by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Dale Eaglesham (art), Paul Mounts (colors), and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: The council of Reeds takes on the Celestials, leading our Reed to make a crucial decision.

What’s Good: This issue’s ending was a thing of beauty and a reminder of what the Fantastic Four should be about.  If anything, Hickman’s conclusion to his first arc is almost a chastisement: ultimately, the FF are not about the wacky science hijinks or the epic cosmic struggles.  Rather, it’s about family.

Hickman illustrates this through making Reed choose between family and his own lofty goals, as he’s forced to take a hard look at the increasingly isolated lifestyle he’s been living.  This leads to a final scene that is grand, beautiful, heart-warming, and maybe even a little tear inducing.  It’s a feel-good read that hits home, blending flashbacks with very effective narration by Reed’s father.  I can’t overemphasize how beautiful this last scene is, nor how touching the last splash image of the book.

In the earlier portions of the book, props have to be given to Hickman for being absolutely merciless with his characters.  Suffice to say, some of the versions of Reed don’t make it, and their deaths are sudden, brutal, and decisive.  More amazing still is how, in the space of three issues, Hickman has actually made me care about these guys, despite only just meeting them a couple of months ago and their being duplicate Reeds.  I was genuinely surprised at the emotional moments Hickman was able to conjure up through them.

All of this is beautifully rendered by Dale Eaglesham, who really shows his range this month.  The flashbacks are warm and intimate while the battle with the Celestials is all-out mayhem.  Eaglesham essentially depicts both big and small, public and personal, in a fashion that makes both sides seem grand.

What’s Not So Good: While it’s clearly intentional, this was still “Reed Richards #572.”  All well and good, but a little irritating when our only scene with Ben and Johnny is only written as a means to get them out of the way.

The biggest problem with the issue though is the fight with the Celestials.  Having a gang of the big dudes fighting an army of Reeds will by nature be chaotic.  In fact, I didn’t even realize that the battle was over when it was.

Part of this is because that the actual means for concluding the struggle are a confused mess of ambiguous deus ex machina.  This has pretty much always been the case with the infinity gauntlet by its very nature, while our Reed magically produces guns that just somehow work against Celestials thanks to some impromptu pseudo-scientific babble.  And of course, Reed has a stack of these lying around at home.

Conclusion: The conclusion to the battle is a bit of a mess, but the rest of the issue is absolutely outstanding, with the ending being one of the finest moments I’ve seen in an FF comic in quite some time.

Grade: B+

Alex Evans