Body parts fall off and tempers fray in Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1, a mind-melting freakout of a comic that’s heavy on body horror and camaraderie, but not much else.
Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1
Filipe Andrade (Artist); Christopher Cantwell (writer); VC’s Joe Caramanga (Letters); Valerio Giangiordano and Tamra Bonvillian (Cover); Chris O’Halloran (color artist); Mike Del Mundo (Cover Art); David Nakayama (Cover Art); Cory Smith and Matt Yackey (Cover Art)
December 2, 2020
Dr. Doom warned us all that Reed Richards would destroy the world. Too bad we didn’t listen! Now he and his family pay the price of his curiosity in the one-shot Fantastic Four: Road Trip. But will he figure out the cure to this very gruesome curse before it’s too late?
The story begins innocently enough. Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny, Alicia, Franklin, and Valeria are on a road trip to a quiet desert cabin for some R&R, but Reed wants to stop by a crater left behind by a meteor in Winslow Arizona, which has left “presolar in the ground” containing an “odd magnetic signature.”
It’s Reed Richards. His natural curiosity for scientific matters trumps everything, and if he has to use his teenage son’s nascent powers to harvest 400 pounds of silicon into examinable portions, then he’ll do it.
Predictably, after an overnight examination of the matter, the team begins to experience incredibly gory side-effects from the dust. Ben’s skin begins to peel apart, and Franklin replicates and replicates until the entire Grand Canyon fills with his doubles. His already depressed and distracted mindset results in the house turning into an M.C. Escher-ian nightmare that traps Alicia between walls. Sue’s body parts, meanwhile, begin to disappear one by one – disappear, not just turn invisible – and Reed’s features stretch and sag without snapping back into form (he is seen, in a particularly gruesome scene, carrying his arm around in a bucket). Lastly, Valeria’s intellect regresses back into toddlerhood, leaving her preverbal and soiling her pants. Reed realizes too late that it’s a trap sprung by an old enemy, that they have been poisoned – and that said enemy is watching with bated breath for their gruesome deaths.
Those with tender tummies need not apply to the first part of Road Trip, which is gloriously gory, and wonderfully twisted. This is really a showcase for Andrade’s talents, and they use the comic’s gruesome plotline as a wondrous excuse to give us the most twisted imagery possible – melting, bubbling, charbroiling, amalgamated Richards family members. There are some unforgettably horrifying sights here, and they are a delight to behold if you’re into gore. Everyone suffers here, and suffer they do – until they finally figure out how to stabilize themselves.
A lot of the plot focuses on Reed at his worst: putting science above the family, for which everyone on the team browbeats him eventually. He does apologize, but naturally has not learned his lesson. If you have a low tolerance for this version of Reed, you will HATE this comic.
The book criminally underuses Johnny, too, who gets in a couple of quips before suffering some agonizing pain for its majority. Much better is Ben, and the bubbling undercurrent of dissatisfaction in both Sue and Franklin. Sue in particular feels like a surrogate for the reader here; she’s as tired of this BS as the rest of us.
The issue does have a bit of a troublesome issue with how it treats its female characters. Valeria loses her formidable intellect and only regains it when she merges with Franklin; Sue becomes nonfunctional when her liver disappears; Alicia becomes trapped in an upstairs bedroom no one can reach and from which she can’t escape. Only the Valeria/Franklin creature’s ability to figure out the solution to their misery alleviates this somewhat (and to be fair to the book, Ben and Johnny and Reed – to a degree in the latter’s case – suffer as well).
Again: how much you love Fantastic Four: Road Trip will depend on whether or you can stomach this version of Reed and/or the sight of one of Marvel’s favorite superfamilies melting into puddles of screaming effluvia. If you can – if you like body horror — then it’s worth a look.