I picked up Joe Keatinge & ramonvillalobos's What If: Age of Ultron #2 when I was at the shop today. I don’t tend to pick up Marvel’s fifth week event comics these days, which have tended to diminish in quality since the glory days of the Marvel Monsters Group. But, I love Villalobos’s work on Tumblr. It’s really exciting to start seeing the work of artists I follow on social media make it into the comics I read, and Villalobos is a great example of someone with a particularly strong “hand.” A similar case was back when Chris Samnee started doing work for Marvel.
And, while the majority of What If stories—especially since Marvel went to the one-shots model (if you’ll recall, What If the series was basically my introduction to the X-Men, once upon a time)—suck balls, Keatinge’s story here is great.
He takes an Avengers event and spins off a Fantastic Four story. But, because it’s a “New Fantastic Four” story.
It doesn’t matter how new your line-up is, the “New” FF will always refer to that weird time when a Skrull posing as Susan Richards gathered together Wolverine, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider and the Hulk to replaced the FF. Here we just see them older, in a broken-down future following Tony Stark’s decent into alcoholism and a massive “Armor War.” Sea Captain Wolverine gathers a new Ghost Rider, a retired Spider-Man and a buddhist Hulk together.
It’s an What If story, so something bad happens to a cast member by the end, but Keatinge stayed closer to the ground than is typical for What If stories and it felt less like a one-shot event comic and more like the pilot episode of a new series, a obsolete future world series with Wolverine and the last super-heroes about to go off on desolate, weirdly comical adventures. I want more of this world. I want to see another issue with the New FF of Tomorrow—particularly with Villalobos in charge of the aesthetic, his grizzled retired wrestling champion super-heroes stumbling goofily through a world that feels hollowed out.
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