by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Greg Tocchini (art), Paul Mounts (colors), and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: The return of Black Bolt from the fault is detailed.

What’s Good: Really, the best thing I can say about this issue of FF is that it’s not as bad as the last one.

For starters, it’s far more intelligible.  It’s easier to tell just what the hell is happening, especially given that there are fewer flashbacks and less Supremor babbling.   Ultimately, Hickman tells a much clearer story this month, and also one that’s a lot of more relevant.  We get something a prophecy and a hint of things to come courtesy of Supremor that actually manages to tantalize more than it confuses.  At the very least, the ending of this issue ties right back to where we left off in FF before it became an Inhumans comic, which should ground it a bit more for a lot of readers.

And hey, you know what?  Black Bolt is a total badass, in case you didn’t already know.  Hickman makes really awesome use of his uber-powerful voice and has a firm handle on how best to use the character’s concept, with his words being few but powerful in content as well as tectonic force.

What’s Not So Good: Just because it’s better than last month doesn’t mean it’s good.  It just means that last issue was really, really horrible.

Honestly, I didn’t really even want to pick up this issue and wasn’t excited in the slightest to read it.  Once again, the FF are completely absent, as is anyone remotely related to the cast of that book and once again, what we have is a bizarre Inhumans comic.  While I found it more comprehensible than last time, I still felt as though FF readers without prior acquaintance with the Inhumans or Realm/War of Kings won’t fully get it.  More than that, however, is the fact that there’s really not a reason to care about these characters or the events surrounding them.  Given that they are completely divorced from the FF and the story takes place in different worlds unrelated to the FF, there’s simply no emotional investment from the readers at all.  I’m not sure how Hickman expected this issue, or the one previous, to be impactful to FF readers.  We don’t know these characters, nor do we know what they have to do with the characters we do know.  Why should we care about them?

I also still am not at all a fan of Greg Tocchini’s artwork.  It’s not quite as bad as last month, but it’s still murky, unpolished (and not in a good way), poorly defined, and poorly detailed.  Tocchini also plays fast and loose with anatomies and facial structures, at some points.  Worse still, their are several occasions where Hickman’s script calls for nuances in the characters’ facial expressions, something that Tocchini doesn’t appear capable of.  As a result, meaningful glances end up with bizarre looking faces.  At one point, poor Black Bolt looked mentally handicapped.

Above and beyond this, however, is the fact that I feel as though despite this diversion, there are things I still don’t quite understand.  Black Bolt’s escape from the Fault, for instance.  I’m still not entirely clear on how and what exactly occurred, despite the time and pages Hickman devoted to it.  That’s not a good sign.

Conclusion: Thank God this disastrous storytelling decision on Hickman’s part is over, with the comic I actually subscribed to returning next month.  The fact that this two-part digression even saw release is proof to me that Marvel’s editors have given Hickman a very, very long leash.  Excessively so.

Grade: C –

-Alex Evans