by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Ron Garney (art), Jason Keith (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: The Fantastic Four go on a mission in a strange environment to save the life of an old friend.

The Review: I think Hickman came into this with a good idea, but due to comics being just as much of a visual medium as a literary one, if not moreso, that idea just cannot be executed.

The problem is that so much of the issue hinges on the big twist at the end.  Hickman does his level bet to keep it mysterious as to where exactly the Fantastic Four actually are and what their mission is.  The whole issues is meant to tease you and keep you guessing as to their mission and location, only to shock you with its genius at issue’s end.  The problem, however, is due to the fact that we can actually SEE their surroundings means that we already know what the twist is just few pages into the comic.  So we’re left with Hickman playing coy with us for an entire issue, acting like he’s one step ahead of us when, actually, we’ve figured out the ruse long ago.

All of this teasing and coyness that’s so focused on keeping things a secret (when we’ve already figured it out), also leads to some really lifeless dialogue.  In fact, I’d say it’s the most lifeless, drab dialogue of Hickman’s entire run, who usually is able to communicate so much heart and significance in very few words.  Here, it’s just a bevy of science-talk at best.  None of the dialogue really carries any emotion or character and it feels like the characters are just going through the motions.

I’ll admit that when the ending comes, it also leads to some problematic questions.  It seems uncomfortable that an old man has his life saved by the Fantastic Four simply because he happens to be their mailman, while so many others in the world are dying of the same cause.  We’re supposed to find this moment touching, but instead, I was just struck with the unfairness of it.  Of course, that’s life, but that’s also the sort of harsh reality you don’t really expect the Fantastic Four to be hammering home.

If there’s one plus here, however, it’s that Ron Garney is continuing to surprise me on the Fantastic Four.  I really thought that his style would be too grounded and gritty for a comic like this one, but he continues to defy my expectations.  Again here, while there is certainly a slight edge to the work that you might not expect in an FF comic, he nonetheless manages to put in the appropriate amount of scale, wonder, and creativity.

Conclusion: Proof that you really can’t win them all and what seems like a good idea may not quite pan out upon execution.

Grade: C

-Alex Evans