastic Four finding their replacements is subtle and given depth by emotional ramifications. Scott Lang, the recently resurrected former Ant-Man, is the first to be scouted by Reed. Fraction doesn’t beat around the bush concerning the reason Lang was chosen to be the temporary head of the Future Foundation—he’s a father who lost his daughter and could probably use some direction.
Scott sees it as somewhat presumptuous after the death of Cassie at the hands of Doctor Doom. “I don’t want anything to do with those kids Reed!” Scott explains to Reed in a rather curt manner. “You need to respect that and open that door and let me go home!” For Scott, the pain is too fresh and being asked to be take responsibility for an whole group of kids is like a big slap in the face. Fraction does an amazing job conveying the intense conversation between the two men, and Mike Allred’s phenomenal artwork only helps to push the point across—when Scott is in utter anguish, the entire panel shifts perspective.
Of course, this series wouldn’t last long if the main character wasn’t on board, so Reed comes clean and admits that he chose Scott because it would be good for him. Ant-Man definitely hasn’t been seen much since Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, wherein Cassie Lang was murdered, so it’s not a far stretch to assume he’s been wasting away in grief and self-pity for a few months. Reed sees this and thinks being around kids will not only help Scott, but will also provide the members of the Future Foundation with a new role model and paternal figure. It’s a win-win situation. But emotion isn’t always rational, and it takes more than idealistic motives to win him over. Eventually, Reed comes clean about his recent discovery that the cosmic radiation that gave the Fantastic Four their powers is now slowly killing them. Scott recognizes that Reed’s whole pitch about the FF needing leadership is a distraction from the dire situation he faces with his family.
Fraction and Allred have struck some gold with this series. The relatable, grounded writing coupled with Mike Allred’s signature art style is a match made in heaven and this first issue is the evidence. In a very surreal way, reading FF #1 made me nostalgic for X-Statix. Like that series, FF is taking the idea of the ‘superhero comicbook’ and throwing it out the window. This is a tale about four super powered misfits (one we haven’t even met yet) brought together to temporarily run an organization for incalculably intelligent children (including mutants and aliens) while also keeping the Earth safe from any sort of threat. Does that sound like your run-of-the-mill DC or Marvel title?
There’s a lot to love about FF #1—Allred’s art, in-depth characterization, a reader-friendly introduction, interesting twists, et cetera—but unfortunately, a lot of that comes from knowing who these characters are and what’s happened to them prior to Marvel NOW! Fraction does an apt job covering his bases when it comes to integral backstory…but it’s still FF, which is short for the Future Foundation, which is an offshoot/spinoff of the Fantastic Four, who wont actually be in the series at all in an issue or two—it’s a bit much if you’re not in the know. Of course, it’s nothing a few minutes of research online can’t cure, if only for references sake, and it’s worth it for the incredibleness that is FF #1.
I mentioned earlier that this issue isn’t about being a spectacle. It’s a comicbook that you get more out of each time you read it—you discover nuances in the writing, or subtle images that weren’t obvious during your first read through. Matt Fraction and Mike Allred are endeavoring to create a series that can stand on it’s own while seamlessly integrate to the greater Marvel universe, and it’s those qualities that will make this a timeless, classic series.