by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Dragotta & Steve Epting (art), Chris Sotomayor & Paul Mounts (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: The Future Foundation pick up the pieces in a ruined NYC….and what exactly happened to Doom when the Bridge closed, anyway?

The Review: I’ve ragged on FF now and then since the return of the main Fantastic Four title for at times feeling like an album of b-sides.  Last issue, for instance, was of questionable necessity.

However, this issue of FF definitely serves a good purpose.  After the big events of the last issue of Fantastic Four, a nice, clean epilogue to consolidate the characters, tidy things up, and provide a little room for reflection is generally a good idea.  This is exactly what FF #16 accomplishes, showing the characters’ reactions to what just happened, while also setting the stage for future Fantastic Four stories.

The result is that there are some rather nice developments: Johnny and Spider-Man becoming room-mates (much to Spidey’s lack of enthusiasm) is a great idea, the new Baxter building is really pretty cool, and Franklin’s interactions with his future self are as enjoyable as you’d expect.

There are nonetheless problems however.  Hickman has Val narrate the issue and her voice isn’t quite consistent with how Hickman has written her thus far.  She’s just too “kiddy” and generally immature.  Were it another writer coming onboard, it’s actually not a wholly inappropriate voice for Val as a character, it’s just that it doesn’t quite jive with the voice Hickman has established for her throughout her run.  It does, however, lead to a hint of a future romance between Val and Bentley, which is pretty awesome.

There’s also the fact that in being an epilogue, it really only does very bog-standard epilogue-y things.  Characters are shuffled around, things are tidied up, and Hickman basically is just putting the FF’s house back in order.  In other words, it’s not an earth-shattering read.

Nick Dragotta’s art, now that I’m done dancing about the departure of Juan Bobillo, also isn’t very impressive.  It’s by no means an eyesore, but it can definitely be overly simplistic, especially when it comes to his characters.  His work just doesn’t have the ideal amount of detail or drama and characters’ facial expressions lack nuance.

After all that I’ve said, this issue, while not bad, would be cruising to a C+ or so…..were it not for the final few pages.  These few pages alone make this issue well worth the price of admission.  Better still, Steve Epting shows up to draw them, giving them the appropriate brooding atmosphere and artistic horsepower.

Suffice it to say, if you’re a Doom fan (and who isn’t?) these pages are nothing short of magical and will leave you nothing short of gleeful.  There is so much to love about this ending.

For starters, it seems to take BIG steps towards making Doom, once again, the big bad guy of the Marvel universe.  This is a serious power upgrade.  Better still, that this comes about due to the bargain made between him and Val sheds a LOT of light on Val and her Loki-like propensity to make deals with the Devil with huge ramifications out of necessity.  Finally, this development also, in true Hickman fashion, makes excellent use of a dangling plot element from his very first arc that you may have forgotten about.

Put simply, this ending will give you goosebumps.  All hail Doom!

Conclusion: A comfy, ho-hum issue, nothing much to see here until BAM….smashing you in the face with awesomeness in its last few pages.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans