Matt Fraction has created enough universes and timelines at this point that he could be swimming in spin-off titles for the rest of his career and they are, for the most part, absolutely fantastically established and built upon, even if we only spend one or two issues there. This time we’re shunted to the hyper-advanced society of Celeritas as Reed tries to make amends with his still-upset daughter Valeria over keeping his, and the rest of the Fantastic Four’s, deteriorating conditions a secret. One of the planet’s main pillars is scientific advancement, which puts Valeria right at home as she immediately sets to work in one of their labs. All is, of course, not as it seems, however, as a group of terrorists from the future steal a building that Johnny, Reed and Valeria were inhabiting. Their demands? They have none, they just think everything used to be so much better than it is now and they steal things from the past to ensure that there is no more future (since everything sucks now) in what is another entry in Fraction’s continuing mockery of elitist fanboyism (remember the Yancy Street Dummies?). He does it with a definite wink, nod and nudge and while I definitely agree with his sentiment that nostalgia tends to make fools of us all, I’m happy that he’s not being vicious or mean-spirited about it as that would be just as petty as those he mocks.
Mark Bagley continues to supply the shining happy pencils while Joe Rubinstein brings those pencils into sharp, sometimes jagged, detail with his inks and Paul Mounts makes everything even shinier and happier with glowing, bombastic colors. There’s almost as much power management going on in this issue as there is panel management, which is to say an absolute metric TON of both, but the artists never lose control of panel flow and the visuals, with a couple of easy-to-overlook exceptions, are never indistinct or unclear.
As much as I love the creativity and enthusiasm that Fraction throws into every issue, I found this one in particular to be the hardest yet to follow. Fraction tends to plow ahead full-steam with both plot and dialog leaving little room for exposition, which does keep things sounding naturalistic. The problem is he also doesn’t pause to establish context for a lot of these events but there are strange and confusing things happening, even by superhero standards, and the book only says maybe a couple of words about them before moving RIGHT into the next thing. I’ve also mentioned before, but it’s especially egregious here, the way the world, nay UNIVERSE, fawns over Valeria and her limitless, flawless genius makes her a tad insufferable. If it were tinged with some childlike naivete or flaws, that would make her a great deal more interesting, but it’s the same problem I had with the novel The Name of the Wind: this child prodigy is always right, beloved by all, and completely flawless. The art also comes off as rushed, with a lot of the visuals appearing jagged and indistinct, but Mark Bagley and co. are still some of the best in the biz, so their “rushed” is better than many “standards.”
This book still gushes with creativity and enthusiasm and that makes it a lot of fun to read and experience. It’s by no means a perfect book, but the good outweighs the bad enough to make it an easy recommendation, especially if you’re looking for something a little more lighthearted, but not strictly for children, on the shelf. I really do admire how much Fraction and Bagley have created in the already expansive Marvel Universe and timeline, how much uniqueness this book brings to the shelf, and that enthusiasm counts for an awful lot.