X-Men/Fantastic Four #1
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Dexter Vines, Karl Story and Laura Martin
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Rating: 9 out of 10
The kids are decidedly not alright in X-Men/Fantastic Four #1. Faced with dwindling powers and an uncertain place on his family’s superteam, Franklin Richards is desperate to find a new place in the Marvel Universe. Enter the nation of Krakoa, who have been after the Omega-level Richards since the first issue of House of X, but now they have a more delicate approach in mind - one centered around Franklin’s former pal, Kitty Pryde.
And while this all inevitably leads to a thrilling 'Marvel Misunderstanding,' lovingly staged by the Dodsons alongside inkers Dexter Vines and Karl Story and colorist Laura Martin, writer Chip Zdarsky mines a great deal of pathos from Franklin’s struggle and Kitty’s genuine desire to help. Focusing almost exclusively on the pairing, with Franklin’s sister Val joining the main cast toward the end, Zdarsky turns what could have been a haughty ball of super-angst into a genuinely affecting struggle for identity, complicated further by Franklin’s connection to two long-standing pillars of the Marvel Universe. All expressively rendered in shiny, cinematic artwork from the entire art team, X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 isn’t just the start of a fun crossover, it’s the start of a struggle of nature versus nurture for control of a veritable demigod.
“I’m the Impossible Boy,” intones Franklin’s narration in the opening pages. Establishing this troubled teenager with a poetic tone, writer Chip Zdarsky makes a heartfelt return to Marvel’s First Family and promptly begins stirring the pot for them. By smartly focusing on Franklin as our lead, Zdarsky makes the alienation and disconnect Franklin feels with the rest of his family feel all the more real and textual. But that isn’t to say that the rest of the Four get short shrift — building on Zdarsky’s characterizations from Marvel 2-in-One, each member of the family gets great voices and displays of their dynamics throughout this opening issue.
The House of X is also given this wonderful attention to detail. These scenes again are largely focused on one lead - in this case, Kitty Pryde, who is a strong emotional point for the X-side of his crossover - but also establishes fun connective tissue between Krakoa and the Richards’ family. Lampshaded by an effective flashback from 1987’s Fantastic Four vs. X-Men, the creative team works overtime to justify the emotional stakes of the crossover, along with a healthy amount of “showing their work” in regards to background research. The Quiet Council wants to help Franklin by bringing him home, and they want Kitty to convince him.
Obviously this leads to a fairly fraught and tightly blocked battle between the FF and some of Krakoa’s heaviest hitters, including Wolverine, Storm, and Magneto. But by the time it happens, readers will likely be invested in both sides, thanks to Zdarsky’s tremendous attention to characterization and emotional groundwork. It doesn’t just feel like another superhero-on-superhero fight. There are real stakes and appreciable points delivered on both sides, not to mention the strong thread of self-actualization present in our leads Franklin and Kitty, both of whom are struggling with feeling like pawns amid a larger game their parental figures won’t even let them play.
This fight also doesn’t doesn’t look like a traditional crossover showdown either, thanks to the rich pencils of the Dodsons and highly attuned inks and colors. Matching Zdarsky’s fleshed-out character beats well, the Dodsons deliver page after page of their trademark cartoony look as rounded character models and boldly theatrical blocking and posing play out over the loose panel layouts. Made sharper by the heavy inks of Dexter Vines and Karl Story, the Dodsons’ artwork captures the whimsy and heart-on-their-sleeve emotions of both teams well. That whimsy is hammered home by the fantastic colors of Laura Martin, who adapts well to the issue bouncing back and forth from the tropical tone of Krakoa and the domesticity of Yancy Street.
Though far more focused on heart and less on spectacle, X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 is a wonderful start for Krakoa’s first major crossover with the Marvel mainstream. Thanks to a dynamic art team and a truly rich script from Chip Zdarsky, this crossover stands apart from other, less defined “marquee” crossovers. Armed with genuine emotional stakes and a deep connection to FF and X-Men lore, X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 provides the best of both worlds.