by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Steve Epting (art), Paul Mounts (colors), and Rus Wooton (letters)
The Story: Reed tries to talk down Galactus and the Surfer while Sue attempts to mediate a meeting between Atlanteans.
What’s Good: I’ve heard people complain that not enough happens per issue of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four. That sure isn’t the case this month. This issue jam-packed with content and story. Almost every major plotline currently running in FF is touched upon and moved forward in some significant way and every member of the Fantastic Four plays a major role. This is one of those comic books that truly feels longer than its 22 pages. Nothing is neglected and honestly, it’s impressive what Hickman accomplishes given that he’s tasked with simultaneously running two very different stories in the span of a single issue. The dealings with Galactus and the Atlanteans are very different in plot, tone, and setting and yet Hickman manages to synthesize them into a cohesive, calamitous whole.
I think one of the reasons for that is the ever-present feeling of dread and darkness that looms over the series. That’s not to say that Hickman’s writing a grim and gritty or particularly pessimistic Fantastic Four, far from it, it’s just that there’s this ominous feeling that lingers over the issue and all of its plotlines. There’s a near constant sense of danger and encroaching disaster that is honestly independent of the countdown on the cover, though admittedly that doesn’t hurt.
With the FF split apart this month and placed on very separate missions, things feel like they’re spiraling out of control and that it’s only a matter of time before something catastrophic occurs. Yet, the beautiful thing is that I have neither idea nor clue as to what that catastrophe will be and where it will come from, as, right now, there are so many things going wrong. Similarly, Hickman continues to give each of the members of the FF little moments of farewell, emotional characterization, or impending danger that hints that they’re a goner but these are so subtle and played so evenly, that it makes me feel like I’m swimming in a sea of red herrings.
Steve Epting’s art, though I still don’t like his Johnny, is a perfect choice for this arc. It has that dark, secretive desperation to it that suits the mood perfectly and helps build that ominous feel.
What’s Not So Good: This isn’t a very Hickman-y issue at all. When I get a Hickman comic, I’ve become accustomed to getting his trademark brand of storytelling and his absolutely daring and massive ideas. While this comic is good, it’s obvious that Hickman is, structurally, playing it safe. It ends up reading a lot more like a standard comic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but picking up a Hickman book that doesn’t have that wacky structure or mind-boggling concepts or ideas is a bit of a disappointment. It’s as though Hickman as settled for writing a good comic rather than striving for very peaks of excellence, as he usually does. That’s not to say that he always reaches those heights that he aspires to, but those daring attempts alone were my favourite part about Hickman’s work.
Readers returning to the FF after an absence, such as myself, might also be a bit put off by how continuity-heavy this issue was, which is really contrary to the rest of Hickman’s run. From Annihilus to the Nu-World stuff, this isn’t as new-reader friendly as Hickman’s series usually are.
Conclusion: While Hickman plays it safe this month, this is still a very good issue.