Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing FF 12, originally released September 25th, 2013.
Shelby: Destiny takes on a whole new meaning in ComicBookLand. To us regular folk, destiny is the idea that the natural order of the universe has predetermined our future. In comic books, it generally means a version of yourself from the future has arrived who knows what happens next because they’ve already lived it. It makes it a lot harder to argue your future is your own when faced with someone who knows what you’re going to do next, and the consequences of those actions. Unless, of course, you’re in Matt Fraction’s FF; no matter how many intellects from the future drop by, you never actually know what will happen next.
Scott is having nightmares again, this time about growing so huge he crushes a world. The dream ends with his dead daughter telling him it was Doom who murdered her, it was Scott himself. The kids try to get along with Adolf while Caesar tells Maximus what he really wants: a fancy-shmancy space-time machine to bring the Fantastic Four back to stop Dr. Doom. If Doom can’t be stopped, there’s not going to be much left for anyone to conquer. Turns out, this was part of Kang the Conqueror’s plan all along; this is the point when the Fantastic Four return with the secret to defeating Doom, and the only way to stop them is to combine Kang, Doom, and Annihilus into Doom the Annihilating Conqueror. The big day comes, and everyone is holding their breath. Both Alex and Maximus are prepping to kill John Storm per Doom’s instructions. John flips the switch and … fwasssshh!
I feel like we say it a lot around the imaginary Retcon Punch office, but time travel, am I right? Just to make sure we’re all clear on what is supposed to happen here: in the future, the Fantastic Four are hunted and three-quarters killed by Doom the Annihilating Conqueror (DAC), so John Storm comes back to prevent that from happening, except that by building this machine and bringing back the Fantastic Four he would have forced the situation which formed DAC in the first place, allowing him to then go on a rampage in the future and hunt down the Fantastic Four, etc. Things go wrong because this is the FF we’re talking about and things never really go to plan, and we get…something else. Suddenly, the future is unwritten and uncertain, which must be disconcerting for Kang and Ravonna. You know, since they’re from the future. There’s an interesting moment just before John pulls the switch.
Alex, operating under Doom’s “kill then build” instructions is getting ready to kill John now. Maximus, operating under Caesar’s “build then kill” instructions is just waiting for the rig to be confirmed complete before he makes his move. Caesar isn’t thinking past the immediate consequences of flipping that switch: bringing the Fantastic Four back. But what does Scott make of this moment? Is this the moment he gets the chance to make Doom pay for killing his daughter? Is this the moment the Fantastic Four come back and he doesn’t have to/get to be responsible for the kids of the FF anymore? Or does he just know that this moment is the moment something big and important happens to all of them?
Despite the heavy implications of time travel and imminent doom (as well as imminent Doom), this issue seems largely held together by shenanigans. It’s why I love this title as much as I do; Fraction doesn’t let FF take itself too seriously. Adolf chases the rest of the kids around because they showed him an old Fantastic Four issue featuring The Impossible Man, and Adolf refuses to believe his father is a super-villain. I love that these heroes we read about in comic books exist in comic books in their own comic books. It’s silly, circuitous, and a lot of fun to read. My favorite example in this issue is when Adolf finally bonds with one of the kids over anime.
This page has everything. Kids in the Marvel Universe watching a cartoon about the Marvel Universe. ADORABLE art thanks to the super talented Michael and Laura Allred (Just look at that Angel! SO CUTE.). It’s almost enough to make you lose sight of the genuine moment Fraction and the Allreds (Michael and Lee Allred are given a story credit along with Fraction) have created between these two children. Again, it’s a real moment inserted in the insanity of this setting; a new kid having trouble making friends bonds with the second-most new kid. It’s touching and charming.
There’s so much more to talk about in this issue: Scott’s dream and his feelings of guilt over his daughter’s death, the adorably awkward way the Darla and Scott kiss was ruined, Doom acting like a petulant child the whole time. I could just go on and on, but I should probably give Drew a chance. Drew, did you find this issue to be as charming as ever, or were there just a few too many shenanigans going on for your liking? Also, do you know if that Marvel anime is real, because I kind of want to watch it…
Drew: I couldn’t find any Marvel anime, but it kind of makes sense that it would exist in the Marvel Universe, right? The kids there obviously love classic Marvel comics (implications about parental supervillainy aside), so it only seems natural that they would want anime featuring their favorite characters. Then again, kids here also love Marvel comics, so it seems equally natural that they would want Marvel anime now. Get on that, Marvel.
Oh man, is that dream incredibly loaded. We first see Scott accidentally killing ant children (dressed in white jumpsuits) in spite of his attempts to protect them — a clear manifestation of parental anxiety. That anxiety is clearly in hyperdrive for Scott, who has yet to come to terms with the death of Cassie. Then Doom appears, and Scott (still a giant at this point) attempts to punch him into the ground. When he lifts his fist, we see Cassie’s body, with the words, “you murdered me.” That level of guilt doesn’t exactly jibe with what actually happened, but then the body changes to that of Valeria Richards. Suddenly, ending Doom is no longer about revenge for killing his own daughter, it’s about stopping him from killing another young girl. That Scott may see saving Valeria as some kind of consolation for the death of his daughter adds an even more personal layer to his mission to end Doom.
Of course, the biggest surprise may come after Scott wakes up. As Darla rushes in to console him, he asks an unusual question:
The next line, “I have,” is given off-panel, making it unclear if it is Darla’s response, or simply Scott responding to his own question. Is this Scott expressing guilt over his daughter’s death (I suppose he is responsible for her becoming a superhero in the first place), or some other incident (I must confess, I’m not intimately familiar with Scott’s history). More intriguingly, is this the first hint of a darker past for Darla? As a relatively new character, her past is all but unexplored. I’m not sure it needs to be complicated by murder, but it certainly is open to be mined for new stories.
Shelby’s rundown of the antics going on in this issue is pretty thorough, but we’d be remiss if we failed to mention Turg’s repeated attempts to alert Scott to Alex’s plan to murder John. I love that Turg recognizes the severity of the situation enough to want to tell a grownup, but that he also still refers to it as a “tattle.” That semantic detail makes Scott assume that it’s not as important as the news he has just received that Maximus the Mad and Julius Caesar are plotting together in Dragon Man’s lab. Then again, he seems to have forgotten about it by the time things cool down, a detail Turg is duly aware of:
Either because of this snub, or because he’s distracted by how he can use this information to fend off romantic advances towards Jen, Turg never mentions his tattle again.
Scott does seem particularly interested in recovering the Fantastic Four — I mean, of course he is, but that “the moment…” line Shelby includes is open to interpretation. Is it just that he hopes the Fantastic Four can deal with Doom, or is saving his friends (and their kids) enough? Maybe he wants to go back in time and kill Doom before Doom can kill Cassie. (Or, maybe I’ve read Age of Ultron too recently.) I have no idea what Scott is thinking — or where everybody just got fwasssshh-ed to — but as long as the issues are this jam-packed with emotion and fun, I’m happy to just be along for the ride.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?