by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Juan Bobillo (pencils), Marcelo Sosa (inks), Chris Sotomayor (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Doom makes the ultimate sacrifice.

The Review: Jonathan Hickman’s calling card seems to be his labyrinthine plots, composed of a great deal of moving parts, all leading to an increasingly massive scope.  This can at time lead to some mystifying issues here and there and a constant lingering dread that it’s all going to collapse beneath its own weight, yet you can’t help but admire the ambition and craft.

However, now and then, Hickman’s approach leads to fantastic comic books like this issue of FF, where everything comes together like a meticulously assembled jigsaw puzzle.  Put simply, this is an immensely satisfying issue if only because all the pieces come together and they all fit so very well.  Better still, this is accomplished thanks to, not in spite of, flashbacks and time travel elements.

I loved how Val and Nathaniel, through their tinkering with future possibilities, end up taking something an authorial position.  Through them, Hickman lets us peak behind the current so that, not only do the pieces all come together, but we see exactly how and why they come together as they do.  In seeing Val and Nathaniel’s master plan behind the scenes, get to see a good part of the greater structure that Hickman has assembled in both FF and Fantastic Four.  Really, it’s cool seeing Nathaniel and Val in this sort of meta scene (fittingly, in a different time and place from the rest of the comic and all the other characters), but it also leads to a real appreciation for the mad scientist elegance of Hickman’s craft.

There’s so much to love about Hickman’s script this month.  The scope, for starters, is massive and the stakes could not be any higher.  The result is a great deal of dramatic tension that ramps up as the issue progresses and leaves you really not knowing what’s going to happen on the next page flip.  Reading this issue, I felt nervous, expecting Doom to die every time I turned a page.

Despite all the cosmic powers and epic scope, this issue has heart as well.  Hickman writes an incredible Dr. Doom, a guy who is the definition of comic book anti-hero.  You will find it impossible not to cheer for Doom this month.  He shows heart, affection, heroism, and, in one brilliantly written panel, a tragic self-awareness that is wholly unexpected.  Hickman writes him beautifully and as he rises to become a hero, albeit with customary Doom bravado, I almost got watery eyed.

Unfortunately, Juan Bobillo’s artwork does it’s very best to work against Hickman’s script.  Bobillo’s work isn’t all bad: he draws fantastic robots, his Celestials look great, and his depictions of technology in general have an outrageous, janky feel that’s charming.  The problem is that his work remains wholly inappropriate for this comic.  It’s just too goofy looking.  In being so light-hearted and goofy, it just can’t build up the dramatic tension that Hickman’s script aims for, nor can it capture the emotion of Hickman’s dialogue.  Doom deserves better, as does this comic.  Frankly, I’m left wondering what could have been were this drawn by any other competent Marvel artist.  Bobillo simply cannot hit Hickman’s high notes and his work is a poor fit for the high drama and higher stakes, not to mention the emotional gravity, of this book.

All this said, Sosa and Sotomayor once again do incredible work and do their best to salvage the art.  Sotomayor’s colors are absolutely brilliant, full of life and charm, while Sosa’s thick inking is loaded with character.  These are two names I’ll definitely keep an eye out for in future.
Conclusion: Bobillo’s artwork does its damndest to work against Hickman’s script and was the only thing keeping this book from an A-grade.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans