By: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Ryan Stegman (art), Paul Mounts (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: The Nu-World leftovers decide to return home.

The Review: For the most part, Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four and FF have been doing a whole lot of wheel-spinning for the last couple of months.  We can all thank Marvel for that, as they decided to keep Hickman on after the natural endpoint of his run.  As a result, we get issues like this one.

We’ve reached the point where Hickman has so nicely wrapped up every loose end (well, barring Bentley’s family background, which are the only remaining issues I’m looking forward to) that this issue actually sees him dealing with loose ends left by OTHER writers runs.  Hickman seems to have so run out of mileage that he’s left picking up Mark Millar’s leftovers from a much maligned idea and story-arc.

This is also severely problematic given that if you’ve not read Mark Millar’s run or don’t have a decent recollection of it, this issue will be largely meaningless to you.  Outside of a single issue way back in Hickman’s second arc on Fantastic Four, these are characters that we have spent ZERO time with since Millar left the book.  As a result, if you’re not familiar with Millar’s Fantastic Four, this issue is a whole lot of nothing.

Even you are familiar with Millar’s work on the book, you’ll most likely be bored by the amount of time Hickman devotes to delivering a tepid and lifeless recounting of of Millar’s Nu-World story.  This is rather amusing given that that same recounting is actually fairly useless to those who didn’t read Millar’s run, as the whole Nu-World thing is bit too confusing to be clearly explained in just a few pages.

When all is said and done, the worst thing that can be said about this issue is that, frankly, there’s just not a lot here.  There’s very little character work, there’s no actual conflict beyond some hollow punching in the opening pages, and there’s very little plot.  The Nu-World dudes have secretly built a special rocketship. SPOILERS.  They get on said rocketship and go home.  Or maybe they don’t make it, but their ship flies off.  The end.  That’s it.  Seriously, if it weren’t for all the pages poorly recounting and attempting to explain the whole Nu-World thing, the pointless Hulk Jr. vs. Thing action scene, and the dialogue that serves no purpose beyond amusing the twelve people who loved Millar’s run, this whole story could’ve been wrapped in five or six pages.

On the plus side, I did enjoy Ryan Stegman’s artwork.  Some of the smaller panels do feel a bit too loose and scratchy and have a bit of a rushed, unpolished feel, but I can’t deny that when the script requires Stegman to do something big, he manages with flying colours.  Stegman does a great job of capturing the spirit of the Fantastic Four and his work is a great mix of alien, otherworldy science fiction and pure energy.

Also, for what it’s worth, I won’t spoil it, but Hickman’s idea about what the rocketship actually IS is admittedly pretty cool.  It’s one of those wacky, epic scale ideas that could only come from the mind of the guy writing the Manhattan Projects.  The nature of the ship and how it’s built is easily the best part of this issue and, not surprisingly, it provides for Stegman’s strongest work as well.

Conclusion: It pains me to say this, but this was bad.  It’s the firmest proof yet that Hickman does not have enough material to last from when his run was supposed to end to the Marvel NOW relaunch.  Not by a long shot.  Of course, that’s Marvel’s fault and not his.

Grade: C-

– Alex Evans