Maybe I'm just a sucker, but despite comics always cycling back to the original status quo, I’m impressed by Marvel Comics celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Fantastic Four by killing the Human Torch and canceling the series, then relaunching it as simply FF (for “Future Foundation”) with new members including Spider-Man, new uniforms, a much bigger extended-family-feeling cast of characters, and this snazzy cover to issue #1, which screams “optimism!” in a way that a book about the future should – and that hasn’t been dominant in comics (or culture generally), what with all the dystopias and so forth, for some time.
I think the kids and the parrots (unusually upbeat for modern superhero comics) are a crucial touch. It really does almost make me feel as if change and hope are possible, and not for political reasons. (Oddly enough, one of the numerous alternate covers that Marvel released for the issue is one of the worst I have ever seen on any comic book, so thank goodness modernity comes with options.)
Of course, despite all the changes, Doctor Doom will probably be trapping the heroes in the Negative Zone or whatever in the usual fashion within three months, and I’m sure the Human Torch will spring back to life sooner or later, but perhaps the new, expansive tone that writer Jonathan Hickman appears to be aiming for will last. That would be a fitting next step in the FF’s half-century evolution.
(In the real world as in the comics, technology can be a double-edged sword, as a naked man using an AK-47 to attack a SWAT robot learned last week.)
Like many people, including some who work for DC Comics, I preferred Marvel when I was young, in large part because Marvel did a better job of making it seem as though change was possible. No one ever believed that Superman would die and stay dead, but a second-tier X-Men member might. Change at DC, alas, tends to be seismic – and temporary – rather than convincing, gradual, and organic. This summer, for instance, they’re transforming the universe via time shenanigans again (not only am I not collecting the stuff anymore, I plan not to learn second-hand what happens on this one – on a personal level, that’s progress).
And I’m probably not the only person who thinks, with a delight that underscores broader problems, that the most intriguing part of the advertised (temporary!) changes to the DC Universe is not that Wonder Woman will be a warrior queen or that Batman becomes a casino-owning degenerate but that there will suddenly be a bouncing insectoid hero – with his own book – called the Canterbury Cricket, who seems to have no precedent in the DC Universe we already know (you can scroll down to, and enlarge, the cover of his comic among the ones shown here). Change is possible, but sometimes it happens in small, strange packages, in England.