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FF #15: It’s Almost Showtime, Franklin Richards

What do you write for the kid who can do anything? Three years of stories to make it count when he does.

FF #15

Franklin Richards looks like he's finally getting an epic story tailor made for him.

For the longest time, this was the kid no one wanted to touch. The son of Reed Richards and Susan Storm, Marvel's First Family, he was granted an absolutely massive mutant power which allowed him to rewrite reality at a whim. That made him less a character and more of a crazy plot device, and almost 20 years ago now, he was the catalyst behind the creation of an entire planet to save his heroes from Onslaught and feed them to Rob Liefeld.  As a character, he's hardly aged since then, but the next generation of Marvel heroes has really come to the fore in that time, as evidenced by titles like Avengers Academy and Wolverine and the X-Men. So it's about time that Franklin comes to the fore in his own book about overachieving youth, aka Future Foundation.

The problem still remains, though – how do you write any kind of story around this kid when he can blink his way out of any problem ever? Well, Jonathan Hickman has spent three years building the epic story he's now bringing to a climax in the pages of FF and Fantastic Four. It's a sprawling, high-minded science fiction epic involving alternate realities, pocket universes, time travel, alien invasions, planet eaters and mad gods, which is the level you need to operate upon if you're going to incorporate this kid as a central element. Fantastic Four drives the action, and FF fills in the blanks. And yet, FF doesn't forget that it's still about kids – super-genius kids, but kids nonetheless, and that's on display in FF #15, the penultimate issue in this huge story.

Case in point, Future Foundation member Alex Power comes from a family of superkids called Power Pack, and they show up to lend a hand in this issue, although Julie Power's changed her hair from when we saw her last week in Avengers Academy. The FF is a batch of smart kids, including Franklin's sister and mutants and moloids, being shepherded by his time-traveling grandfather Nathaniel and a pacifist Dragon Man android to try and save the world from a massive rogue Celestial assault, but Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta (replacing the acquired taste that is Juan Bobillo) still find time to have Katie Power punch Bentley in the face for saying something a jerk would say, or to have Jack Power taunt super-Moloids out of hiding by calling them ugly and smelly. Or having Bentley kick them in the junk. Or having the genius Moloids telling their less-evolved brethren that they no longer have to poop on the floor. It's a hell of a juggling act Hickman's pulling off with this big cast of characters, and sometimes it suffers from not really being able to focus much on any one of them – something that might be alleviated if you've been following Hickman's run since the beginning. But he still manages to balance the weighty cosmic pressure and the uber-genius ideas with the whimsy of childhood.

Not that Franklin's childhood is that whimsical with the stakes this high. He has a guru teaching him control of his powers from a universe it seems he created and he keeps in his closet, and now, as seen in Fantastic Four #603, this unseen mentor turns out to have been an adult version of himself. If I'm parsing this right, that means Franklin is so powerful a reality-shaper that he created a universe where there was an older and experienced version of himself to teach himself how to properly wield his powers. Mindbending, indeed.

A few issues ago, young Franklin tried to take down the Mad Celestials and was neutralized. Now, he's up against them again, and it looks like we're looking at all or nothing this time. Will this be a crazy effort that will drain his powers and make them more manageable for future stories? Will he be replaced by his adult self, or maybe go off with him to learn more and be written out for a while? Will he be aged up soap-opera style?

We won't know until Fantastic Four #604. But we do know that Franklin Richards is a really good-hearted kid, and his character has been developed enough to know that we really care about what happens to this little guy. That, in itself, is an accomplishment, considering he was once completely untouchable.

CraveOnline Rating: 8/10