Dan Slott ended his long run on Fantastic Four recently. Since then Marvel took a small break before relaunching a new Fantastic Four series with a new creative team. The creative team Marvel has tapped for the new Fantastic Four ongoing series is Ryan North and Iban Coello. Ryan North’s Marvel work includes the Eisner Award-winning The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Iban Coello has been working on various Marvel series including Captain Marvel, Venom, and most recently Dark Ages. Given both North and Coello’s history, this appears to be a very solid creative team to lead Marvel’s First Family’s latest ongoing adventures. Let’s find out if that is the case with Fantastic Four #1.
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Iban Coello
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
While on a road trip Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters-Grimm stop in Cedar, Pennsylvania. After seeing how people react to Ben’s appearance by calling him a monster Ben and Alicia remember that Cedar was said to be a ghost town.
When Alicia looks up information on the city it’s said that all the people living in Cedar disappeared on the night of July 12th, 1947.
After doing some investigating Ben and Alicia figure out that the town resets every day with the townspeople disappearing at midnight and returning at 4:00 am.
Ben and Alicia spend an unknown number of days trying to break the Groundhog Day cycle but it doesn’t work, though Ben at least figures out a way to become friends with the townspeople.
Alicia notices that when a townsperson by the name of Sanford says he wishes to redo everything that is when the Groundhog Day effect happens.
Remembering that a nuclear weapon was tested not long before July 12th, 1947 Ben figures that is how Sanford got his powers to reset the day.
After several attempts of talking Ben and Alicia learn that Sanford’s girlfriend broke up with him. While talking about their own failed past relationships Alicia gives Sanford advice about moving on from relationships that he takes to heart.
This ends up working and over time Sanford falls in love, gets married to, has kids, and after enjoying a long life passes away in 2006 of old age.
In the present day, with Cedar returning to normal Ben and Alicia continue their road trip. While talking about how complicated things are with their family, especially after what Reed Richards did to New York not being something the world can move on from.
A massive crater is then shown in the middle of New York City. End of issue.
Unlike most team titles Fantastic Four has largely a long-standing roster of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and The Thing. Outside of a few instances, they are the core of the Fantastic Four that has been a constant for Marvel. Which makes the choice to start this latest Fantastic Four series with a spotlight on Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters-Grimm a surprise but once you see the final page of this first issue you get a good idea why this was done by Ryan North and Iban Coello.
Starting out Fantastic Four with the guy reading a 1947 newspaper immediately raises questions as to what exactly is going on. When The Thing and Alicia Masters-Grimm walk into the motel acting as you expect there are even more questions raised. Having so many immediate questions as to what is going on makes you quickly forget this is a Fantastic Four comic as you are invested in the mystery.
This mystery that North and Coello create is made better by how it all works to spotlight the strong relationship Ben and Alicia have. The chemistry between the two as they try to figure out what is going on in a city that they thought was a ghost town was well done. They interacted simply as a couple that has been together for a long time and is just working together on this mystery because that is what they do. What helps is that both Ben and Alicia don’t take things too seriously. They each ground each other enough that there is some enjoyment to be had in the Groundhog Day situation they are in.
Starting out with Ben and Alicia was a smart move by North as he is able to show how he is going to be aiming to invest the reader in the family dynamic of the Fantastic Four. Capturing the voices of these each member of the Fantastic Four cast is the most important thing to this. By starting with a story centered around Ben and Alicia we see that North understands this as he captures both characters’ voices incredibly well. Most importantly, North is having fun writing the story and that comes through with how Ben and Alicia’s chemistry shines throughout Fantastic Four #1.
The chemistry between Ben and Alicia makes the transition from fun to serious in a natural fashion. Because once they learn who is causing the Groundhog Day situation for everyone in Cedar both Ben and Alicia look to find out why that is happening. To do so they do their best to connect with Sanford, the guy causing this, by simply learning why he is resetting the same day to make everyone stuck in this infinite loop. Simply treating Sanford as a person rather than trying to vilify them works so much better to make you care for what is really going on in this story. In turn, you appreciate Ben and Alicia even more as people as well as they know this isn’t something that should be solved in the traditional superhero methods.
Ben and Alicia sharing their respective relationship history was handled well to give them and Sanford even more depth. Alicia being the one to give the wise advice that ultimately helped Sanford move past causing this Groundhog Day was a great resolution. It made how we see Sanford move on even more touching.
Once you get to the final page of Fantastic Four #1 you realize why this story was important for Ben and Alicia. The revelation that Reed Richards did something catastrophic that lead to a massive crater in New York City is not an easy thing to pull off. To North and Coello’s credit, they indeed pull it off by the way Ben mournfully talks with Alicia about what Reed did as we lead up to the final page. The way the dialogue and character expressions were handled gives you confidence there is a clear plan in place that we can trust to pay off.
Fantastic Four #1 was not how I expected Ryan North and Iban Coello to kick off their run on this series. This is a very character-focused start as Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters-Grimm take the spotlight rather than the entire Fantastic Four team. That could’ve raised a lot of eyebrows but once you get to the end of Fantastic Four #1 you understand why North and Coello are going in this direction. The fun dynamic between Ben and Alicia along with the mysterious final page was more than enough to sell me on what North and Coello have planned for the Fantastic Four.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10