Images & Words – FF #1

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

After some deliberation, I’ve made the executive decision that OL is going to officially endorse FF #1 as the comic book of the week.

So why the hesitation? Well, I guess I was concerned that my choice would be scrutinized, determined to be nothing more than a declaration of pure fanboyism. After all, I did award the Images & Words honors to the final issue of Fantastic Four. And then I interviewed Nick Dragotta, said comic’s illustrator. And since I’m coming completely clean, I might as well admit that I featured the penultimate issue of Fantastic Four, as well.

So I didn’t want to come across as yet another Internet mouthbreather, shamelessly celebrating his current favorite bit of entertainment.

But after reading and re-reading FF, there’s no denyin’ that Jonathan Hickman has got me hooked. Indefensibly. The dude scripts the First Family with an earnestness that makes me weep. Forreal. As I read this issue, I can feel my heartstrings being yanked on with a violent fervor, reminding me that at its best science fiction is a genre concerned with the human condition. Hickman understands that the most outlandish of scenarios can resonate sympathetic.

Hell, even interdimensional conflicts and premonitions from the future can be imbued with familial strain.

While anyone keeping up with the Marvel universe as of late could guess that the death of Johnny Storm is weighing on the family, there’s also some resentment stemming from bringing in Peter Parker as a replacement. Although Spidey is Franklin’s favorite superhero, the Richards’ son is quick to keep Parker from sitting in his uncle’s seat at the dinner table. Usually affable, even Ben Grimm gives Pete the `ole cold shoulder, preferring instead to isolate himself and deal with survivor’s guilt.

As the head of the family, Reed is trying to cope with having his authority usurped. This duress is rooted in the appearance of his time-hopping father Nathaniel. On the one hand, Reed is glad to have another brilliant mind on which he can rely, as evidenced by a dinnertime exchange:

Nathaniel: What, we don’t do dissenting opinions here? Reed just normally says something and everyone automatically agrees? That’s ridiculous

Reed: …How refreshing. I’m glad you’re home, Dad.

Nathaniel: Clean your plate, son.

However, Mr. Fantastic is less pleased when he finds out that Nathaniel has supported Valeria in her decision to enlist Dr. Doom into the ranks of the Future Foundation. This makes for a great narrative conflict as Reed wants to trust his father and daughter, but doing so means working hand-in-hand with his arch-nemesis.

As an aspiring writer, FF makes me want take an ax to my word processor and walk away forever. How the hell will I ever craft a tale with as much breadth and depth? Well, I probably won’t. After all, this comic is a layered blending of backstory and foreshadowing, otherworldly speculation and Earthly empathy. It’s the type of shit that not only takes years of work and dedication, but that unquantifiable spark of genius as well.

But I’m going to read the shit out of this series and hope that I can get close.

A single star behind me
A red sky burns ahead
A lonely light below me
Awake among the dead
An overwhelming feeling
Leaves me numb and strange
A sense of new beginning
I sense a wind of change
[New Millennium]
[Dream Theater]