When I started my site, Comfort Food Comics, it was so I could wax poetic about the very specific comics that pop into my head randomly all the time and make me smile. Those notable books that stick with you and form your comics DNA. One of those very specific comics that have stuck with me for years was FF #9. For FF Week here on the site, we are celebrating everything good about the Matt Fraction, Mike and Laura Allred, Joe Quinones and Clayton Cowles series and it’s time for me to go a bit more in depth. For me, this ninth issue is the best one. It is a one and done right in between what I consider to be the big opening arc and the big closing arc. It is an absolutely perfect pause between the big action and continuing plot points that’s full of humor and good times. It is made up of so many of the special ingredients that constitute a Comfort Food Comic to me – a slice of life downtime issue, a pool party “Beach Episode”, documentary framing sequences, Medusa exuding some real “Your Son Calls Me Mommy Too” energy, ridiculous space aliens masquerading as Julius Caesar also masquerading as a 2000’s business mogul – you know, your standard stuff.
Most of the issue revolves around Bentley-23, child clone of the villanous Wizard. Bentley has always been pretty great because in the sea of fiction, children are usually written as either mindless babies or cherubic angels who are the model of innocence and good behavior. Anyone who lives in the real world knows children are brutally honest and flippantly cruel. They are smart and terrible and Bentley gets to be just that because he is the clone/son of a rather contemptible classic villain. It’s a rather freeing way to not have to write a sappy pastiche of a real kid. In this, Bentley’s impish sensibilities are mixed with the most charmingly pretentious job there is: documentary filmmaking. It’s a match made in heaven. He decides to focus on the “Fish Kids”, The Uhari pair of Vil and Wu, who are both to us and the characters in the story the least developed and most disconnected characters. He keeps poking fun at how no one knows which one is which or how nobody really knows anything about them. It’s a pretty genius way to spotlight them and compare and contrast them to the rest of the group. Most of the FF have their preconceived notions about the Uhari and how they may be better than them. As all this is going on a massive pool splash fight happens that eventually has to be broken up by the FF adults. You then see in the finished documentary that the Uhari are the most peaceful, smart and well put together out of any of this cast. It’s also a great metaphor for how a lot of people tend to perceive people from another country that they can’t communicate with. Really it’s about how we have such preconceived notions about people we dont know. It always ends up as someone thinking they’re superior or better when really you just can’t talk to them. They are often times just as much on level footing with you, if not better. Just because you don’t get their language or customs, doesn’t mean they’re stupid, mysterious or any less capable than you. I really appreciate they hit those issues but with fish kids, a dragon man, a poorly grown teenage moustache and out of control pool horseplay. That’s some next level commentary done in the cutest, most amusing way.
The other main plot of the issue revolves around one Mr. Charles Cotta of Julian Enterprises. The wealthy mogul invites all of the FF to his luxurious skyscraper for a pool party. In actuality he is a space alien that posed as Julius Caesar in the past after possibly inadvertently causing his death. It’s here we get a stealth crossover with the sister main book Fantastic Four as the cast of that one has been lost in time and met Mr. Cotta way back then. Cotta has spent all this time making sure to amass a fortune and make it to this present day to finally let this replacement FF team know that the Fantastic Four are safe but lost in time. He then gives them his spaceship and the impetus for the next mega arc – to hop into the timestream and save the Fantastic Four! I love that Fraction came up with a goofy alien that pretends to Julius Caesar who later comes help teach the FF and makes friends with Maximus the Mad. It’s just endlessly enjoyable.
But as much as I love those plot points the real MVP of this issue, and the reason I adore it so much is the Joe Quinones artwork. He just goes so hard in this one with everyone in a bathing suit. His art is so unique because he is a master of facial expressions, body type differential, and fluid kinetic motion. Everyone has their own distinct facial features and body shape. It’s a refreshing change from most comics. I love so much of what he does in this issue. Let’s point out some highlights:
Alex Power’s lanky body with a VERY pronounced teen moustache thats equal parts hilarious as it is disgusting to look at.
Medusa bringing a whole new meaning to the word “Mommy” when we see her drop her sarong for a page. One thing I love here is that her body shape is so different from Darla and She-Hulk’s and the stereotypical bikini model bod. It fits her age while still being fabulous and sexy. I really appreciate that diversity in body image.
Scott’s hilarious short shorts and diving costume shirt ensemble complete with goggles.
Ahura of course trying to be the cool, sullen goth at the pool who wears a shirt instead of going topless.
Shulkie’s “Please crush me ma’am. Thank you.” bod throughout.
Quinones’ amazing caricature of Julius Caesar in a linen suit and sandals for Mr. Cotta
The Ker-Sploosh sound effect of Ahura’s cannonball being done as literal splashing water.
Darla consoling Artie and Leech who want none of the chaos that plays out in the pool.
There is just so much in this one to make you laugh and smile,with most PANELS being packed with multiple bits. FF is really good at that throughout the entire run but this one will always stand out to me. Quinones packs so many memorable moments into it that I’ll always be able to pull this one up fully formed into my brain. It is one of my essential Comfort Food Comics. One of those special comics that birthed this site into existence.