X-Men/Fantastic Four: 4X is an important series in the post-House of X and Powers of X era of Marvel Comics. Jonathan Hickman changed everything about the X-Men, and from that came reverberations across the universe. Most of those changes are X-Men related changes, but in Chip Zdarsky and Terry Dodson’s X-Men/Fantastic Four, we get to see how the formation and Krakoa, a mutant-only nation, can affect lives across the globe. Case in point, Franklin Richards, who is the mutant child of Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman. This story reveals what happens when one of the most powerful mutants in the universe is also a child of two non-mutant parents who want to protect their boy.
This series opens on Magneto and Xavier attempting to convince Sue Storm and Reed Richards in signing Franklin up for a Krakoan lifestyle. They, of course, reject this idea since they are his parents (plus, they did just go on an insane journey across universes), which creates the opening conflict.
This sets up the two ideas at the root of the series: Franklin belongs with his own kind, but he also belongs with his parents. To make matters worse, Franklin’s parents outright reject the idea of him going to Krakoa at all. One might call them overprotective parents or even bigoted in their rejection of mutants. As you can tell, this series offers a complex look at what it means for the big change Hickman introduced to the Marvel universe outside of the X-Men books.
It’s also relatable for many of us. It’s something many of us dealt with as we moved to college even though many of our parents were pained to see us go. It also reminds me of the complex relationship Betsy Braddock has as she’s the Captain Britain, has a human brother she loves, and yet mutant society is tugging at her to leave all that behind. There is a natural conflict between humans and mutants at work here and essentially both sides aren’t wrong. Agreeing on working together, and accepting one another, is at the core of how to resolve this issue. This is a core element of X-Men and why the series works so well.
The conflict is also complex. Dodson and Zdarsky are certainly not making it black and white when it comes to the side, either. This book makes a case that both sides were not so pure, with Invisible Woman literally freaking out at Magneto over her child being taken away, and in a scene featured in the preview a not-so-subtle Xavier admitting he wants to utilize Kate Pryde’s prior relationship with Franklin to manipulate him into moving to Krakoa. He even has a big evil grin when he says this.
You’ll love how Thing is depicted as he’s sensible and full of heart. I imagine he might be the only Fantastic Four member who most Krakoans would welcome to the island.
The art, by Terry Dodson with inks by Rachel Dodson (and ink assists by Dexter Vines and Karl Story) and colors by Laura Martin, is fantastic. Dodson’s style has always been pleasing to the eye thanks to a gentle curve and sense of energy that never leaves the page. Simple scenes with characters talking in a single room are given a nice bird’s-eye view to see them all before cutting to close-ups and establishing shots. There’s a dance going on visually which keeps the dialogue scenes interesting. There are also some great full-page spreads, further making this feel practically like an event book.
Martin’s colors aren’t too bright, which helps portray this world a bit more realistically than other X-books. Xavier’s helmet is pretty impressive by all involved, as well. Letters by Joe Caramagna are very sure of themselves, helping to pull off the personalities of each of the characters in this book.
This is a coming-of-age tale embroiled in the politics of adults made more dramatic thanks to superpowers and superegos. If you have an affinity for strong characters, clever plotting, and domestic drama, don’t pass on this. Zdarsky and Dodson are adding interesting narrative textures to the X-Men line.