Friday, July 17, 2009

Comic Review: Franklin Richards: School's Out! One-Shot (Marvel Comics) by Adam P.

Wait for the Digest...

For the last few years, Marvel has been releasing Franklin Richards one-shots about once a quarter and then collecting four issues into digest format once a year. The issues often have a seasonal theme to them, and this time, Franklin is enjoying the start of his summer vacation. For the uninitiated, Franklin is the son of Reed and Sue Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. He's been a mainstay of the Fantastic Four since his introduction in 1968. Once considered the most powerful mutant in the Marvel Universe, Franklin is bereft of any super-powers in current continuity, and this is the version we find here.

Chris Eliopoulos (Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers) has been involved in the Franklin Richards series from the get-go and currently writes and draws them. The comic is meant for young children (and the young at heart) and closely resembles the look at feel of the great Calvin & Hobbes newspaper strip, all the way down to the character design. Virtually every story focuses on Franklin attempting to use his father's inventions and his robot babysitter H.E.R.B.I.E. doing damage control.

Though this might sound like a one-trick pony, Eliopolous does a great job of keeping the stories fresh and creative and nails Franklin as a young ne'er-do-well with a twinkle in his eye and a knack for having things go terribly awry. The comedic style might not appeal to all, since the panels are large, the art is cartoonish and the dialogue is to the point. However, anyone who's been a fan of Calvin & Hobbes, the Fantastic Four, or both, should give the series a shot to see if it's up their alley. It's a whimsical look into the world of superheroes from a kid's-eye-view.

There are five “stories” in Franklin Richards: School's Out! although two of them are one-pagers and the other two don't have much of a punchline to them. Eliopoulos only brings his A-game to “Picnic Panic” where Franklin is joined by Katie Power (of Power Pack), a Lockjaw-type puppy, a humanoid squid and a classmate who is the heir apparent to the Latverian throne of Doctor Doom. The story is hilarious and entertaining.

However, a suggestion to Chris: why not introduce Franklin's younger sister Valeria into the series?

The problem with the book is the format. The art is simple enough to translate perfectly into the smaller digest format. The stories are so basic that they're over far too quickly, which again leads to an advantage in the digest format where there is more bang for the buck. Marvel prices the issue at $3.99 but the digests contain four issues for $9.99, so it makes far more sense to be a little patient. For this reason, I have to give the issue a 7.0 even though the eventual digest will probably rate an 8.5 or a 9.0.

Adam P.
Review Co-Editor

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