Last week I mentioned that I was reading Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and FF (Future Foundation), timed in relation to the Fantastic Four movie coming out. Well, it wasn’t really related to the movie… but it was a great run of comics, and I thought I’d lay out a few reasons why here.
I’ve been following Hickman since someone recommended the Manhattan Projects to us, and I realized he was the one writing New Avengers, which I was reading. That made me notice that he was writing Avengers, as well, and I read both of those up to the end of the Marvel Universe…
I had not quite realized that he wrapped up on Fantastic Four and FF just a couple months before he got going on the Avengers titles, so he got the chance to set up his characters and foreshadow a lot by the end of the run, which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, he also did a lot of things within these series that were just a lot of fun themselves. In short, these are a great read – Fantastic Four 570-588 & 600-611, and FF 1-23!
Tom Brevoort: So, the FF, tell me what you think works.
Jonathan Hickman: Uh, the same things that always have: Friends and family, big adventures and even bigger ideas, internal motivation set against a universal exterior, Waid and Ringo… John and Byrne… Jack and Stan… the good stuff – except, you know, like how I write.
Brevoort: Okay, nostalgia… fine, now tell me what you think is wrong with the book right now… what, in your opinion, isn’t working?
Hickman: Well, one of the biggest problems I see is it’s not perceived as a book about the Fantastic Four anymore. I think, because of all the tent-pole events Marvel has been doing, and how integral to their story Mr. Fantastic has been, the book – heck, the entire FF universe – has become, by inclusion or exclusion, completely Reed-centric… almost like it’s Mr. Richards and his merry band of heroes.
Brevoort: Ehhh, I can see that. So what do you have in mind for you first arc?
Hickman: A stand-alone story about Reed.
Brevoort: You’re fired.
Hickman: Wait. Let me explain…
I didn’t read all of the letters sections as I was going through, but I read the first one, and read this exchange… I think Hickman did a good job going with the things he thought was good, and a good job of stepping back from a comic just about Reed.
He made the full family matter in a lot of ways. One was in bringing in Nathaniel Richards, who I talked about last week – Reed’s father, who disappeared in the time stream and came back. Another was by focusing a lot on the Richards kids – Franklin, the most powerful mutant ever, and Valeria, the three-year-old who’s smarter than Reed.
And the rest of the Fantastic Four got some good stuff going as well – Sue, as the negotiator among the tribes of Atlantis; Ben, for whom the kids created an antidote for his powers (which works one week a year); and for Johnny, who died and came back. Actually, a lot of times. Oh, and Spider-Man joined the team.
The other thing is that, with the Future Foundation itself – a school Reed founded to raise the best and the brightest of the next generation – it changed up the plots that you run, and added a whole bunch more characters to consider. More speaking parts, more moving parts – less Reed-centrism.
Think of the Children
Speaking of the children, their inclusion really changed some of the hero/villain dynamics. It wasn’t a comic about good and evil punching each other out. There were plenty of instances where, for instance, the appropriate response was run and get these kids out of here. Indeed, that’s the decision that gets Johnny sacrificing himself.
Then you have the villain the Wizard, who was going crazy and also cloning himself. His last remaining clone is taken in by the Fantastic Four and joins up with the Future Foundation, despite the fact that, if you ask Bentley (the clone), he’s a future super villain. His arc pays off right towards the end, a loose thread Hickman finished up – and it’s pretty good. Last I saw, he was still with the FF.
And there’s the interaction of the kids – Valeria and Franklin – with their future selves, and with their grandfather. Very interesting stuff. Because they’re unafraid of messing up the timeline – in fact, they’re there to improve on it. Franklin, in particular, is there to help show his younger self how to use his powers – which are basically the power to do whatever. They make a new universe – he keeps it in his closet. It’s a thing.
The most interesting relationship, however, is Val, and her “Uncle Doom.” Val could tend towards super villain herself – something her older self seemed like she wanted to curb, at least. But Val has no problem trusting Doom, helping Doom, saving Doom. And Doom, in turn, seems to truly respect Valeria – something that’s rare. I know in the comics Val at some point ends up living with Doom, and unfortunately these comics didn’t cover how that happened so I don’t know – but it makes sense from everything I just read.
And throughout the run, the line keeps appearing. The concept that starts New Avengers. The concept that leads to Secret Wars and the end of the Marvel Comics Universe. Hickman’s pitch, it would seem, as to where he would take the story, and the whole everything.
These moments, reading this at the end instead of the beginning, were all amazing for me. The setup is great. It was subtle at first, vague. It gets really specific towards the end – clearly, the chips were being set up for the stories to start in Avengers and New Avengers. One thing Hickman does is pull together the Illuminati and set them up – T’Challa becomes the Black Panther and King of the Dead, Black Bolt returns to Earth and brings Attilan along. Things like that.
I took a ton of screenshots, excited every time I found a good reference. I should hold myself to one here…
Okay, the weird bug girl that Johnny went out with might be a bad example. Let’s just let Val explain things…
Of course, if we’re going to talk about Franklin…
But then, I did mention the Wizard and his madness…
So good. Which also means yes, as you might think after all this, I did start reading Avengers and New Avengers again…