FF #3 Is A Window Into the Marvel Universe by Keigen Rea

What was the comic that made you into a comic fan? For me, the technical answer might be the New 52 Batman, The Flash, or Aquaman series’s. Those were almost certainly my first monthly comics. I could answer Captain Marvel 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy, and Joe Caramagna, which was the first issue I had to search multiple shops for, and it was the first series I caught up to. The answer that feels truer to me, though, would be somewhere between Hawkeye 3 by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth, and Chris Eliopoulos, and FF #3 (which, combined with Sex Criminals #3 and Jimmy Olsen #3 are my argument why Fraction is the best writer of #3s, but that’s a different article) by Matt Fraction, Michael Allred, Laura Allred, and Clayton Cowles, the latter of which, of course, is of note.

FF #3 was my gateway, not into comics, or even superheroes, but into the 616. It got me interested in the interpersonal relationships of different characters, and introduced me to the New York City of the Marvel Universe. This comic made me want to understand the universe that the Future Foundation was running around in.

This issue did that by being full of crazy stuff that can only really happen in a Marvel comic.

The issue starts with a broken-future Johnny Storm warning the FF about Doom the Annihilating Conquerer, then you see Moloids pay the Mole Man, Darla performs a concert and then she’s attacked by the Yancy Street gang, which then prompts a chase through a building and out into a big New Year’s celebration. It’s a tour of the 616 New York, perfectly blending that “world outside your window,” feeling while using continuity and characters in ways both new and familiar. Moreover, it’s not really an action, or even adventure comic, at least not the way any of the comics I listed above are. It has more of a sitcom structure, which made me do the LeoDicaprio.gif and helped me realize that there’s more than just the typical superhero structures in Big 2 comics, there’s stuff more familiar to me, too. And again, and more importantly, it gave me a 616 that I understood, that wasn’t just a background for a fight scene, or a car chase (luv u Hawkeye #3). It showed me interpersonal relationships and a frickin gang that harasses the Thing, and New Year’s Eve. FF taught me what the MU looked like beyond just the MCU.

So, I really love this issue, and in a lot of ways, it is the most Comfort Foodiest comic I could come up with. But it’s not just the whole that works for me, but the individual parts work well for me just as much, particularly everything having to do with Darla and Scott.

This works on a bunch of levels, like being an artistic showcase for the Allreds, getting Darla back on the team, showing more of the pressure being put on the new FF, and ultimately outlining what the team will be working toward throughout the run. It balances the cast nicely, with Darla and Scott getting the focus but the others still receiving enough screen time.

But really, look at this page.

Look at it!!!

When I think of this run, I think of this sequence, and this page specifically. I love the verticality of the page, and I don’t feel like I see it very often, even now. When I saw this page for the first time, seven (7?!?!) years ago, I lost my mind. I didn’t even really like the Allred’s art when I first read it (2013 me was a fool, of course) but I could see the genius of this page.

The whole sequence does so much to endear me to Darla, from her making a smarter move than a dude who’s supposed to be made of smart moves, to just sprinting around her building and eventually outside in just a towel. What a legend.

I didn’t even learn until this week that FF was her debut comic! Which says one of two things; that I’m dumb, or that she’s a character that feels lived in from the gate. I’m fine with it being the former, but this week’s articles make it feel like the latter.

Another moment that feels great is Darla and Scott’s conversation in the crowd, Particularly when Scott says the following line:

I love this. I love the way Scott’s tears change the dialogue, and how they reveal how afraid and unsure he is about leading the FF. This panel helps explain why Darla agrees to return and the feelings behind “End Doom.” Again, this whole page, and sequence is fantastic, but zeroing in on this moment and the little pieces of it sells so much of the issue as a whole.

If there were a single panel that I’d pick as my favorite in the series, though, it’d be the one above. The mess of the room, the characters being so unprepared, Scott correcting the Yancy Street gang. It feels like a big bit with all of the themes that I love in the series. Scott having no idea what to do, but trying to protect the person (people) close to him. Leaving the mess behind for a bit to deal with what needs being dealt with. Creating and being a part of something new, even if it’s scary. Protecting and fighting for your family, found or otherwise.

Obviously I didn’t understand the significance FF #3 would have on me when I first read it. Looking back, I realize that this issue, really the whole series, is (and was) close to the ideal comic for me. Found family, working through past failures and trauma, an oddball cast, and time travel feels like a recipe for a story that I’ll love, and in this case it totally is. FF #3 informed and affected my taste in comics in a way that so few pieces of entertainment have, that I have to hold it up and love it. This weird side book is the perfect Comfort Food Comic for me, and I’m happy I get to enjoy it as much now as I did then.

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