By: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Andre Araujo (art), Cris Peter (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Bentley confronts his father, the Wizard, to prove once and for all that he is not a chip of the old, crazy block.

The Review: You know, this upcoming Wizard story was sort of like my last hope for Hickman’s Fantastic Four these days.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think Hickman had run out of stories quite a while ago and that Marvel soured a good thing by stretching the Hickman’s stint beyond his planned exit.  But the Wizard…that was the one remaining loose end, the one story that remained.  And it was a crossover between Hickman’s two titles, so there must be something there right?

Apparently not.  The preceding Fantastic Four issue felt shallow and light on content and this issue of FF?  Well, it’s just frustrating, to be honest.  If you expected the issue to just follow up on last issue’s cliffhanger of Bentley’s confronting his father, you’d be dead wrong.  See, only FOUR PAGES occur after where we left our characters.  That’s right, four pages.  The rest of the issue simply rehashes what we already saw earlier this month, albeit (sort of) from the perspective of Val and Bentley.  Admittedly, there’s an opening scene that’s new: a ping pong game between some of the kids, and it’s a bit of a laugh (even if it’s completely insignificant/irrelevant to the plot).

But the thing is, when I say “rehashed” I really, really mean “rehashed.”  Seriously, so, so many lines of dialogue are directly repeated from the last issue of Fantastic Four that it ends up like Hickman is just killing time and filling pages.  I almost felt ripped off, to be honest, given how much time is spent simply having Araujo illustrate what Stegan drew earlier this month while Hickman just copy/pastes his Fantastic Four script.  And that’s really the vast majority of the issue:  a direct replay of the last issue of Fantastic Four, just drawn by Araujo this time.

For what it’s worth, those four pages at the end of the issue ARE really, really good.  Reed’s one-upping of the Wizard is really satisfying and Bentley’s confronting of his father ends in a truly cathartic manner that is suitably “Bentley”, very effectively recalling an ongoing joke related to the character.  And the last page is really, really good, one that’s simultaneously touching and funny.

Also, this issue is better than the prior Fantastic Four issue if only for Araujo’s artwork, which is miles better than the rushed, sloppy work Stegman gave us just prior.  While some might deride the pixie-like faces of Araujo’s Val and Bentley, I thought his work was really, really pretty.  When combined with Peter’s washed out colours, Araujo’s unique style and very thin pencils and inks come together to make this really look like some kind of European all-ages comic with just a hint of anime.  It looks like a really pretty kids yarn, essentially.  It makes me wonder where the hell Araujo was while we were suffering through Juan Bobillo’s run on the title, since this was clearly the look Marvel intended when they hired Bobillo.  Araujo perfectly manages a gorgeous, unique look that emphasizes the fact that this title has kids at its heart.  The result is a look that’s wonderfully fanciful and a joy to look at.

Conclusion: Great artwork can’t change the fact that so much of this issue is just repackaged material.

Grade: C

– Alex Evans