100th Anniversary Special – Fantastic Four #1
Writer: Jen Van Meter
Artist: Joanna Estep
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Review by Joey Braccino
Trin, Kirby, Vicky, and Cam make a shocking discovery aboard the IGSS Fantastic near a restricted Neolunar orbital sector! Valeria seeks assistance from an unlikely source: her mother! And the Thing breaks out! Finally, the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Doom, Reed, Johnny, and Franklin fifteen years ago is finally addressed in this 100th Anniversary Special – Fantastic Four #1!!!
Make sense? I’d imagine not… unless you’re from the future. Which of course would mean that you read this wonderful little comic via implants in your frontal cortex. Blinking shifts the Smart Panels. And the Smart Panels actually speak to you.
Still confused? No worries. The high concept driving these 100th Anniversary Special comics is “What will the Marvel Universe look like in 2061???” So naturally, we’re all like… 47 years behind on the first page. But that doesn’t stop Jen Van Meter and Joanna Estep from telling a spectacular, moving story that truly captures the spirit of the Fantastic Four franchise.
Van Meter brilliantly juggles the need to establish the “continuity” of this 2061 Marvel U and the story of her young Fantastic Four and the mystery at the heart of this book. Just from the first ½ of the issue, I’m able to gather that we’re on a RESTORED Earth with a NEOLunar floating in orbit. I’m able to gather that the Fantastic Four (and perhaps heroes generally) don’t have the sort of positive popular opinion that they do in the current continuity. I’m also able to gather, quite efficiently, that Sue is under house arrest, the Thing is locked up, and Valeria is coordinating a galactic team of the Fantastic Four composed of her children and the children of other Marvel heroes. Van Meter delivers all of these characters and this exposition cleanly and effectively over the course of 20 short pages while still capitalizing on the thematic heart of the Fantastic Four franchise: family. Furthermore, Joanna Estep’s artwork is absolutely wonderful; her unique aesthetic has a charm and energy that is reminiscent of Adrian Alphona’s work on Ms. Marvel or Runaways.
The 100th Anniversary Special is written as though the Fantastic Four series is still ongoing in 2061, so the characters are “aged” (on the sliding timeline of course) and the action is in media res. This allows Van Meter to tell the story of Trin and Kirby and Vicky and Cam and the “classic” characters without the baggage of having to “introduce” them. The “future-but-not” element of the book goes so far as to have editor Dan Buckley insert those classic Marvel editor notes like “See Gamma Girls #251 next week!” Ultimately, the future conceit absolutely pays off, in part because Van Meter so steadfastly stays true to the family thread of the series as she explores these characters. Also, interestingly, in reading the editor notes and this book and the previews for the next set of 100th Anniversary Specials, it becomes immediately apparent that the future of Marvel is decidedly female-driven in terms of character!
Worth a look! Though the premise is a bit absurd, the 100th Anniversary Special series should provide some engaging, entertaining “alternate reality” stories for fans of the Marvel Universe. Jen Van Meter and Joanna Estep deliver a stellar first issue in this special series, especially considering their emphasis on what makes the Fantastic Four franchise work: the theme of family responsibility and love. If the rest of these specials play to these operant themes of the characters, then the 100th Anniversary Specials should be a real treat!