Claremont’s expansive coverage of X-Men comics were formative in my discovery of the medium. I loaded up on the newspaper Essentials collections and devoured them on long car trips. They taught me many of the tropes and vocabulary of superhero comics, including the concept of a crossover series in which two familiar characters or teams are put at cross purposes battling one another before turning to face a common foe. Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1 was one of my first and favorite crossovers, and that sense of nostalgia certainly influences my immense enjoyment of the 2020 redux: X-Men + Fantastic Four #1. However, I think the pleasures of this miniseries debut can be located in its mastery and appreciation of that incredibly niche sub-genre of the superhero crossover comic, speaking that language almost perfectly.
The recent overhaul of the X-Men line provides an excellent premise for a confrontation between the two teams. Franklin Richards, the son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, has a foot in both worlds as an Omega-level mutant. His family seeks to keep him in New York City while mutants on Krakoa seek to shelter him and possibly solve the problem of his fading powers. It’s a new path between the same destinations of introducing the factions and key players, a forced superhero battle, and the introduction of the series’ true villain. These notes are familiar, but this comic succeeds in how well it plays them.
The style in which both of these groups and their respective settings and introduced and presented is abundantly inviting. Terry and Rachel Dodson’s characters possess a soft appeal, delivering the sense of heroes you’d want to high five in the street rather than hard-edged combatants prepared to shatter some faces. The action is well presented and often delivers an unexpected comedic edge, but the best moments all occur when the emphasis is on these characters’ unique personalities and relationships—one hug in particular is bound to make some older fans sniff. The distinctive settings of both New York City and Krakoa are given plenty of space to breath, providing a sense of splendor and a visual separation between the two colliding worlds.
Writer Chip Zdarsky has a real knack for scripting those human touches that the Dodsons deliver so well. Each character on the page—and there are a lot of them—possesses a clear voice and one that largely rings true across so many different interpretations. Ben Grimm is a tough guy with a genuine heart, Magneto is uncompromising and impressive, Reed Richards is arrogant beyond belief, and so forth. This parade of favorite familiar faces manages to walk the tightrope between the already ongoing franchises which primarily characterize them without seeming insincere. In fact, it’s the sincerity of small, personal conversations, like the ones had between Franklin and Ben Grimm, and later Kitty Pryde, that will likely stick with readers long after they close this issue.
It’s this sincerity that makes the one serious misstep in the issue read as being overly apparent. While the tensions and arguments between the two teams are logical, the escalation to violence in Central Park is simply ludicrous and draws attention to itself as a familiar trope appearing primarily because it is expected. However, the issue quickly recovers its footing by returning its focus to how this brief fray affects individual relationships and delivering a deeply satisfying cliffhanger sequence.
Even in that moment of plot-required confrontation between X-Men and Fantastic Four, there was still a touch of nostalgic joy on seeing these teams reunited, specifically around their grown children: Franklin Richards and Kitty Pryde. X-Men + Fantastic Four #1 embraces being a superhero crossover comic and that enthusiasm translates into a the best possible presentation of well-trod ground, elevating the many familiar elements embedded in its DNA. Zdarsky and the Dodsons’ appreciation of these characters accompanied by a humanizing approach make it easy for existing fans to fall in love and may even reveal some hidden allure to sceptics. Even though this is a story most of us have read many times before, it makes for perfect comfort reading as we make our way through a cold winter.
Published by Marvel Comics
On February 5, 2020
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson with Dexter Vines and Karl Story
Colors by Laura Martin0comments
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson