Sunday, May 8, 2016

CBR:Quickies Matt Fraction's FF (2012)

They were just meant to be away for four minutes!

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Hank Pym: Avengers: The OriginAnt-Man Season One

Originally the Future Foundation was a spinoff title from Fantastic Four #579, created by writer Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Steve Epting. After the presumed death of the Human Torch Johnny Storm, Reed Richard aka Mister Fantastic funded this organization to help the application superhero science for the benefit of the world. With the help of several of the brightest young minds in the Marvel Universe - Alex Power, Dragon Man, the evolved Moloids Tong, Turg, Mik and Korr and Bentley 23 (a clone of the villain Wizard). Over the course of the series they would enlist more members such as Franklin Richards, Artie Maddicks, Leech, a young girl from Wakanda named Onome and Ahura, the son of Black Bolt and Medusa of the Inhumans.

Meanwhile Mister Fantastic, Sue Storm the Invisible Woman and Aunt Petunia's own favorite nephew Ben Grimm, aka the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing, kept on their superheroics on a day-to-day basis. They even recruited Spider-Man on a request from the late Human Torch.

This first series lasted for about 23 issues. This run came to an end after they found out the Human Torch was still alive. As part of the Marvel Now! initiative, Johnny Storm returned to the Fantastic Four and the team they built while he was absent was relaunched with a new creative team of Matt Fraction and Mike Allred in November 2012 (and it would end with issue #16 in January 2014).

Enters Scott Lang, aka the second Ant-Man.

The character of Scott Lang was created by David Michelinie and John Byrne in 1979. Scott Lang is an electrical engineer, an ex-thief and a con man who turned to burglary when he could afford the bills for his ill daughter Cassie Lang. One time Scott got caught and did time in prison. After getting out, he reformed, but not before doing one last job - stealing the Ant-Man suit from Hank Pym! After a pretty decent run in comics, Scott Lang was killed during the Avengers Disassembled storyline...

After that Eric O'Grady would take up the mantle of Ant-Man in the great Irredeemable Ant-Man series and become an Avengers, teaming up with Hank Pym in the Ant-man & Wasp miniseries. Eric was also finally killed in a 2012 storyline of Secret Avengers. (Because they always end up killing fun size-changing heroes, see The All-New Atom for example).

This second volume of the FF takes place after Scott Lang was resurrected in the pages of The Avengers: Children’s Crusade miniseries only to witness the death of his daughter Cassie at the hands of the diabolical Doctor Doom. Reed Richards convinced Scott to come back from his superhero retirement to take over the Future Foundation while the Fantastic Four would only be away from the Marel Universe of only "four minutes". Of course, their return would take longer than expected...

Comic title: Fantastic Four Vol. 1: New Departures, New Arrivals
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Mark Bagley, Mike Allred
Format: Trade collecting Fantastic Four Vol. 4 issues #1-3, FF Vol. 2 (2012) #1-3 and the Ant-Man backup story from Marvel Point One #1.

Our book opens with a recap who Scott Lang is and where his life currently left him. Scott's still grieving over the death of his daughter Cassie, now going with a darker colored version of his recent costume. Putting moustaches on Doom portraits to blow off some steam.

The Fantastic Four decide to take a break from their crazy lives. They decide to locate some replacements in case anything happens during their absence. Scott was seeing Reed to help him build this type of coil he could use when getting small to ride around. Reed offers him to lead the FF in their absence, but he's not sure about such a responsibility to watch over all these children while he couldn't keep Cassie safe. Sue asks the same of Medusa, the Queen of the Inhumans, Ben goes to Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk who already took over his leave in the past. Meanwhile Johnny Storm has to leave his current girlfriend Darla Deering behind.. so he asks her to fill in for him.

Marvel's first family will be away on a journey of self-discovery (and to help find a cure to a plague that has afflicted Reed lately), but for the rest of the Universe their disappearance will only last for just four minutes... But they never come back!

Days go by, and the replacements are forced into the spotlight when not only they have to manage a whole class full of super-smarts kids while protecting the world from all sort of weird menaces that pop up every day, like crazy scientists running havoc in the streets. First one to show up his an old Fantastic Four staple in the form of the Moleman who dusted off the first monster the FF ever fought back in Fantastic Four #1 in 1961!

Darla gets powers of her own, as she makes use of this fake-Thing shell Ben Grimm used back when he was transformed back into his human form a few years back as Ms. Thing!

While the Fantastic Four are off having adventures in space, the FF stay behind to protect the Earth!

Suddenly old man Johnny Storm from the future drops out of the sky. He says he's from an alternate reality where all of these villains merged together into Doom The Annihilating Conqueror and killed the rest of the Fantastic Four!!

Overall: This boom acts both as a first volume for this new status quo for the Fantastic Four and volume 0 of this 2nd FF series.

And we're off to a great start! The book is fun and well-paced. And both storylines are pretty creative and captivating. A real page-turner.

Matt Fraction is a great writer and his storylines always manages to impress and pay off. Finally someone decided to use Scott Lang again and make use of the character. He's no Hank Pym and a much more decent guy than Eric O'Grady was. But a theme running through all these Ant-people is that they're not perfect people and trying to make due for their guilt and past actions.

Grief is what moves much of FF forward, also the theme of family.

Actually despite all the background that this new series lies upon, both FF and this new arc of Fantastic Four would prove to be pretty self-contained stories. Each issue working just as well on their own as mini-tales.

Matt Fraction's FF is radically different from Jonathan Hickman's Future Foundation series.

The art is kind of a mixed bag. For Fantastic Four you have Mark Bagley with a fairly traditional Marvel style, with lot of action and big splash pages. Meanwhile Mike Allred is a much more personal artist with a really detailed and slightly more-cartoony direction. As issues go by Mike Allred would explore and play with compositions and breakdowns as he usually does, but the first couple of issues here starts off relatively "normal".

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: FF Vol. 1: Fantastic Faux
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Mike Allred & Joe Quinones
Format: Trade collecting FF (2012) #4-8.

The new FF team is set to guard the planet while the Fantastic Four are lost on some interdimensional journey!

Scott Lang wants to bring all these smart young heads together to form a plan to finish Doom and his Latverian empire once and for all, but Alex Powers thinks Scott's just overacting from having lost his daughter.

"Shulkie" goes on a date with a former friend, the kids try to ruin her date night. The old Johnny Storm has a lot of issues (is he really who he says he is??). Medusa bring her son Ahura to stay at the FF. And Darla looks for some headgear to complete her Ms. Thing persona, but nothing satisfied her.

The Yancy Street Gang returns, only now they're sort of a ridiculous cult based around The Thing! Darla's concert is sabotaged by the gang.

Some of the parents come by to check on their children. Speaking of, Bentley's "parents" are supervillains bent on destroying the world! The entire FF building is "kidnapped" into another dimension! Bentley tries mind-controlling Medusa.

Alex arranges a meeting with Doctor Doom. It appears Doom has the Powers, Alex's parents, captured!!

Meanwhile we find out Doom has been secretly working with an earlier incarnation of Kang the Conquerer who is now just Kid Immortus and this mysterious lady friend of his Ravonna, as well as Annihilus working towards the beginning of the end!!!

Overall: FF is such a fun reinvention of the original concept of Marvel's first family! It's family-based, it's all about weird science and crazy colorful-looking super villain mad scientists!

This Future Foundation makes for such a fun and odd team! Four grown-up adults taking care of the smartest and weirdest children in the Marvel Universe!

The book has a pretty fun episodic nature. It just works really well. There's a lot of standalone issues. A lot of great character moments.

Mike Allred's gorgeous art makes the book. The filler artist Joe Quinones on issue #6 did ok. Visually unique and striking art.

It's so much fun! Such a funny and hilarious adventure series!

I liked all the little details, how the Moloids fancy "the Jen"!, how the Yancy Street Gang were wearing Jack Kirby Thing-masks.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: FF Vol. 2: Family Freakout
Written by Matt Fraction & Lee Allred
Art by Mike Allred & Joe Quinones
Format: Trade collecting FF (2012) #9-16.

This volume collects the final issues of the book, which could have easily been split into two trade paperbacks as they cover two distinct storylines.

In the first part, Bentley makes a film about the Uhari - the quiet fish kids that spend all their time swimming. This rich guy invites the entire FF, kids and adults alike, to a pool party. What he really wants is to talk to Scott's team. You see, he actually is an immortal alien who used to pretend he was Julius Caesar back in ancient Rome, where he met Reed Richards & co in the Fantastic Four companion series. He's here to help.

After this, it's time to put a plan to rescue the Fantastic Four - but Doctor Doom wants none of that...

Ahura introduces the other kids to his uncle Maximus the Mad, of the Inhumans, while Scott Lang and the rest are off on a miniature adventure. And all they bring back from that trip to show is a new pet miniature tiger!

They try time traveling back to the past to the day the Fantastic Four disappeared, but instead they end up in Impossible Man's dimension (think the equivalent to Mister Mxyzptlk from DC Comics, he used to appear in a ton of books back in the 80s). I.M. asks them to take care of his son Adolf. Adolf joins the FF. At first he's pretty shy and reclused but he finally opens up to others thanks to anime!

The team builds a portal to bring the Fantastic Four back... That doesn't work either.

In the second half of the book, the FF go to the blue area of the Moon, domicile of Uatu and his wife Ulana, the Watchers, while coming with a plan to put an end to Doctor Doom, permanently.

Speaking of Doom, he's been pushing aside all of his potential allies, because Doom needs no help from such fools!

It's finally time for the final confrontation! A battle on different fronts, thanks to the help of Sun Tzu who also turns out to be an alien like Caesar was! The kids form two teams, using remote-controlled robots disabling and destroying all of Doom's tricks. At the same time Scott Lang and the ladies take on a direct approach and confront Doom with all of their might and powers combined.

Doom wields the power omnipotent! But Scott Lang has Pym Particles on his side, he just discovered the explanation behind the anomaly of the Ant-man's powers. Not only can Pym Particles alter size but also strength and durability! Just look at past history of character like Ultron, Vision or Wonder Man! Pym Particles work on an X, Y and Z-axis!

Scott finally defeats Doom by having him believe he had killed Valeria Richards!

Also during the finale, Bentley mentions the unstable nature of Pym Particles and Cassie Lang's possible resurrection similar to Wonder Woman, someone should check on her body...

Overall: This was such a great conclusion to a fantastic if short run! Always fun, this book comes Highly Recommended to any Marvel reader and Ant-Man fan, it was just fun throughout the entire run!

Under Matt Fraction, FF's always been a book more about Scott than anything else really. Here he finally gets to face the man who killed his daughter. It's epic climax, a confrontation between Scott and the FF against the man who murdered his daughter, Doctor Doom.

We even get some big development regarding the way Pym Particles work, able not only to alter size but also strength and durability (and explains why Giant Man or Goliath always kept their strength intact).

The fight with Doctor Doom is both a straightforward beat up and a surrealistic combat. The good guy has the upper hand right from the start. Scott goes toe-to-toe with Doom.

And finally, we even get one big happy ending tying it all together!

FF was one of the most compelling new series part of the Marvel Now lineup. It stayed fun till the end.

We even get a fun meta sequence where the editor, writer and artist of the book discuss plans for comic book series with the cast of the series!

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Matt Fraction's FF proved to be a really fun run! It didn't last long. But it had some tremendous impact on both Fantastic Four and future Ant-man comics. 

This 2012-13 series from Matt Fraction and Mike Allred is so underrated!

After the conclusion of FF, much would be undone for the next creative teams to play with these characters. Scott Lang's daughter Cassie was finally brought back to life (already teased in this series), Scott stopped being such a serious and somber figure, now played more as a down-on-his-luck kind of guy/ex-con who can't get a job to make ex-wife happy.

The Pym Particles development would be kept and mentioned several times through Marvel Comics though.

Scott Lang would return in an astonishing new series in March 2015!
That's all for this time's Quickies!

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