by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Steve Epting (pencils), Rick Magyar (inks), Paul Mounts (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Future Franklin versus three Mad Celestials in the conclusion to Jonathan Hickman’s three year long story.

The Review: Is it actually possible that Saga #1 may not be the very best issue to come out this week?  Well, thanks to Hickman and Epting I’m leaning towards…maybe.

I think that one of the hardest things to do well in comics is an action-heavy issue.  It makes for a fast read and, as such, will always be endanger of feeling superficial or lacking in substance.  There is a lot of action in this issue, but it’s done right.  The action scenes are HUGE in scope and mind-boggling in power level.  More than that, each panel has you on the edge of your seat, wincing when a hero gets blasted or smiling when he gets in a good blow.  That is action comics as its finest.

This issue also shows Hickman’s mastery when it comes to pacing a script.  This issue is filled with crescendos, big story beats, and tension-building.  Often times, 22-page comics feel like one mild crescendo building up to a single cliffhanger at the end.  Not so here.  There are several big moments, not just one.  It’s hard to say much without spoiling anything, which I absolutely will not do, but there is one big moment in particular that is so incredibly awesome that it is guaranteed to give you chills.

I think another strong point in Hickman’s script is that, with this being the final issue of his epic story and characters from the future being involved, nobody feels safe.  When Hickman makes it look like a character dies, you believe him.  That is not an easy thing to do in superhero comics these days.  The result is an issue with twists and turns that places havoc with your heart and your emotions and, more than that, makes you feel the stakes right alongside the characters inhabiting the panels.  Anyone can go, anything can happen.

All told, this is a beautiful, elegant, heartfelt, and goddamned epic conclusion to what has been a massive, multi-year spanning story.  If you’ve been following Hickman’s run from the beginning, I promise that this will satisfy you and it absolutely delivers.  Nowhere is this clearer than the final two pages of the comic, which thus far, is the best ending to an issue I have seen this year.  It was nothing less than beautiful and will give rise to many watery eyes.  Those final two pages are an absolutely perfect conclusion to a run, a wonderous echo of Hickman’s first issue, emphasizing the cyclical nature of stories, time, and the human experience while reminding us, once again, that the FF are all about family and that, in Hickman’s run, we have seen the dawning of a new generation and the beginnings of a passing of the torch.  It is a perfect capstone to Hickman’s story and encapsulates much of what this issue stands for.

Yes, I realize that this isn’t Hickman’s final issue on the Fantastic Four, but it was clearly intended to be and, much like our final memory of Michael Jordan was him sinking that basket in NBA Finals, it probably should be and, years later, will probably remembered as such.

Conclusion: A perfect ending to a fantastic run.  Forever has proven that if Marvel gives it’s next big event story to anyone but Hickman, they will be sorely, sorely mistaken.

Grade: A

-Alex Evans