I’m a little late in my reading of the Fantastic Four Season One original graphic novel but I feel like this release deserved some special attention.
Marvel has taken a page out of DC’s Earth One book and gone against their usual stance on original graphic novels by bringing us Fantastic Four Season One (soon to be accompanied by X-Men, Daredevil, and Spider-Man volumes). This book is a beast with many angles. Unlike DC’s Earth One books that brought a whole new universe to readers in a single, concise graphic novel, Fantastic Four Season One has a larger task. It intends to update the Fantastic Four origin and bring in new readers while still fitting into current continuity.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa takes on this near herculean task of bringing all of these elements together. Does he succeed? Yes and no, not completely.
First and foremost, Sacasa comes up with a mostly believable reason as to why these four, unique individuals would go off into space together in modern times. It’s an interesting idea and good reason to take along one’s girlfriend and girlfriend’s brother into orbit. This retelling of the origin is nearly pitch perfect with only a few faults that I’ll touch on later.
Secondly, Sacasa shows the Fantastic Four’s first encounter with a super-villain, The Mole Man. This is a neat encounter that shows the group come together as a team and has a couple of really great moments for the FF’s “most powerful” member and is their unveiling to the rest of the world. What I like most about this event is how they resolve their conflict with the Mole Man. I find it’s kind symbolic of what the Fantastic Four, especially the present day version, are about, not always fighting, but more importantly, always finding solutions.
The final part of the story focuses on Namor, the Sub Mariner and the team solidifying as the Fantastic Four we know today (minus the rugrats, Franklin and Valeria). This final arc serves as a climax, both plot wise and emotionally, as well as introducing a bit of the larger Marvel universe to our heroes.
David Marquez delivers some really great art. I am at a loss to describe it, but I find a “more comic book-y” version of Steve McNiven’s style sits well with me. It really is some great line work, especially on The Thing. I find his composition to be mostly above average, especially considering the pacing of this book (which is something I’m going to touch on soon).
This book isn’t perfect.
Sacasa writes some good dialogue that has some really great high points while at other times it falters with some outdated exclamations and boring but necessary expository lines. This leads me to the book’s biggest problem. It’s pacing is so tight it can barely breathe.
Sacasa and Marquez find some time to give readers a couple of really nice moments but rarely does everything get the attention it deserves. My main complaint in this regard is the origin. It achieves exactly what it needs to do within the span of about five to ten pages, no more, no less save an awesome splash of Aunt Petunia’s favorite blue-eyed boy. Again, I would have liked to see some expansion on the reason they are going into space and relating it to society as it seems like a really good hook for the casual readers this book is targeted at.
I would have also liked there to be more Dr. Doom in this. His “introduction” is relegated to a backhanded compliment cameo. Old fans will find it lacking and new readers won’t have any idea who he is. Of course, if they do a Fantastic Four Season Two this probably won’t seem to be such a problem.
I would like to talk about the production of the book for a second. I cannot express how much of a fan I am of the dull matte, jacketless hardcover approach (also seen in Superman Earth One). It looks nice displayed in a store as well as on a bookshelf. Another thing that I feel was a great decision in production was the inclusion of the first issue of Jonathan Hickman’s already legendary run on the title. The main story leads into this nicely and if that was intended then more power to Sacasa.
I hope this trend and synergy continues with the rest of the Season One graphic novels. Readers will love Mark Waid’s Daredevil, Kieron Gillen’s X-Men, and Dan Slott’s Spider-Man.
There are a few quick nitpicks I want to comment on. I like how there are little elements taken from the movies (hold the “ughs”) and the Ultimate Comics line. I am kind of sad that it seems one of my favorite Fantastic Four stories from my childhood doesn’t fit into this book because of Ben Grimm’s emergence as The Thing shows him fully “rocked out”.
Overall, I would recommend this book to any new readers interested in getting into the Fantastic Four or the Marvel Universe in general. For those of us infected already with the Marvel Zombie plague, there is a decent story here but nothing completely necessary though David Marquez’ art makes a strong argument to pick up this book for anyone.