Johnny Storm is dead. Long live… Spider-Man and Doctor Doom?! The death of Johnny Storm, a.k.a. The Human Torch in Fantastic Four # 587 has presumably brought the end of the Fantastic Four book, at least in number (let’s see how long that lasts), and leaves the future wide open for the newly formed Future Foundation in FF # 1. Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Steve Epting (the same guys that killed The Human Torch in the historic story-arc “Three”) usher in a new era in the Fantastic Four continuity which should please anyone that has been following Hickman and Epting’s recent run on the book.
Marvel’s first family finds themselves in disarray following not only the death of a founding and charismatic member but a total change in the status quo for the surviving members. Susan Richards, a.k.a. The Invisible Woman, finds herself the unlikely monarch of a forgotten race of freaky, underwater ugly-peoples that even Namor, the king of Atlantis, doesn’t want to protect. Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic has to deal with his equally obnoxious father who has recently returned from the far future (“daddy issues” anyone?) and what I presume will be the return of the Council of Reeds. And Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing is dealing with the emotional guilt of knowing that Johnny Storm sacrificed himself for Ben juuuust as he was returning to rock form (see the ending of FF # 587).
So who will pull the FF out of it’s funk? As we find out in the beginning of FF # 1, Spider-Man is given the illustrious invite into Marvel’s royal family at the behest of the deceased Human Torch, (who somehow had the foresight to leave a hologram video will). If the multiple covers are any indication however, Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman progenies Franklin and Valeria Richards will also play major roles in the new FF book as will none other than longtime nemesis Doctor Doom. Yes, that’s right, a bad guy is now a good guy. Why? Because Marvel said so… now finish your vegetables.
FF # 1 sets a new tone for the Future Foundation which takes a decidedly more proactive approach to bettering the world than the butt-kickery of the original FF group. Hickman’s storytelling has always been more geared toward heady science fiction rather than senseless violence, (just read his run on S.H.I.E.L.D. for further proof), so this new direction pretty much just picks up where his Fantastic Four run left off.
For me this raises some logistical issues like foremost, what about The Thing? Sure the additions of Spider-Man and Dr. Doom make sense when you consider that they are joining an impressive think tank that now includes Mr. Fantastic and his uber-smart father Nathan, but where does this leave Ben Grimm? I mean let’s face it, he’s always just been the muscle but at least in the past he had Johnny to hang out and be dumb with. Now what’s he going to do? Even the kids are smarter than him. Maybe that’s why he’s so sad in FF # 1?
Hickman and Epting have also given the team an aesthetic overhaul outfitting them in stylish, Stanley Kubrick-esque white-and-black outfits. Which, I’m not sure I’m entirely on board for. There’s a reason why if you look at their outfits in Fantastic Four # 587 and compare them to the ones they wore in Fantastic Four # 3 (when the team actually started wearing uniforms) there would be little difference. It’s because you don’t mess with a classic. So to take that team and give them a completely new look with a completely new logo is a very bold step. Especially if, as Hickman had been hinting prior to the “Three” arc, this change in the Fantastic Four’s direction really is “permanent.” Which in the comic book world means it could last anywhere from one to five years.
Personally I like the new logo, the three hexagons, much better than if they just replaced the old “four” with a “three.” It represents change – a bold, refreshing, new direction for Marvel’s first team. What’s more, this change doesn’t seem to come out of some inane desire to make the team more “hip” and improve their marketing in lieu of a possible new movie. It actually serves a purpose both dramatically and thematically. As for the story, expect more of the same of what Hickman has been delivering the past year, which has been nothing short of fantastic… no pun intended. Either way, for Fantastic Four fans and fans of science fiction comic bookery, FF is definitely a book to keep your eye on.