Over at Marvel.com, they tout FF #22 as the “…conclusion [of the] crossover with Fantastic Four #610. Witness the fallout of Bentley 23′s reunion with his father, the Wizard. It’s Bad Father, Worse Son. Now, nothing pushes my buttons more than slick copy that just lies to the unknowing public. Well Mr. Marvel web copy guy? Let me help with a bit of editing:
“FF #22 retells most, if not all the major plot points in Fantastic Four #610. Witness the same exact story told from 20 feet away as Bentley 23 and Lil’ Miss Richards find a way to sneak onto A.I.M. Island on her Scooty Puff Junior. The Wizard gets kicked in the giblets. It’s crazy villainous father, truly predictable son.”
I might have been a bit more verbose than the folks at the House of Mouse, but I like to let ya’ll know what you’re really in store for.
Jonathan Hickman has been slathered in praise here in my column many many times. Over at ComicMix, I named him one of my favorite writers. Suffice to say? The kid has chops. But I know “phoning it in” when I read it. And kids? This comic book has roaming charges all over it. Let me pull no punches; this book is top to bottom terrible. Perhaps there’s something I missed. But more than likely, with his tenure on the titular first family ending, this is Hickman with a serious case of senioritis.
As I denoted, the very structure of this comic is a waste. Not two weeks ago, we ended a very terse and semi-exciting episode of Fantastic Four. A.I.M. Island won a moral victory through diplomacy. We got a few laughs, and a few fights. And at the center of it? The Wizard, still off his rocker. And then, in the final pages, the die was cast. His clone, Bentley 23, was brought before him. His helmet was presented to him, to help him find sanity once more. And coldly, he looked at himself (by way of pre-pubescent clone) and demanded his take the helmet instead. And with it, the issue ends.
Far be it from me to desire that we pick up where we left off. Hickman instead goes back to the start of the whole she-bang to tell it from the perspective of Bentley. Is it necessary? Perhaps, if Hickman had an angle to explore. But here? He opts instead for some cheap action beats, and a gallon of dime-store angst. I get it. He’s a kid. But I also know Hickman is better than this. And when it’s time to get to the emotional core of the book? The moment where young Bentley learns that destiny can be fought? He kicks his elder clone daddy in the balls. Har. Har. Har.
Is it so much to ask that we get some real pathos? Here, this kid could be truly tormented by the inner voice made real in the flesh. Here we could see the seeds of the evil inside gnaw on a young man still trying to find his identity. But with a little pep talk from Valeria (who by the way is 3 years old, but looks 12… did I miss something?) and Bentley 23 is no more troubled than I was passing my lunch this evening. A furrowed brow, and a shot to the cash-and-prizes. And if 23 isn’t to be the one to make this book worthwhile, why not drill in to the core of Bentley 1? Here’s an opportunity to dig beyond the raving and ranting… wasted so he can simply yell like the 1 dimensional being he’s been reduced to. And that’s saying a lot given the size and shape of his helmet.
Artistically, FF continues to be a mish-mash of good and bad. Andre Aurajo is talented. That being said, he needs to take a few moments to get some better reference material. When he deals with adults, aliens, backgrounds, and technology, he shines. But the brunt of book is anchored in kids. And Andre’s kids are “Children of the Corn” meets “Garbage Pail Kids”. The sketchy style he employs gives him some originality yes, but I dare anyone to look at the saucer-sized eyes of every one of the youths in the book, and try to stay sane. The action and panel layout is kinetic and a decent feast for the eyes… but when it comes to the emotions Aurajo ramps things up just a wee bit too much. Gary Frank he is not.
We’re not far off from the conclusion to Hickman’s run on both Fantastic Four and FF. While it seems he’s sure enjoying tying up every loose end… it’s starting to wear on me as a reader. There’s only so much indulgence I’m willing to endure. I hope we end on a bang instead of a whimper; this book was far from fantastic. I’m ready for new beginings. NOW.