Fantastic Four 1 Teases the Reader with Pathos

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: Dan Slott and Skottie Young close out the first issue of Fantastic Four by giving the creative team shit for not actually reuniting the titular superheroes. It’s a cute little one-pager, playing to Young’s hyper-specific strength for drawing adorably angry characters.

But this epilogue is more than just a cute way to sign off with joke. By ending the issue with an explicit acknowledgement that “they’re not even back yet”, Slott and Young are doubling down on the idea that the absence of the Four itself is a phenomenon worth exploring.

Of course, Slott and artist/storyteller Sara Pichelli had been telling that story for 20 pages before this. I love how frequently this issue teases the idea of the reunion, fully knowing that every time Ben and Johnny have a glimmer of hope, they have to double down on their separate coping mechanisms. The first couple pages literally tell Ben and Johnny’s stories by splitting the page in half. Johnny’s enjoying his celebrity, low-key leveraging his powers to have fun and be loved by a stadium full of Mets fans. Ben, on the other hand, has turned inwards, rescuing kittens and going to a farmers’ market with Alicia.

We’re seeing some basic personality traits playing out against the specific backdrop of a world without the Fantastic Four. Johnny’s all bluster, Ben’s quiet and private. Check out this juxtaposition of the role these two play on this two-page spread.

Ben is a rock — stationary. Meanwhile, Pichelli draws Johnny with both motion blur and a fully circular flight path between two panels. They’re dealing with the same stimulus — the words “Fantastic Four” in the skies above New York City — but their reactions are totally different. Ben needs so desperately to move on, while Johnny needs to not give up hope. This is the peaceful version of that difference.

When the next step in Ben’s plan tramples on Johnny’s, their collective frustration boils over, pitting the Human Torch and the Thing in a finger-pointing, fist-slamming argument. We’ve been seeing some of this dynamic playing out in Marvel Two-In-One, but I think the most haunting part of this exchange is Johnny’s eventual acquiescence. “It’s true, isn’t it? They’re really gone.” Ben embraces Alicia and Johnny together — a reconciliation of past and future, loss and gain. They are t h i s c l o s e to finding peace with their new status quo. Pichelli is more than happy to tease us with genuine pathos.

But then a goddamn Four-shaped whole opens in space. And just when we were starting to make progress…

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

One comment on “Fantastic Four 1 Teases the Reader with Pathos

  1. Wow. A Dan Slott comic I can say I liked. That has happened since… some of his work on Avengers I think. It has been years since I read Mighty Avengers so maybe I’ll have different thoughts about that, but I read Avengers: the Initiative recently and that worked.

    Slott has always frustrated me as he is always making the right choices, but in a way that never works for me. There is no writer I want to like more than Slott. And my latest attempt to give him anotehr chance has disappointed me with his Iron Man, but this works.

    I love the choice to build it around a Yancy Street Prank. The perfect incident for this story, a false hope that forces the characters to properly process things for the first time (let’s ignore Zdarsky’s work for a moment. There is always overlap with things like this as every writer wants to explore something like “What does it mean that Reed and Sue are gone?”) and push them in new, interesting directions. More importantly, a direction that will remain even with the ending reveal that Reed and Sue have successfully sent a message.

    But Slott have the right ideas isn’t a surprise. The quality of the execution is. BUt we ahve that. THe right focus on the right protagonists, every element that informs the narrative in the right amount, all used correctly. And writing that just works. Maybe SLott has always been better suited for team books. Or maybe Fantastic FOur is a right fit for his sensibilities in a way that other characters aren’t. I can’t think of a book that I wouldn’t want a SLott idea in, but I think I found one I actually want him to write. Maybe I’ll bounce of future issues. But this issue is perfect

    Well, the main part is. The Doom story suffers from being a bit vague on the exact direction they are taking him. It is certainly the start of his return to villainy, but how quickly he is going to reach there? I really hope it isn’t as simple as he burnt his face fighting Mephisto in Bendis’ finale, therefore he’s evil again. I would love to see him still try and be a hero, be Iron Man, but have the Mephisto fight begin the return of the insecurities that led him to villainy the first time and see his heroic persona slowly disintegrate. Add to that the idea of Reed returning to find Doom a hero, and how Doom’s need to beat Reed leads him to hastening his own self destruction as he, one by one, destroys his heroic qualities in an attempt to prove he’s better than Reed (despite the fact that Reed returned fine while Doom lost his face/everything). BUt the Doom story feels like it could take DOom down boring directions in order to return to status quo. Not necessarily. But I hope his return to villainy is more interesting than just him regaining his original place now that his face is burnt

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