Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley's "Fantastic Four" has been a little frustrating to read, because it has always felt like it's one step away from something great. Instead, it's never quite fully formed and there's always a bit of a head-scratching moment when the dust settles. With co-author Christopher Sebela stepping in to help out with this issue, I'd hoped that things might smooth out, but so far that's not the case.
Once again, the basic ideas behind this latest issue are sound. "Fantastic Four" #11 has a world that worships Valeria Richards, a time-displaced Johnny Storm, and a group of stranded time-travelers using a crude form of temporal cut-and-paste. It feels like "Fantastic Four" under Fraction's pen is leading towards something big now, that the conclusion is just a few months away. But in reading the issue itself, it's a bit of a jumble. The ideas never feel quite fleshed out, and there's the perpetual feeling that there's some dialogue missing. The villains for this issue seem to just be doing bad things for the sake of bad; they're never terribly believable, all flash and no substance. Sebela's dialogue isn't bad -- I feel like he's got the voices of the characters -- but I'd hoped that his presence might even things out and make the progression work a bit better.
Bagley's pencils are inked this month by Joe Rubenstein, and it also ends up a little rough. It's a real contrast to the smooth look we get on the cover with inker Mark Farmer, and looking at the almost jagged edges for Franklin Richards's face or some of the villains, it's slightly frustrating. The basic layouts are fine, though, and he handles some little moments like the Human Torch zooming across the future sky well with all of its zigzags and roaring flames. But still, similarly to the script, this needs to be smoothed out and it's just not happening.
I want to like "Fantastic Four" much more than I do, with "Fantastic Four" #11 being no exception to that rule. Maybe when Karl Kesel comes on board to help finish out Fraction's run, things will level out a bit. And with the tie-in to "FF" in the form of the future Johnny Storm appearing, it definitely comes across that everything is finally coming to a head. But still, this should be better than what's actually presented, and that's too bad.