If you follow Matt Fraction on Twitter, you may have been worried when this book was announced. Fraction’s a funny, witty, but also vulgar and low-brow sort of person (at least publicly), and the Fantastic Four have always been Marvel’s ambassadors. They’re a superteam, sure, but they’re not only one of the first, they’re a family. A family with no fewer than three super-geniuses in them, so while Fraction’s run on The Punisher, Hawkeye and more have brought a great deal of intelligent humor to the books, it wasn’t a sure thing that he could handle something like the First Family. Those fears, after seven issues, have been forgotten.
Fraction writes every single character with an amazing amount of not just humor, but genuine emotion and depth. He’s one of the few writers who has really illustrated why Sue and Reed are still married (there are plenty of arcs from other writers I’ve read that have left me wondering what they can possibly see in each other) and he writes their children with as much...well childlike wonder as I’ve seen in any book. The overarching story of the First Family visiting a station at the epicenter of the Galactic Crunch, encountering and bartering for Blastaar, trying to solve the crises of their degenerating physical (and mental) states almost seem ancillary to just watching them all interact with one another.
Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessey and Paul Mounts are no slouches either. It first became clear in Ultimate Spider-Man that few could do detailed, emotive faces better than Bagley and his crew and that talent’s only grown through the years. There are also few who could bring the Fantastic Four’s powers to life with the same vibrancy and eclectic design that Bagley does, making this book an absolute thrill to view. This issue, in particular, could almost be a silent one and you’d still know exactly what's going on just on the strength of the expressions and blocking.
I won’t lie: I’m not the biggest fan of Valeria. On the first hand, I really don’t like children who are far, far smarter than they should be (even if it’s their superpower) because intelligence too often gets lumped in with worldliness, and that's something no child, no matter how brilliant, has. I find her bordering on insufferable for large chunks of this issue. It’s not just the intelligence problem, it’s also that she’s basically never corrected because she's never, ever wrong. I actually had this problem with the hit fantasy novel The Name of the Wind. I don’t mind as much if a child is insufferably intelligent as long as they’re not infallible, but that hasn’t been the case.
Additionally, I’m not fully sure about exactly what’s going on in this exact issue. There are a great deal of strange and inventive things happening at the End of All Things, including a great caper to cure the ailments that the Fantastic Four has been experiencing, which were the catalysts for the events of the book itself, as well as what to do with Blastaar, but so much of it is very, very nebulous and almost too convenient. Too much is brushed off with a wave of “Meh, time travel.”
Fraction is incredibly lucky he has artists of this caliber backing him up, and we’re very lucky he’s as good at writing these characters as he is, because the above complaint very nearly knocked a star off, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. On the one hand, the plot isn’t terribly clear or comprehensible, and I really don’t like Valeria in this issue, but on the other hand...everything else, even parts of her dialog, are absolutely perfect and it’s more than enough to overcome my complaints.