"FF" #3 from Matt Fraction and Michael Allred is a goofy book that's not about a lot. The content of "FF" isn't the major point of the book's existence, rather, it shows emotion through delivery and execution. "FF" is not really a superhero comic as I would think of one, which I finally realize is going to be its greatest success. This is a team book intent on showing something about the characters -- not just their adventures -- while also seemingly being about the comic form itself.
The first giveaway in this issue comes with the cover as a gray-haired, black suited Human Torch speaks. It's not often speech balloons are used on covers -- a clear indication this comic is different, warning of what is to come. What then comes are a bunch of disparate narrative threads that serve as excuses to watch heroes cry and "Internet jerks" do their thing. Space/time is bent, heroes are bested and a tickertape parade becomes one of the most gorgeous comic sequences I've experienced in a long time.
This strength of the title is also its major flaw as the issue contains very little in the way of plot progression. An aged Johnny Storm appears, quite suddenly, and delivers a monologue of narrative aimed at building a future mission, but he is thinly dealt with from then on. This man's appearance alone should be a major reveal but it ends up feeling short, even though it is justified and causes a reaction that is going to define the actions of the book moving forward. It is the offhand and quick nature effect that makes the issue feel ineffectual. The rest of the book is just Scott Lang and Darla Deering being harassed and hanging out. In many ways, it's a great sequence, but it also takes its time to get things moving and push things forward. It's the price you pay for injecting emotion into a book -- finding the perfect balance between the two is a very difficult high rope to walk.
Michael Allred's work here is extremely suited to the content. He slashes panels and breaks things up with flair which means that when he delivers a static and obvious block structure, it's likely to drive the storytelling. The stairwell chase works well as both a design element of the book and a paced snapshot within the tale. The final sequence in Times Square for New Year's Eve celebrations is such a good-looking set of pages. Much of this is brought about by Laura Allred's colors bringing motion and a sense of cluttered exuberance to the depth of the world through the floating tickertape. It feels ubiquitous and possibly neverending and accentuates the conversation perfectly in all its tears and silent beats.
"FF" #3 is a comic with a lot of very cool things going on. This is a comic as a performance piece. Some of the sections are great while others race to then fill what little gaps are left with dense information. The result is a slightly mixed marriage, but it is at least pleasing to see this title finally deliver the goods in the direction it's always been trying to go. If you like superhero books with a twist, this one should be twisted enough for you.