Powers: None really, though he has a level of intellect that rivals many members of the Future Foundation, save for Valeria & Reed. He also openly worships Demons, so that may play into effect, somewhere down the line.
Importance to FF: Bentley 23 is an adolescent clone of Fantastic Four villain ‘The Wizard’. Reed Richards took him in and although he only referred to himself as 23 for a long time, he eventually felt he earned the name Bentley and now refers to himself as such. With genius level intellect, he was one of the founding class members of the Future Foundation and the one thing he brings to the table that no one else does is the desire to truly be evil one day.
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Penciled by: Juan Bobilo
Cover by: Steve Epting
Inked By: Marcelo Sosa
Colored by: Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by: Clayton Cowles
Edited by: John Denning, Lauren Sankovitch, & Tom Breevort
An Explanation: Before I start my review, should probably explain why I’m still reviewing FF. This five month story arc is running as part of the event going on in the main Fantastic Four story and while it will feature the children heavily, Hickman (and this issue) has stated that Ben, Sue, Reed, and Peter (which is why I’m here) are still part of the Future Foundation team. To what extent Spider-Man will show up at this point is unknown, but he remains on the rooster and part of the book, much like the Avengers/New Avengers titles where he doesn’t show up.
Furthermore, Hickman has gone on record to say that the FF book will continue after the event and will focus on characters in the Fantastic Four Universe, aside of the core Fantastic Four group. Seeing as how it’s the Fantastic Four, I dunno how long Peter will stick around, but he might be placed in this title instead of Fantastic Four.
History Lesson: After the events of Fantastic Four #600, where Valeria transported the top three levels of the Baxter Building, we discover this was part of Nathaniel Richards’ plan all along, since he is the man from the future come to save the past, as prophesied by Future Franklin Richards in Fantastic Four #574. Valeria transported them to Latveria and Nathaniel reveals he plans to use Doom’s army to wage a war on the home of the last Alternate Reed, which Doom agrees to in return for removing the collar the Alternate Reed placed on him in FF #9. Valeria grabs a mysterious device and the issue closes with the Future Foundation, Nathaniel Richards, Victor Von Doom, Doom’s army, and the Alternate Reed using a gateway that Valeria repaired to open a portal to the home of Alternate Reed.
Almost Immediately, it becomes obvious that you won’t be reading just one title or the other to get the full story of Hickman’s Fantastic Four masterpiece. This thing is so steeped in the Marvel Universe, that that has never been the case, but before you could of gotten by just reading Fantastic Four or the FF, depending when you started. From this point on, you will need both going forward, because resolutions to storylines that started at the beginning of Hickman’s run will come to a conclusion in these pages, which makes me grateful for the continuation of the $2.99 price tag. Sadly this means Hickman does not take time to re-introduce the characters, moving at a brisk and densely packed pace.
When it comes to the script here, there is much fun to be had here. The story focuses on the children of the Future Foundation and while some of the characters like Alex Power lose their voice in this story, characters like Bentley and Leech stand out with their sinister and innocent roles, respectively. The characters who shine here though are the Richards of the 616 timeline, with an adorable family moment between Nathaniel and his grandchildren, which makes you want to go Awww, as Franklin recaps events from Fantastic Four #600 in a childish manner; nicely done putting in the backstory there Hickman.
The children make this book much funner than it’s mother title, Fantastic Four, with events like Valeria building a lightsaber for Bentley after seeing Star Wars and Franklin/Leech contemplating playing and even asking if they can play Paint Ball in Castle Doom. However, Hickman makes Nathaniel Richards one of the most intriguing characters in this story, his true motives still in the unknown, constantly pushing the plot forward. Sadly, Doom is oddly unneeded in this issue, despite this Storyline being hailed as “All Hope Lies In Doom”
The Art is a much tricker beast here, because while I enjoy it, it has some pretty big cons. The recap page depicts the characters as drawn by Epting or Kitson, but Bobilo’s style is a much different beast and Alex Power is apparently brown haired now and can be pointed out as only the tall one, when in a scene next to Bentley. It was in a letters page in Fantastic Four where Hickman himself said that the age of Valeria and Franklin were often determined by how the artist portrayed them, so I find it odd that despite every artist up to this point on Fantastic Four and FF have portrayed them approaching adolescence , he’s working with Bobilo, who makes them look like small children. And his Leech is just… wrong. He’s drawn horrible disproportionately and looks much too like some of the aliens in the FF. And the eyes on every character… they scare me.
I did enjoy the art a lot though, despite it’s flaws. Humberto Ramos is easily in my top three artists and Bobilo’s style immediately made me think of him. I love the cartoony vibe he gives this title and I chuckled in enjoyment at the way he portrays older characters, especially the Evil Alternate Reed. His backgrounds are grand and kudos to both Sotomayor and Sosa for making the colors jump off the page with effects like the lightsaber and for making the backgrounds thicker with ink, respectively. So despite scary eyes and difficulty making characters out, I did enjoy the Sunday Morning Cartoon vibe going on in this title. Two littles things I didn’t know where to put in elsewhere, Future Franklin in this issue reminds me of Issac Clarke (of Dead Space fame) and I love Bentley’s “I’m a jerk” spiked up hairstyle.
Best dialogue: Valeria: “Franklin and Leech showed Bentley Star Wars for the first time last night. Now he won’t shut up about needing a lightsaber to fulfill his destiny of becoming a Sith Lord. I’m hoping if I build him one, he’ll cut his head off or something. Idiot.”
Nathaniel: “Well if it helps, in the future, you won’t feel that way about him. Bentley turns out to be pretty… useful.”
Verdict: This month, I felt like I got 6 Hickman FF/Fantastic Four stories. Aside from the Johnny Storm story in Fantastic Four #600, this is surprisingly my favorite part of the event thus far. The script was so much fun and I felt some strong emotional moments that made me smile like a child on Christmas. The art worked for me, like I said before it had a real Sunday Morning Cartoon Vibe, despite being a tad bit confusing at times. 4/5