After the real-life horrors of the last few days, I've found it hard to focus on comic books, which truck so heavily in the kinds of violent stories that may or may not have something to do with today's American gun culture. Thankfully, there's a book like Fantastic Four. When it's done right, Marvel's First Family focuses on the family much better than any preachy group like Focus on the Family does.
Fantastic Four #2 from Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley contains no gunplay and not even any violence beyond a slapstick bit of fun from Moon Boy on Johnny Storm, who is the butt of jokes. It is the continuation of the storyline set up in Fantastic Four #1 and FF #1 – namely, Reed Richards is taking his wife, his children, his brother-in-law and his best friend on an excursion to unknown universes ostensibly as a learning/bonding experience and secretly as an attempt to discover the cure for their eventual deterioration from the cosmic rays that gave them their powers. In the meantime, they've appointed four guardians to stand guard over their Future Foundation school in their stead – they aim to be gone for a year their time and four minutes real time. While three of those four are experienced superheroes – Ant-Man, Medusa and She-Hulk – the fourth is essentially Katy Perry. For the purposes of copyright, it's actually Johnny Storm's pop star girlfriend Darla Deering, who he asks to stand in because he forgot to ask somebody real. This, of course, means that when the Four don't return in four, the other three will have some serious training to do.
So far, both of these books are mostly hijinks, and that's really great to have right now. The Fantastic Four may have been the forerunners of Marvel's entire superhero genre, but they function much differently than most other books of their ilk. They dabble in superheroics when needed, but it's not their primary mission statement. They're explorers of the unknown. They're about teaching and learning and discovering and helping and loving each other. Sometimes that general brightness to their disposition makes them a hard sell, but it shouldn't. And right now, it's the best kind of thing comic books have to offer.
People have complained about the new Man of Steel trailer for making Superman as dark as Batman, when that's the exact opposite of what Superman is supposed to be. Thankfully, Marvel is not mandating any such thing for the Fantastic Four. They are allowed to be bright. They're allowed to be fun. They're allowed to love each other without angst and fear. They support each other, they understand each other and it's that milk of human kindness that we need to get us through the broken madness and the worst of ourselves.
It's important to remember to be grateful for that. Maybe they can also remind you to hug your family when you see them this holiday season.