by Matt Fraction, Lee Allred (Writers), Michael Allred (Artist), Laura Allred (Colorist)

The Story: As it turns out, video games can actually help you beat evil and be a useful addition to society. Robots and tacticians do help too.

The Review: Whenever a book is close to reaching its inevitable conclusion, it needs to have either huge climaxes or a big load of payoff for its reader base. After all, the last few issues are the culmination of everything that went before, which means that the themes, characters and conflicts have to be portrayed in ways that can satisfy those that went on to be invested in the story in itself. With FF closing in to the final issue, does this one provide enough to sate those who have followed the series thus far?

The answer is a resounding yes. With plenty of what made the book interesting and entertaining being put on the page, not only does this issue respect the heart behind the series but it also manages to bring everything together neatly. Bluntly put, this is a gem of an issue.

For one, everyone in the book gets to shine a little bit, with the huge cast participating in the assault against Dr. Doom together in the most maniacal, yet fun of ways. With the kids taking part in the battle as if it was a video game and a competition, their zaniness are all brought forth to their maximum degree, with Bentley-23 being his crazy-self, Dragon Man being the voice of reason and so on. Even Caesar, Maximus, Sun Tzu and others are present with a certain role to play in the amusement and the chaos that ensues on the pages. The four teachers are of course here as well, yet their part in the battle comes as a bit less fun in this issue. They are effective in the story and for the progression of events and they do manage to work with the context presented, yet they pale in comparison to the rest.

Still, despite that, there is something here that work really well and that’s the humor. With Matt Fraction and Lee Allred clearly unafraid to play with the Marvel universe a bit as well with some other popular cultures, Lee Allred let some small and insane jokes gets through with hilarious results. Mountain Doop, Melroy Jenkins, anime culture, gaming culture and many other things that can be associated with video games and youth culture are brought forth to hilarious results.

Still, what makes a lot of this work is the pacing, which is frenetic in this issue. There is a lot going on here, with the focus switching on the kids, Dr. Doom, the teachers and other side players constantly. This has the result of making close to every page count and most of every panel count toward the goal the characters are trying to achieve, pushing the urgency and the importance of their situation very well. This also make it so each moment never overstays its welcome, with a good chain of events that allows for every characters and situations to receive enough of the spotlight to be satisfying for the readers and effective for the plot.

All in all, Michael Allred is perhaps one of the best aspects of this book thanks to his superb art. With many tricks and techniques puts forth for the visual pacing and some neat action, Mike Allred is very successful in bringing the rapid flow of events on the pages. With so many crazy elements on the pages, like Thing suits, robots shaped like old Avengers recruits, a Kree sentry, Dr. Doom, the students and many other such elements, it’s a testament to the skill of the artist that he is able to put forth a visual flow that makes everything work correctly without deigning to sort out the details in the characters and the sceneries. With a huge diversity of poses, emotions and localizations, there is a lot to like here as the art simply doesn’t stay in the same place for too long, giving readers plenty to enjoy. There are of course plenty of smaller details provided, like which character controls which Thing suit, which can be seen at the bottom of the pages featuring the kids, or what happens in other lands with the inhumans. For those who enjoy Mike Allred going crazy, this is something truly memorable.

Of course, Laura Allred does a very fine job as well, giving some sort of sense to this visual chaos thanks to her colorization. Providing as much diversity as the script and the art, she participate quite well in the whole experience with a very rich palette and some strikingly bright colorization with some of the characters. Giving some brighter and lighter backgrounds to the kids, this works very well in contrast to the darker and duller ones associated with Latveria and Dr. Doom, creating a good division of intents between protagonists and antagonists in the issue. Of course, Laura Allred is not above getting crazy as well, with the colors sometime going in a whole Kirby mode with krackles and energy being thrown around in bright display that are surrounded with darkness for maximum effects. While it could hurt issues with bit more focus behind them, the rich diversity and controlled chaos does a lot of good for this issue, providing for an electric feeling in terms of colorization.

The Conclusion
: Chaotic, frenetic and downright mad at times, this issue wastes not a single opportunity to dish out fun as the art, script and colorization work in tandem to give the readers a blast. Worth every single cents.

Grade: A-

-Hugo Robberts Larivière