There I go thinking that all comics about teen superheroes in school are a coming of age trope and the teachers are just there to guide them through. Matt Fraction and Lee Allred challenge that adage, and though not all his mentors have a well crafted transformations, this final issue brings self realisation for Scott Lang, Ant-Man. In taking on the Future Foundation as its headmaster, he accepted Reed Richards request to help overcome the grief of losing his daughter. This happened at the end of Young Avengers and we have yet to really see Ant Man again. Despite watching the adorable and quirky child geniuses develop, we have an underlying theme revolving around Lang’s failure as a father and Victor Von Doom. You may be puzzled by this premise but it surprisingly holds water, because whilst we have fun adventures with Bentley-23 and Moloid kids, Scott is trying to work out why the Fantastic Four have yet to return and, as always, all fingers point to Doom. Throughout all these misadventures, there are images of a Linden tree silhouette that haunt Ant Man. This is not only because it was the last place he saw his daughter Cassie was alive, but also where Dr Doom killed her. Lee Allred and Matt Fraction have built a book around a melancholic former father taking on a new parental responsibility, and a much more dangerous construction which involves an attack on one of the greatest villains of them all. With those two polar opposite motivations, how is that for a proposition for catharsis?
Ant Man sounds like a pretty serious and depressing protagonist but introducing Darla, Medusa and She Hulk allows the development of pastoral joviality and flirtatious rapports. However important Lang’s story is, the real substance of the book comes from the children. Every kid hero book needs to elicit certain qualities and balance them intricately. The naivety and innocence needs to be portrayed amongst feats of heroism and acts of petulance and arrogance. Whichever way this balance tilts will decide how we see each character and their potential to grow. This is typified by the contrast between Ahura and Onome but where Tong, the self proclaimed female Moloid slots in, I have yet to determine. The Allred family provide companionship in the portrayal of the FF geniuses, and are gloriously delightful in the process. What appears to be quite simplistic and base artwork is wonderfully nuanced and erudite in the process. Subtle expression lines and unique eyes are hallmarks of Mark Allred in his articulation of emotion. The key child characteristics described above are masterfully held in the palms of the artist’s hands. However this attribute is only part of the formula for this book’s great success.
FF is a colourful book and each character has a distinctive look based upon their physical characteristics, such as Darla’s pink hair, Medusa’s red locks and well…She-Hulk. The kids are of varying recognisable species and the villains follow suit in colour and clothing. The environments also lend to the imagination and feature real life landscapes as whimsical and fantasy realms. We ultimately end up in Latveria as we see the whole team take on Doom, Annihilus, and Kid Immortus. The action panels are aggressive in nature, from the heavy-handed punches and the use of special powers, they all hit hard with emphatic action boxes and fragmenting scenery. Even though the names of the adversaries may strike fear, especially in combination, they are treated with comedic sincerity and are taken down as craftily as you would expect from child geniuses. This lends to a comedic and spirited artistic approach and a very enjoyable comic. Despite this, the final issue takes on the fundamental confrontation of the entire series and exercises a lesson in confession and meditation. There are very few panels to feature the FF teachers and children, because that was the last issue. This book is about Ant-Man taking the fight to the man who murdered his daughter, Dr. Doom.
Victor Von Doom is a villain who is of exceptionally high credibility and I have rarely seen him take a vicious beating. Perhaps it is Allred’s art that conveys this so emphatically but Victor is outmatched at any given turn. This is not just because of the intricate master plan but because Scott finally understands who he is and what he is capable of. He is human and thus fallible, and finally accepts his failings as a man in order to forgive himself. This is why the degree of violence is ramped up and the children play a minimal role in this issue. Ant Man is angry and has calculated how to use Pym particles to a level of power never before seen before. Not only does he match Doom in power but also he has the surprising mental edge leading to an insightful battle and a psychological breakdown of Victor. This is the most surprising gift of all because Allred and Fraction take this master villain and use him to escalate Ant Man to Class A Superheroism. Scott Lang gains physical retribution but in the realisation that it is unfulfilling, takes heed that he has many failings which actually don’t make him a bad person or a father, but a normal man trying to be an exceptional one.
Catharsis acquired and all in front of a beautiful Leden tree.
“I’ve learnt through painful experience, not to tell you humans anything”