If you’re a fan of the Fantastic Four, you know one of their biggest draws is how weird their powers can be. A man made of stone, a man who can turn to flame, a woman who can make herself invisible, and a man who can stretch and turn his body into elastic — it’s all so wonderfully strange. In the new one-shot Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1 by Christopher Cantwell and Filipe Andrade, that strangeness is turned into pure unadulterated horror.
This issue is a great read for a few different reasons outside of its main course of body horror, which is going to be the main draw for many. First and foremost, Cantwell is very good at capturing each character’s voice and personality, opening the issue in a small car as the First Family drives to their Grand Canyon holiday house. Val and Franklin are kids uninterested in the adult’s idea of a getaway, while Thing is a curmudgeon, Human Torch can only think of partying, and Invisible Woman cares way more than the family deserves. Mr. Fantastic is stuck in his own head and only cares about science and his latest project. Thus begins their adventure on the wrong path that leads them to lose control of their already augmented bodies.
At a certain point in this narrative, the powers for each character take a unique and disturbing turn for the worse. Similar to how they each got unique powers, Cantwell and Andrade play with how grotesque and disturbing each power can get. These turns range from gross-out visuals to mind-melting weirdness, all culminating into a fascinating, goopy mess. It’s deliciously twisted, especially for the usually family-friendly Fantastic Four.
These disturbing twists on their powers are rendered beautifully by Andrade, who you might remember from their great work on Doctor Strange: The End #1. Andrade’s style is unconventional as it stretches, bends, and exemplifies the weirdness in the characters even before things go horribly wrong. Much of the story is told through wide panels, giving the book a cinematic feel with some interesting layout choices like the cutaway of the vacation house showing off all the rooms, or some clever work to slow things down to show Franklin’s powers going amiss.
Fans of Franklin are going to love this issue, too. The character’s powers are so wildly different from the rest and Cantwell does well to show a god-tier level character can do a lot of interesting things. The character also fits in well with the family since he’s still just a boy and yet his powers are so much more unwieldy than his parents.
One complaint with this issue is how it shows us the horrors of these character’s powers, but has to end. It’s a one-shot story so it wouldn’t continue anyway, but there’s a lot more to mine in regards to these characters losing their powers and being utterly twisted into monstrous nightmares. Further added to that is how Human Torch isn’t in the book much, and actually isn’t around for some time. He is an odd one out since the others can pair up well, but it would have been interesting to see more of the horror of his powers and also what he was up to. You can’t make 60-page comics though, unless of course Marvel gives these creators a chance to tell an OGN sized story if sales are good enough.
Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1 is a delightful escape from your average superhero story delivering on a body horror adventure David Cronenberg fans will love. The powers this team exhibits are actually quite disturbing if you stop and think about real people having them, and the creative team captures the horror by turning those powers up to 11.
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