About two weeks ago, I reviewed FF – Fantastic Faux…and very few people seemed to care. I’m guessing that the indifference to that particular review (compared to some of my other comic reviews) might have been because the book was fairly unknown, featured somewhat unrecognizable characters, and the cover looked kind of weird. Now a shrewd, business minded individual might have thought, “Okay. Folks don’t like weird, unknown comics. I’ll make sure my next review is of something hip and popular and exciting!” But me… I go, “I’m gonna review a hundred-year-old political satire play!” And that’s exactly what I did! Then, when it comes time to do my NEXT review, I’m right back to looking at that series that nobody cared about when I reviewed it two weeks ago! (Ha!) Why? Why would I sabotage myself like that??? Because the point of my READ A DAMN BOOK project is to share the stuff that I’ve been reading, and since I left the college life, I’ve been reading what I WANT to read!!! I read what I enjoy, and I liked the first two FF books, so I bought the third one and gave it a read, as well! And guess what! I loved it! It was a great book with a satisfying story! AND, another element that I’m trying to weave into my R.A.D.B. project is sharing materials that not everyone already knows. If one or two people read my FF – Fantastic Faux review, or my look at R.U.R., and then went and read those books, that’s AWESOME! Some cool stories got passed around just a bit more than they would have if I hadn’t written my reviews. If NOBODY went out and read those works after I published my thoughts, OH WELL! I tried---and trying is just as important as succeeding! (Screw Yoda!) Possibly MORE important! If you succeed at everything you do, maybe you’re shooting too low. Challenge yourself a bit. Take a risk. Try for something that seems just a bit beyond your grasp! Maybe you fall down, but you’ll learn something from the effort, and you just might reach it on your NEXT attempt!
So…let’s look at FF – Family Freakout!
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual digital comic that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]
Matt Fraction, Michael Allred, Joe Quinones, Lee Allred, and Laura Allred – FF – Family Freakout (2013)
This book concludes the story arc started in Fantastic Four – New Departure, New Arrivals and continued in FF – Fantastic Faux, and without giving anything important away, I’m going to say that the story concludes well, in a satisfying (if possibly a bit mystifying) way. Again, I’m not sure if this was INTENDED to be a sixteen issue maxi-series, or if that’s just how it ended up, but I’m leaning pretty heavily towards this being a consciously envisioned project, considering how completely the tale was tied up by the end. And I’m more than fine with that. It’s actually kind of nice running into a story that resolves by the end instead of being some forever long, nebulous tale that just limps along, (like a soap-opera with too much spandex.)
One of the things I want to talk about with this book is the creative team. Laura Allred is probably the unsung hero of this series, as she provides the colors for every issue, and the color pallet is PERFECT. She has a great sense of contrast, induces specific moods with every color choice, AND guides the INTEGRITY of the project by keeping things consistent, regardless of who is doing the artwork. As for art, the duties here are split between Michael Allred and Joe Quinones, and I like both of their styles, which are similar enough that there isn’t too much of a jump when art duties are swapped. Allred is a bit STRANGER with his compositions, has a bit more elasticity with his figures and experiments a bit more with “camera angles” and frame to frame transitions, but Quinones is also a solid draftsman with an eye for quirky, humorous facial expressions. No complaints in the artwork from me, at all. I enjoy just LOOKING at this comic.
As for the writing, the duties were shared between Matt Fraction (who is credited with either “scripts” or “story” on every issue), Lee Allred (who handles scripts from issue 12 on), and Michael Allred (who is a “story” contributor on several issues.) Again, I have no complaints about how the plot unfolds with this book. I know I mentioned in my last review that the story/slash/stories seemed rushed, like there were too many ideas being jammed into too few pages, but in this collection, the tale moves quite well, bouncing between the EVIL plans of Dr. Doom, Annihilus, and Kid Immortus, versus the Future Foundation and several former foes (like the Impossible Man and Maximus the Mad) coming together to try to thwart Doom’s efforts. And, in my opinion, these eight issues build well as the creative team moves towards the inevitable showdown between good and evil.
Perhaps what I saw as the TOO frantic pacing in the previous volume, so many different characters all getting their own short story arcs, PAID OFF! Now that we’d gotten to KNOW each of these characters, at least a little bit from their earlier mini-tales, this made the IMPACT of them working together here, facing such a vicious and powerful enemy, that much more compelling. (Never judge a story from just a few chapters!) The seemingly disjointed story lines in the earlier issues were woven together by the creative team by the end to form a wide NET, intricate and well-wrought enough to catch and keep my interest for the rest of the tale. (I should have known. I should have had faith in the Fraction / Allred team. These folks know what they’re doing!)
So what’s this tale actually about? I don’t want to spoil too much because it’s a great read, but I’ll just give a quick overview… In the previous volumes, we saw how Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Ms. Thing, and Medusa became the acting heads of the Future Foundation, a school for gifted youngsters with special powers and abilities, while the Fantastic Four were “out of town.” However, when the Fantastic Four failed to return at the designated time from their trip, folks started to worry. THEN a disturbed, older fellow---claiming to be Johnny Storm---showed up saying that the rest of the Fantastic Four had been killed by Doom. The next several issues involved the kids of the Future Foundation getting to know their new protectors, as several old villains (and a couple of new threats) showed up to test the FF’s abilities.
In THIS volume, the members of the FF decide that they need to try to FIND the original Fantastic Four (wherever they might be in time or space) AND also to put an end to Doom, who is on the verge of becoming a COSMIC level threat, if he should MERGE with Annihilus and Kid Immortus---the very event which the older Johnny Storm claims precipitated the DEATHS of the Fantastic Four!
This is a fun story. It has a lot of humor in it, some great twists, as well as some well written ethical considerations (as when the sentient organic robot, Dragon Man, agrees to allow himself to be cloned so that the FF will have more bodies for the upcoming war with Dr. Doom, and Scott Lang turns this into a discussion about consciousness, cloning, and slavery. Pretty good stuff---for a silly superhero comic!) In addition, it’s a quirky series of adventures, which never falls into the “bad guy robs a bank or jewelry store, and hero X punches them in the face” formula, which haunted comics for decades. These are cerebral stories, dealing with racial issues (the “kids” in the Future Foundation come from a variety of different SPECIES, not to mention ethnic backgrounds), sexual identity, ethical issues (like “Is it ever the RIGHT choice to KILL?” and several others), processing grief, the existence of “Destiny” (as a concept, not a character…or a video game), what “friendship” means, and several other genuine human concerns. There are also some great META-moments in this book, as when Matt Fraction and Michael Allred show up IN THE COMIC, trying to pitch their services to the FF to help them with BRANDING. I also enjoy the fact that this book isn’t afraid to deal with weird characters, (like Uatu – The Watcher, and Mr. Impossible) or take on freakishly powerful COSMIC entities, (like The Living Tribunal, who is a god-like being with several faces that only intervenes in human affairs when things go REALLY sideways…)
Overall, this was a great series. I highly recommend it (despite my “soft” recommend in the last review---Ignore that! I was ignorant of the creators’ plans), and I would definitely advise reading all three collections together: Fantastic Four – New Departure, New Arrivals, FF – Fantastic Faux, AND FF – Family Freakout. I haven’t read the Matt Fraction / Mark Bagley Fantastic Four issues, and although I enjoy Fraction’s storytelling ability, I’m not as interested in that branch of this saga. (I’m just not that big a fan of Bagley’s art---although there’s nothing WRONG with it. I prefer my comics to be more…comical…) The Fraction / Allred team, though (plus their accomplices), produce EXACTLY what I’m looking for in my comic book reading adventures: strong characters, intriguing (sometimes freakish) plots, humor, and adventure! If you find those things enjoyable, too, then look no further than the FF series. I really enjoyed reading it, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it just as much when I read it again in a few years!
Now go read a damn book!
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
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