Or – “One Of These Four Heroes Will DIE!”

Some may find it strange that Marvel kept the secret until the day BEFORE the issue went on sale, but whether you agree with their business model or not, you have to appreciate the fact that they kept a secret AT ALL in this day and age.  Much discussion has ensued about how and why this issue sucks, but I figured I’d rather base my opinion on a reading of the actual book.  You know you wanna click the ‘More…’

FANTASTIC FOUR #587 – “Three, Part 5: Last Stand!”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciller: Steve Epting

Inker(s): Rick Magyar/Mike Perkins/Steve Epting
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer:  VC’s Rus Wooton
Covers: Alan Davis/Mark Farmer/Javier Rodriguez/John Cassaday: Laura Martin
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, on Fantastic Four:  Our heroes have been split to deal with multiple menaces, each of which could lead to the death of a team member.  Mr. Fantastic has travelled to Nu-Earth in the company of Galactus himself, to try and save the people of that alternate Earth from an unknown threat.  The Invisible Woman has been dispatched to the bottom of the ocean to try and broker peace between Namor’s Atlantis and an ancient foe.  The Human Torch and a depowered Thing are in the Baxter Building, trying to hold off an invasion force from the Negative Zone with the help of the Richards children and the Reed’s Future Foundation.  The solicits promise that one of the Four will give up their lives to complete their mission, but which one will it be?  WHICH ONE???

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

The first page of the issue reminds me of a return bumper from the television show ’24’, as we see all three crises in play at the same moment, 2:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.  The first shocker of the moment comes as we see Dragon Man, the Human Torch and Alex Power fighting off the hordes of the Annihilation Wave, while barely coherent mutant Leech cries out, “Punch! Punch!”  Valeria Richards figures out what the green kid is talking about, clocking him with a wrench and knocking him out.  I remember Galactus’ stern warning in previous issues, as Franklin Richards’ powers suddenly kick in, and he blasts the bugs back to the N-Zone with pure energy.  (Cue Leonard Nimoy and the drum machine!)  While Ben and Johnny spearhead their battle plan, Susan Richards realizes that NEITHER side of the negotiations have been playing straight with her, as Namor tries to bait her into battle, while the Old Atlanteans name her their new Queen.  Reed arrives on Nu-Earth and discovers that his intel is equally inaccurate, as Galactus takes an unprecedented action against the artificial planet.

Enough With The Who, What’s With The How?

Hickman knows how to build the tension, heaping each story with real human moments and the realization that even the Fantastic Four may be outgunned on ALL THREE fronts.  I like the art, especially in the Negative Zone, as Johnny, Franklin and Ben fight so that Valeria and her fellow genius babies seek to outsmart Reed Richards’ own Negative portals.  There’s some nice snarky dialogue as the Brainiac Five realizes that the only plan with a chance of success also requires someone to stay behind in the Zone.  Susan has a “HELL, YEAH!” moment under the sea (and PUNCHING Namor innaface is only part of it, which makes it doubly amazing) and Benjamin Grimm decides to sacrifice himself for the greater good, sending the Human Torch through the portal with the kids and dying heroically in the Negative Zone…

…or, at least, that was the plan.  Johnny kicks him through the door and sets off the force field, then calmly follows Valeria’s orders on how to shut down the portal forever, while Ben pounds on the field.  The ending of the book is pretty powerful, as Ben turns back to the Thing a few minutes too late, Johnny says good-bye, and faces the Annihilation Wave head on with a blast of nova-flame.  Ben watches in horror as Steve Epting goes CRAZY with a double page spread of thousands of monstrous aliens and Johnny.  It’s pretty powerful, especially the end, as Ben, Franklin and Val slump to the ground in disbelief and grief.

The Verdict: A Powerful Issue

Many people (some right here at Major Spoilers) have been snarking about how “death is meaningless,” and “he’ll be back in six issues,” both of which have grains of truth in them.  But with comics, there is no change, only the illusion thereof, and the real measure of an issue like this is whether it makes you care DESPITE knowing that the events could be retconned/undermined/Mephisto’d away by the next writer or by editorial fiat.  This issue has several wonderful moments, including Franklin’s realization that his powers were back, The Thing’s quiet fear and Sue’s badassery, but the ending gave me goosebumps in the way it was executed, making me forget all questions of hows, whys and creators and focusing me on the heroism of Johnny Storm.  In many ways, I expected that the sacrifice of the Torch would have the least narrative power, but the creators do a really good job in this issue.  It’s kind of a shame that the publicity machine shot their work in the foot by revealing the big spoiler ahead of time.  Still and all, Fantastic Four #587 works on multiple levels, and sets the stage for the next iteration of the FF well, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m sure that there are plenty of snarky comments to be made, but the fact is, it’s a comic that tells an entertaining story with good art, and does it while handicapped by the tropes and nature of the comic book industry.

Rating: ★★★★½

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Anybody else bugged that they just renumbered this book a couple of years ago, and now they’re cancelling it again next month?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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10 Comments

  1. jurman
    January 27, 2011 at 7:44 pm — Reply

    Definitely looking forward to this. I’m a little behind because I have been reading Fantastic Four in trade with my daughter so it’s nice to know that Hickman’s storyline gets better. It started strong but we almost dropped it after that four cities crap. That has got to be the most boring storyline I’ve read in a long time.

    Renumbering seems to be the fad lately. I’m sure it will switch back in no time.

  2. Ivdar
    January 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm — Reply

    Nice review. Spoilerites always wanna know what’s on Matthew’s mind.

    I have read the first couple arcs of Hickman’s run and I liked them a lot, but I ended up dropping it when I tried cutting back on my comics purchase. Now that the book is apparently being canceled, maybe I’ll buy the trades, as this seems to have been a strong title overall.

    Let’s just hope they’ll know what to do with the remaining three.

    Same answer as jurman about the renumbering. It seems a bit pointless, except perhaps as a sign of a good jumping on point.

  3. January 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm — Reply

    Well i have to say that i was pleased with most of the actions in the book and johnny throwing Ben did take me off guard, the last scene sucked. That wasn’t death. It wasn’t even the illusion of death. It looked like capture! i mean come on! Captain America was shot in the neck and the Best you can give me is a swan song. Loved the book, hated the hyperbole!

  4. January 28, 2011 at 8:45 am — Reply

    Can we agree to not call these deaths anymore? From now on, especially for Marvel characters, can we say they are going back into the Disney vault for a while?

    • January 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm — Reply

      “Disney vault” – great phrase. Hope it catches on!

  5. Brother129
    January 28, 2011 at 8:51 am — Reply

    Renumbering, canceling, relaunching in any form is really annoying. Great issue though. I found myself least interested in the Reed and Galactus storyline though.

  6. daredeviltaco
    January 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm — Reply

    Anyone else thought of armageddon during the that scene.

  7. January 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm — Reply

    Good review- I also enjoyed. Disagree about Johnny “faces the Annihilation Wave head on with a blast of nova-flame”. That was the thing I found weird. No attempt to fly away (the portal is closed! Why stand there?), no flame blasts, no attempt to fly up and shoot down, no actual nova-flame at all. He seems to just get swallowed up without a fight.

    Definitely a setup for “Johnny Storm” dying and “John Storm” returning. Im sure what we dont see after the portal closes is Johnny using the nova-flame, wiping out a huge portion of troops, being captured by Annihilus, who might need him to bargain later against Reed. All that time in his hands will probably kill of fun-loving Johnny and bring a darker John.

    Much like the “Invisible Girl” died at the hands of Psycho-man, to be reborn as the “Invisible Woman”.

    But great end with Ben.

  8. Dave
    January 31, 2011 at 9:42 pm — Reply

    I commented on another thread the predictable “death is meaningless,” and “he’ll be back in six issues” rant before I got to your review.

    But I just couldn’t hang in with this book long enough to even try to assess “the real measure of an issue like this is whether it makes you care”. I think the marketing of stories like these have, in part, ruined stories like these…not to mention the pepetual resurection bull corn.

    I think your argument is a good one, Matthew, but I don’t know if it’s enough to justify sticking around to read what we all know will be undone in a matter of years…or most likely months.

    • Damascus
      March 30, 2011 at 4:10 am — Reply

      Everything we read has a large chance at being changed shortly down the line. If we don’t read something because we’re afraid it’ll change then we won’t be reading anything and we’ll live up to that “Comic fans are terrified of change” idea that tends to be the reason real change is never enacted and everything goes back the way it was.

      I personally don’t care who died, I haven’t read Fantastic Four in forever, but I’m all for a well done story regardless of whether it’ll be changed later or not. The last Fantastic Four book that I read (not latest issue, just last occurance of reading) was when my supervisor brought in his copy of Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #’s 2 and 48. I felt like decking the guy and stealing the issues and running home. First appearance of the Skrulls and first appearance of Silver Surfer. He has an insane collection though. First appearances, deaths of Gwen Stacy and Elektra, really early Captain America, it’s just ridiculous.

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