After a three year absence, the book that kicked off the Marvel Universe is back sort of in Fantastic Four #1. Dan Slott, Sara Pichelli, Elisabetta D’Amico, and Marte Gracia’s first issue doesn’t have Marvel’s First Family fighting Mole Man or the Trapster just yet and creates a slow build to the reunion. However, there is plenty of sweetness, comedy, and a little of bit of familial strife along the way as Slott and Pichelli play in-universe with reader expectations about the team reuniting and the oil and water dynamic of the Human Torch and the ever loving blue eyed Thing. They do have a quite funny flashback to a “forgotten” adventure of the Fantastic Four that asks as a proof of concept that shows that Slott call pull off all the voices of the bickering, yet loving sitcom family with superpowers. In addition to this, Slott, Simone Bianchi, and Marco Russo craft a Dr. Doom backup story that is a little more traditionalist than his recent appearances in Invincible Iron Man and Marvel Two-in-One, and there’s also a super fun and quite metafictional one page backup drawn by Skottie Young and colored by Jeremy Treece.
For her work on Fantastic Four #1, Sara Pichelli brings a looser, almost more playful art style that still shows emotions and body language in a fluid way with the help of inker Elisabetta D’Amico and colorist Marte Gracia. Even though he’s made of rocks, Pichelli’s take on The Thing is lively and utterly human. Beneath his ungainly movements, he’s a loving man, and the scene where he proposes to his long time girlfriend Alicia Masters is sentimental without being sappy. Dan Slott writes The Thing as maybe giving up on seeing Reed, Sue, Valeria, and Franklin ever again, but he still has a family in Alicia and Johnny. However, The Thing and the Human Torch aren’t always loving BFFs, and Gracia shows the subtle difference in the Torch’s flame when he’s going off in action and when he flies off the handle after Ben asks him to be his best man. This scene shows that there’s still tension in Ben and Johnny’s relationship in an organic, not drama for the sake of drama way and even builds off the way that Chip Zdarsky has written them in Marvel Two-in-One where Ben knows that Sue and Reed are lost forever while giving Johnny a false sense of hope that they’re somewhere in the multiverse.
Johnny still believes the Fantastic Four will reunite and immediately flames on to where their sign shoots off in the sky with a flare gun like in the original Fantastic Four #1. Of course, it’s just a prank, but it’s foreshadowing to a grander, earned moment all overlaid in a beautiful blue by Marte Gracia like hope in the midst of despair. And hope and family are major themes throughout Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli’s story in Fantastic Four #1. Even if Ben and Johnny don’t interact with Ben and Sue, they share plenty of moments with the “extended” Fantastic Four family, including Wyatt Wingfoot, Jennifer Walters, and the aforementioned Alicia Masters. Johnny and Wyatt take in a Mets game, and Slott engages in what is either queer subtext or queer baiting using the stadium kiss cam while Jen pops up later to flirt with Wyatt and also legally represent the Yancy Street kids who set off the false Fantastic Four flare. Slott modernizes the relationship between the Thing and what was formerly known as the Yancy Street gang making him kind of a community leader instead of the participant in an endless Itchy and Scratchy situation.
Other than the poetic ending, the best moment of Fantastic Four #1 is the flashback sequence where the Fantastic Four and supporting cast find their way back to New York City through the power of Johnny singing the Wayne Newton standard, “Danke Schoen”. It’s funny, cheesy, heartwarming, and adventurous all at once like the best Fantastic Four stories. This is thanks to some little details emphasized by Pichelli like the way Reed cranes his neck when explain the quantum science or whatever of this karaoke journey home situation and then immediately retracts when he doesn’t want to out and out say that Sue isn’t the greatest singer. There’s also time for some transcendent beauty in the midst of screwball comedy: a Marte Gracia colored cosmic flame in the deep blue night sky that even Alicia, who is blind, can see. This little adventure shows the Fantastic Four are about science as well as deep human wonder through the vessel of a family ensemble.
Slott, Simone Bianchi, and Marco Russo’s Dr. Doom backup story creates a different kind of wonder, and the baroque severeness of Bianchi’s art easily contrasts with the cosmic smoothness, yet expressive cartooning of Sara Pichelli and Elisabetta D’Amico. It’s a back to basics Doom story as one of his former subjects pays a visit to the half-abandoned Doomstadt (There’s lots of Doombots per usual.) and asks him to liberate Latveria from one of the many stop gap authoritarian regimes that have been in place since he left them to play hero/Iron Man. And the way Slott writes Doom and Bianchi draws him is the complete opposite of the “Infamous Iron Man” as his face is no longer pretty, and he’s ready to rule with an iron grip and an iron mask. Like the main story of Fantastic Four #1, the Doom backup is about hope and symbols, but it’s a dark and twisted mirror to Marvel’s First Family.
Fantastic Four #1 is nothing short of a triumphant return for Marvel’s first superhero team. Dan Slott hits a nice balance between tearing heart strings, broad humor, and the wonders of the universe in his script while also crafting an aura of mystery and terror in the Dr. Doom backup story with Simone Bianchi and Marco Russo. In the visual department, Sara Pichelli shows why she is one of Marvel’s best and versatile artists hitting all the smaller, yet very important character beats as well as the big spreads and “Flame on!” moments.
Whether you’ve been reading the title since 1961 or this is your first FF adventure, Fantastic Four #1 is definitely worth your $5.99.
Story: Dan Slott Pencils: Sara Pichelli Inks: Sara Pichelli with Elisabetta D’Amico
Colors: Marte Gracia Backup Art: Simone Bianchi, Skottie Young
Backup Colors: Simone Bianchi and Marco Russo, Jeremy Treece Letters: Joe Caramagna
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review