By: James Robinson (Writer), Leonard Kirk (Penciller), Karl Kessel with Rich Magyar (Inker), Dean Haspiel and Nolan Woodard (Flashback Section Artists), Jesus Aburtov (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
The Story: What the Thing didn’t know might just kill someone else.
The Review: There is again two distinct sections of this comic, the flashback and its fall-out, each with its very distinct artistic style. Last issue had some compartmentalization, too, and this one suffers from the same feeling, but to a lesser extent. While certainly a deliberate choice and something that enhances the story being told, the reading experience itself seems to suffer, as it does feel somewhat “slight” as a comic. This could be seen as only 18 pages of story, counting double-page spreads as one “page,” which is increasingly my experience when reading on a tablet. That’s 8 pages of flashback versus 10 pages of fall-out. The modern readers’ paradox– it makes for a dramatic and exciting story, but it makes for an unsatisfying and swallow reading experience.
What is interesting is that two parts, while containing vastly different art styles, are actually transitioned quite well. The flashback starts with bright colors, dynamic shapes and layouts, then descends into darkness and muted colors, complete with rain from automatic sprinklers. The present time continues the darkness and shadows, although the rain is not quite as prominent as last issue.
The “original sin” at play is Reed and Johnny’s cover-up of a failed attempt to “cure” the Thing. Now, the drama only works if, in fact, this cure actually WOULD have worked, and to be fair to Johnny, we only have Reed’s assurances that it will. Frankly, that’s the only thing we have every other time this is attempted, and those ended in failure every time, too. Still, if we assume that this really would have been the time it worked, it is a tragedy, but moreso because everyone really deals with it in their own exaggerated way, such as Reed’s ownership of the problem that masks his pomposity, and Johnny’s carefree attitude that enables his irresponsibility.
By allowing the characters some space to dialogue (or inner-monologue) about the situation, the pathos is ratcheted to high levels here. In that way, the excitement of reading the comic is less about heroic fighting of villainy but of families’ responsibilities to one another. Unfortunately, this is tempered by once again having characters react to events that aren’t necessarily logical– all of a sudden Alicia calls Ben for help? Okay, we haven’t seen mention of her for seven issues but that’s convenient, so that it will but Ben in position for our last page cliffhanger. The comic is relying more on shock than suspense, which is beginning to feel like tics off a checklist.
The Bottom Line: If tension between a family dynamic is your thing, then check out this issue. It feels like a classic FF dilemma done with modern focus on characterization and expressive art. At the same time, however, it feels like there’s something missing to make it truly suspenseful and not just going through the motions.