Or – “A Pending Death In The Family…”
A few years ago, I picked up a book called Common Grounds* (about a superhuman coffee shop where the heroes and villains all commune together, since donuts are a universal constant) and was wowed by the interesting takes on super-powers therein, and vowed to follow the writer as he moved on to inevitable fame. Less than a decade down the road, Jonathan Hickman is handling Marvel’s flagship title, following up a run by super-megastar Mark Millar, proving my prognosticating skills. Just you wait, in five years, Yildiray Cinar will be on Superman, and everybody will be proclaiming him an overnight sensation…
*It has been brought to my attention that I’m an idiot, and Common Grounds was Troy Hickman, and Jonathan started out writing the Nightly News for Image. Either way, awesome talent. And now, we’re cha-chaing!
Previously, on Fantastic Four: Reed Richards miscalculation regarding cosmic radiation has led to years of superheroey goodness, and served as the foundation of the Marvel Universe. With his right-hand man, The Thing (second most popular superhero in the Marvel Universe, at least continuity wise), his immensely powerful wife, The Invisible Woman and her brother the Human Torch, Reed has been at the forefront of super-stuff for decades. In recent months, he has created the Future Foundation, a think-tank of great minds (including his own daughter Valeria and a rewired Dragon Man) to tackle the biggest problems facing humanity, as well as finding lost civilizations below the oceans. Prince Namor of Atlantis and Susan Richards have embarked on a peacekeeping mission to the long-lost kings of old Atlantis, while the Thing has been given a formula that makes him human for a week at a time, once a year. With half the team out of commission, it’s a terrible time for something big to happen. Enter: GALACTUS.
The first pages of the issue are pretty awesome, as we see a street-level view of Johnny “The Human Torch” Storm and Ben “inactive Thing” Grimm racing towards the Baxter Building in Johnny’s car, only to pan up and see Galactus hovering in the sky. “You better not scratch my car,” quips Johnny as he takes to the air to find out what the oldest being in the universe has to say. Steve Epting just KILLS the whole sequence, using a unique angle to make Galactus seem even more alien and terrifying than before. As for why the Big G has come to Earth, he speaks to Mr. Fantastic (with RESPECT, no less), revealing that his minion The Silver Surfer has discovered a body buried within the Earth that seems to be Galactus’ own, and the world devourer wants to know just what the Sam Hill is going on here. Reed gives a perfectly rational explanation (which I think is tied to the Fantastic Force arc of the series a couple years ago), and Galactus informs him that they are going to the planet where the survivors of the alternate world have colonized. “You will attend me, Reed Richards, until this… and OTHER MATTERS are resolved,” says the Big G ominously.
While Reed heads into space, Susan and Namor are in the midst of a giant parlay, with the Lord of Atlantis seemingly bowing to her will in the negotiations, much to the consternation of his advisor, Andromeda. Susan soothes him with the expectation that she wants the best for everyone, something Namor doesn’t believe really exists. In space, Galactus reveals that he left Earth because HE WAS AFRAID (I’m not telling of what, mind you, but it’s a big ‘n) while Ben ponders having children on Earth, and Annihilus plans to invade from the Negative Zone. At the Peace Talks, the old Kings of Atlantis meet the new King, and Namor pulls a Randy Orton on the whole proceedings, attacking those he claims to be seeking peace with, much to the chagrin of the FF. Long story short? One member in space at the mercy of Galactus, one under the sea in what is probably seconds from becoming a battlefield, one powerless at home, and Johnny Storm eatin’ a sandwich and worrying about the finish on his racecar. Even shorter: vintage FF.
When I think about the Fantastic Four, I think about a book that is the Marvel equivalent of Wonder Woman: More important for it’s place in history than for the actual stories, and often the stories show it. Either we have long-form epics that never quite recapture the Stan & Jack salad days of the title, or we get HUGE concepts that never quite gel as with the recent Millar run. It’s really easy to describe what makes the Fantastic Four great (a sense of wonder, big concepts, Ben punching, Reed talking ten-dollar words) but really hard to put in practice, but Hickman has a solid grounding for his Fantastic Four. Even the mighty Galactus talking to Reed as (almost) an equal seems perfectly in keeping with this title, and the warning from the artist formerly known as Galen literally gave me goosebumps, while Namor’s wild card actions add some surprise to the book. All in all, I’m very impressed with this issue, and its clear that the identity of the soon-to-die member will probably be a surprise up to the last second. This is a damn good story, and an excellent take on the most difficult book in Marvel’s arsenal, leading Fantastic Four 585 to net a VERY impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. Hickman’s take on the FF is amazing, and Epting’s art seals the deal.
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Which FF’er do YOU think is about to take the big dirt-nap?