We must begin again. We have to find some new ideas. - From the pages of FF #1
I haven't really been following any Marvel superhero serials lately, and I've never been the biggest fan of its marquee title The Fantastic Four. But this latest title change piqued my interest. Johnny Storm's death frankly didn't concern me. It's not like that kind of stuff didn't happen before. Neither did the news of Spider-Man joining the team. Actually, that's not entirely true for me as a onetime Spidey fan. This changing of the guard hearkens back to Amazing Spider-Man #1 and his loose association with the team ever since. But mainly, I was just curious as to what the hell the renaming of the team meant for the creative direction of the series.
Now, I'm under no illusion that this new status quo is in any way permanent. At some point Johnny will be discovered to be alive, and the series will revert back to its original title, to great fanfare no doubt. There's just no real incentive to deliver lasting change anymore. It wasn't that long ago that the team was emotionally torn apart by the events of Civil War. And yet here they are. More than any cast of characters in the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four seem attached to a particular milieu. So when I saw the FF#1 cover featuring them wearing those white uniforms that makes them look like astronauts, with their smiling, optimistic faces, I did get the sense that Jonathan Hickman and co. were going for a retro-futuristic look. The team has been renamed as the utopian-sounding Future Foundation. It's a nice fit for a pseudo-nuclear family who got their powers from going into space, and get around with flying cars. We're moving boldly forward, into the past. Even their new uniforms use an updated version of that old standby, "unstable molecules", which is admittedly pretty cool.
Then there's the newly extended family that Spider-Man meets. This includes Reed Richard's long-lost father, the Atlantean charges in the care of Susan Storm-Richards, and several other minor characters representing the races the original FF has had dealings with in the past. The dinner-table invocation, calling on disparate deities, is reminiscent of old fashioned sci-fi inclusiveness working as a substitute for real world ethnic diversity. There are other nice sci-fi touches like family squabbles over time-travel or whether they should terraform the moon. It's plain that there's a great deal of affection for the characters and the legacy they've built in the last five decades. The scenes dealing with interpersonal relationships are oddly touching in their familiarity.
Unfortunately, it won't be enough to appeal to anyone not already emotionally invested in the characters' history. Nor is it enough to make me care about the superhero shenanigans that inevitably intrude into this otherwise low-key episode. The staging of B-listers A.I.M. and The Wizard as potentially dangerous threats didn't come across as entirely convincing, and the big reveal at the end left me nonplussed. FF fans however will love it, and have fun sorting out its fallout in upcoming issues. I guess I've already had my fill of this type of soap opera.