A new era begins for Marvel’s first family begins in Fantastic Four by Ryan North Vol. 1: Whatever Happened To The Fantastic Four? Something has gone terribly wrong in New York! The Thing and Alicia are traveling across America to escape it! But when they stop for the night and wake up the morning before they arrived, they find themselves caught in a time loop that’s been going on since before they were born! Meanwhile, Reed and Sue are on the run from their troubles – and make an unfortunate stop in a small town full of killer Doombots! But what is their terrible secret? And Johnny is left alone in New York – a city that hates and fears him! So it’s time for a new identity – and a new job! Can the FF find their way back together and somehow rebuild their lives?
Being one of Marvel’s longest running series, the Fantastic Four have been through all sorts of adventures over the years both as a family and by themselves. The opening volume of Ryan North’s run on the title falls into the latter category and he uses this opportunity to tell some unique tales. Whilst this is far from the team’s first time having solo excursions, North has an intriguing hook to justify their split. An unknown catastrophic event has driven the family apart and they find themselves dotted around the US. As strong as they are as a family, they do have individual strengths that go beyond the sum of their parts which are highlighted in the first few chapters before their eventual reunion at the end.
This opening volume have a vibe reminiscent of The Twilight Zone which definitely works in its favour. The Fantastic Four has always had a healthy number of stories based around unexplained phenomena so the glove fits. Being a science-fiction series first and foremost, North does a great job of pushing the more science-based aspects you’d expect against the increasingly abnormal situations the family finds themselves in. It’s always fun seeing Mr Fantastic – the Marvel Universe’s greatest mind – challenged by things that fly in the face of scientific fact. But beyond that, Reed and Sue’s encounter with a town of Doombots is generally enthralling and packed with twists. Likewise, The Thing and Alicia’s Groundhog Day-esque time loop saga is a ton of fun and goes outside the realms of what you’d expect from a story of that style. It’s also fun to see The Human Torch – who is used to being worshipped as a celebrity and things always going his way – being despised by the citizens of New York and having to find a wildly different occupation/identity as a result.
Iban Coello is tremendous on art. He’s well experienced in the superhero genre at this point, but the unusual scenarios in this opening volume gives him a chance to flex his artistic muscles. The Doombot chapter in particular is a real highlight of his talents. I’d be remiss also not to mention the stunning covers from Alex Ross who manages to surpass his usual strong output with some truly iconic pieces of work both from a composition and colour standpoint.
This is a strong opening to Ryan North’s FF run and one of the best takes on the team in recent memory. Will appeal to longtime fans and new readers alike!
Fantastic Four by Ryan North Vol. 1: Whatever Happened To The Fantastic Four? is out now from Marvel (9781302932633, p/b, £18.99)
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