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.
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?