by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Dragotta (pencils), Mike Choi (inks), Chris Sotomayor & Guru eFx (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Franklin receives guidance from his imaginary friend as the kids race to prepare Sol’s Anvil.

The Review: Before I get to the real meat of the review, let’s all do a little happy dance that Juan Bobillo has officially departed from the title.  Hurray!

Now that we’re through with that, this is actually a somewhat troubling issue.  It’s certainly not at all poorly written: it’s technically a well-crafted script by Hickman, as you’d expect, with big cosmic hullabaloo combined with little injections of humour.  The problem is that no matter how I think on this issue, I can’t really think of a bona fide reason why it had to be written at all.

Put simply, there’s not a whole lot of significance that occurs here beyond what we already knew from the last issue of Fantastic Four and the new events that we do witness could easily have been assumed to have occurred off panel.  Hell, it even ends on the same cliffhanger splash page (albeit, not as well drawn).  It’s hard to see why this issue had to exist at all either than to give some of the kids a little screen time.  Really, I’m left feeling that this issue is akin to your favorite band putting out a collection of b-sides.  It’s kind of cool as a collectible or an oddity, but it’s not at all a must-have, nor does it stand at the same level or gravity of a full album, ultimately being “for completionists only.”

The weirder thing is that, while this issue doesn’t do much above and beyond what Fantastic Four #603 already rocked our brains with, it also can’t be read without having read that issue.  I can’t imagine FF #15 making a lot of sense at all if you’re not reading Fantastic Four.  In fact, it becomes even more useless.  So ultimately, if you’re reading Fantastic Four, you’re sort of getting an issue narrative “extras” a bit lacking in necessity and substance while, if you’re not reading Fantastic Four, this won’t be of any worth at all.

That’s not to say that there aren’t fun moments to be had: seeing Bentley hitting big menacing evolved moloid warriors in the nether regions, seeing Franklin chatting with his special friend (who continues to have that clever metatextual element of floating in and out between dialogue and narrative text-boxes in a really cool way of giving off the feeling that he really is from another reality), and a Power Pack cameo are all fun.  That said, it’s just not enough to support an entire issue.

All that being said, Dragotta’s artwork is a massive improvement from Bobillo’s and I can honestly say that, at the very least, we’ve returned to the realm of normalcy.  No more distorted faces, poorly distinguished characters, and generally inappropriate stylings.  Really, with Bobillo’s work having caused such shellshock, it’s hard to assess Dragotta’s work on its own merit; so much so, that it’ll probably take another month for me to really do so.  That said, while it’s a definite step up, I can’t say that it’s especially impressive, though it gets the job done admirably.

Conclusion: You probably can get by without picking up this issue, but if you’re a Hickman FF devotee, you probably will anyway.

Grade: C

-Alex Evans