The Future is Now.

The Fantastic Four always, always, rubbed me the wrong way. I'm not sure what it was about the First Family that pissed me off so much, but my guess is that it was Reed Richards. I couldn't stand the smug genius, the arrogance, the graying hair. Sue, Ben and Johnny-- those are great characters but the Richards kids, man, those kids are even worse.

About a year ago, though, I bought twenty relatively recent FF comics, mostly from the McDuffie and Millar runs on the title, for seven bucks. I was converted. In the hands of one workmanlike genius and one of comic's biggest bombasts, the family who I couldn't stand became the characters at the heart of some of my favorite comics.

And then, last summer, it was announced that Steve Epting, who drew all those Captain America comics that I love, would be the new regular artist on the title, and I figured that was it. I was sold. There was going to be another book I was going to have to buy every month. Somehow, though, it just didn't happen. Somehow, it never ended up in my stack or my pullbox. But then Jonathan Hickman (a writer who is gaining my increasing respect which each new thing of his I read) killed off Johnny Storm and things seemed... different. So I picked up FF#1.

For this comic, there is only one word: Fantastic.

Marvel's First Family seem humbler now, more down to earth. It's not just that they're more somber; they seem genuinely different, genuinely changed. This is the first character death that I can remember that drastically changed not only the appearance of a book but also its tone this much. The Future Foundation are the Fantastic Four, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. The small moments are what's brilliant here, the one-panels and the slight things. It's a brave thing to do to write a team with such big ideas so small, but here it is, done well and done right.

The change is apparent in everyone, but it's most obvious in Ben Grimm; this Thing is a new Thing, no clobbering time, no wisecracks. Just wry sadness and the will to hit a few A.I.M agents. Hickman's Peter Parker, too, is surprisingly dead on. Spider-Man, I'm increasingly discovering, is hard to write well but here we get the wonder and the wisecracks and I wouldn't be disappointed if we see this Peter elsewhere.

In fact, I wouldn't be disappointed if we saw Epting's Spider-Man elsewhere either. He's one of my favorite artists, but sometimes the draftmanship is slightly off-- not here, though. He catches some characters in funny poses, certainly, and sometimes his faces feel a little wooden but he captures those little tender moments so well. More importantly, the characters carry their emotions in their faces and in their bodies. A lesser artist would draw these heroes as stiff and heroic but here they sag a little bit. In FF#1, it's clear that nothing is ever going to be the same. If anything, the last page makes that clear.

This new book... it's the future. And for us, at this moment, the future looks bright. The Fantastic Four is dead. Long live the Future Foundation.

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