Relaunches are all to common of a thing, especially with Marvel Comics. Just this last week Marvel relaunched their Fantastic Four series with a brand new #1 issue along with new creative team. With Fantastic Four #1 Ryan North and Iban Coello delivered a successful relaunch that I very much enjoyed. One thing I did not mention in my review for Fantastic Four #1 was the similarities it had to another series that was relaunched by Marvel earlier this year with Amazing Spider-Man #1 by Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr. Both the 2022 Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #1 spotlight the importance of first impressions these first issues leave a reader to sell the rest of the series moving forward.
WHAT HAPPENED IN AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1
Six months after a disaster caused by Spider-Man Peter Parker returned to New York City in serious debt while also not getting along well with Aunt May, Johnny Storm, and others he was previously close to.
While dodging debt collectors Peter continues to struggle to look for work after everything that happened with Parker Industries. Peter then learns about a coming gang war directly from Tombstone.
During this time, we learn that Peter and MJ have broken up for unknown reasons. MJ is shown to have moved on to live with her new boyfriend and what appears to be their elementary school-age kids.
WHAT HAPPENED IN FANTASTIC FOUR #1
Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters-Grimm decide to take a road trip together. As they go across the country Ben and Alicia end up stopping by a motel in Cedar, Michigan. When they wake up they are shocked to learn that they have somehow ended up on the date the entire city disappeared in 1947.
Somehow the same day they are in gets reset at midnight leaving Ben and Alicia in a Groundhog Day situation. After finding out who is causing the Groundhog Day situation Ben and Alicia help the guy get over what is causing him to reset the same day over and over again.
As they continue their road trip Ben and Alicia talk about their family situation leading them to bring up the unforgivable thing Reed Richards did. We then see a giant crater in the middle of New York City.
IMPORTANCE OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS
With both Amazing Spider-Man #1 and Fantastic Four #1, they are comic books are set up similarly with a lead character making a catastrophic decision that impacts their standing in the Marvel Universe. But while both have similar set-ups we see the creative teams take completely different directions with how they not only treat the lead characters but also respect the history and what fans want to see.
When it comes to Amazing Spider-Man we see that whatever mysterious thing Peter Parker decided to do as Spider-Man ruined his life. Because we see that after being MIA for six months Peter is in massive debt, has lost Aunt May’s trust, is on bad terms with the Fantastic Four, is implied to be hated by others in the superhero community, is unemployed, and broke up with Mary Jane Watson. Basically, Marvel has returned Peter to being defined by the horrible “Parker Luck” they never want to let the character grow away from, especially since the whole One More Day and Brand New Day direction.
All of this is a big spit in the face of the work the creative team from the previous Amazing Spider-Man volume that lasted 4 years with over 100 issues, that include various one-shots, by Nick Spencer and the Beyond Era did for the franchise. In particular, the work that was put into position Peter Parker as someone ready to move forward. Every trial that Kindred and Beyond Corporation put Peter through was to open himself up to realize his faults and why it seems he has always been stuck in the same spot personally, professionally, and as a superhero.
Even while I didn’t like every choice made the one constant that as a Spider-Man fan it was greatly appreciated that Nick Spencer, Zeb Wells (the current Amazing Spider-Man writer), Patrick Gleason, Kelly Thompson, Cody Ziglar, Michael Dowling, Saladin Ahmed, and Jed MacKay addressed Peter finally moving forward. We were left in a spot where it did seem Peter was ready to move forward with MJ and as Spider-Man after coming back from a serious injury. But that is all quickly undone as we head back into a single Peter that is unemployed and no one trust. It’s the “Parker Luck” that Marvel editorial will never let Peter escape from and it has long been boring and lazy.
On the other hand, while Fantastic Four #1 is shown to have a similar spot with Reed Richards causing some sort of disaster in New York City it wasn’t treated as a step back. Instead, the first thing we see with Fantastic Four #1 is Ryan North establishing the marriage of Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters-Grimm still going strong. The Groundhog Day-like adventure that Ben and Alicia go on shows that the relationships that are so key in Fantastic Four will continue from what Dan Slott and previous Fantastic Four creators worked to develop.
With Ben and Alicia in the spotlight, we got to have a feeling of characters moving forward even if we didn’t know why they went on this road trip. That lack of clarity until the end made when Ben and Alicia finally addressed what Reed did, revealing to the reader, this new direction wasn’t a step back. Instead, whatever Reed did is what will push the Fantastic Four forward and challenge them in ways they haven’t. Even if it’s not a new challenge there is that perception created by that.
Most importantly we can at least trust that the relationships between the various members of the Fantastic Four and the supporting cast will continue. All the trials the team will have to go through is using continuity to show why such a disaster caused by Fantastic Four changes things.
All of this goes to show how important the first issue is to create a first impression on readers. While having similar starts Amazing Spider-Man #1 ends up feeling like a step back while Fantastic Four #1 is a step forward. You can use continuity to create a new experience to grab both new and long-time readers without alienating one or the other.
If you do need to just restart character directions concepts such as Elseworld and Ultimate Universe show there is room to create a continuity-free new start for characters fans would buy into. It’s a lesson I hope Marvel and DC Comics editors, who are the ones who do all these comic book relaunches, learn when putting together a new creative team or relaunching a series.