Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Penciler: Filipe Andrade
Inker: Filipe Andrade
Colourist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
The Fantastic Four hold the title of First Family in the Marvel community. With a name like that, what could be more natural than a good ol’ American road trip? And what is a more classic road trip than the Grand Canyon? Problem is, the Fantastic Four rarely keeps with tradition.
After landing at the Phoenix airport, the family drives to the Grand Canyon. On the way, Reed mentions he wants to stop by at a meteor site nearby. (Of course, he mentions this plan on the way to the site and not run it by the group before they left.) Reed gets his sample, while everyone, including fellow scientist Valeria, gripes about the side quest. Reed talks his Omega level mutant son Franklin into excavating 200 kilos of the meteorite, even though Franklin has a finite pool of power that could dry up at anytime.
Its after dark when the team reaches the rental house. The group breaks off for the night, while Reed runs tests on the meteorite in the “vacation lab” in the basement. Unbeknown to Richards, the meteorite consists of more than he suspects. While the tests run over night, the Richards suffer from extra-terrestrial exposure.
They wake up and go about their plans, and at first, it seems fine. Soon though, their powers start to malfunction. First, the Thing’s rocky exterior starts to fall off, revealing his skinless muscles beneath. Then, Susan’s body parts begin to turn translucent, revealing muscles and organs. Johnny burns uncontrollably until he seems destined to be ash. Valeria loses her intellect, regressing to a baby. (This suggests Valeria’s intelligence is itself a power and not natural.) Franklin loses control of his reality altering powers multiplying in number and bending and teleporting the things and people around him. Lastly, Reed becomes incredibly elastic losing his ability to hold structure. Meanwhile, a mastermind watches all of this, as the heroes slowly die.
The one shot, Fantastic Four: Road Trip, contrasts starkly with Dan Slott’s concurrent run. While Slott touches on serious issues, the series flows with familial love and good humor. Cantwell (Doctor Doom, Mask) writes darker tales, full of gloom and gore. He delivers on the comics very well, but he stands as an odd choice for Fantastic Four. (Other than his time writing their main villain, which demands less levity and more gloom by its character.) Here though, his normal tone doesn’t suit the First Family. The comic serves as Junji Ito-esque body horror mixed with some Leaving Las Vegas vibes when they are driving. Personally, I am a fan of neither things, nor do I find them to mash up well with the Fantastic Four.
Also, this one shot delivered little of lasting importance. No emotional beats between members. Mr. Fantastic stays a condescending jerk without really redeeming himself. No surprises or twists in the plot. In theory, this issue will be relevant down the road, but it felt very forgettable at the moment.
The art matches the tone of the comic fine. The transformations are horrifying, which I will say was a fair description of the first transformation almost 60 years ago. The lines and inking by Andrade create a distorted world, and even before things go haywire, the faces and proportions seem trippy. O’Halloran’s colors rely heavily on the oranges and yellows of the desert and Grand Canyon. The sky is a cloudless, almost photorealistic shade of blue. You can feel the dry heat of Arizona.
Verdict: Pass. While the story serves as an alright body horror tale, it fails to deliver a great Fantastic Four. If you love Junji-Ito or body horror, you might glean more from this, but I didn’t find it to be worth the 4.99 price tag.