Or – “I Just Can’t Decide On This Book…”

FF has been a very strange reading experience for me thus far.  The first four issues were must-reads, but for some reason the return of Black Bolt left me cold.  Will this issue fall on the side of “VIP” or “WTF?” 

(You’ll only know if you click the jump…)

FF #8
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting
Cover Artist: Daniel Acuna
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, on FF:  The end of the Fantastic Four wasn’t really much of an ending at all, more like a pause button.  The loss of the Human Torch caused Reed Richards to rethink the concept of heroics, forming his Future Foundation with the remaining members of the old team, Spider-Man and a thinktank of genius children.  Though things never really got quiet, the return of Black Bolt (with five new queens at his side) made things extra noisy, especially when four extradimensional versions of Reed himself showed up and joined forced to blow some stuff up.  How do you stop FOUR Reed Richards? 

Simple:  Assemble the people who fight Reed Richards for a living.

Uncharacteristically Grim…

I think the thing that has been throwing me over the last few issues (which I have to stress weren’t BAD, just strangely off-putting for me) is that general tone of FF.  Each successive issue has introduced another wrinkle in the plot, and while there are villains galore, each has his own agenda and keeps his own council, and the plot keeps thickening as we go.  Reed’s crazy time-traveling father has returned, Valeria has unlocked the door for evil Reeds to enter our world, the High Evolutionary’s city is aflame, and the Future Foundation are turning to the Mad Thinker and Diablo for support.  It’s a very dark sort of world, not really super-heroey at all, filled with compromise and secrets, a more adult sort of superhero tale.  Of course, that has it’s upside as well, as when Reed, Nathaniel and a coterie of the FF’s worst enemies set off to save the High Evolutionary’s city from the evil Reeds.

…But He Really Shoulda Seen It Comin’.

The second half of this issue is all-out three-sided battle, as the Inhumans fight against the Reeds fight against the FF, and everybody is tense throughout.  Spider-Man and Mr. Fantastic shift to their primarily black costumes to reflect the seriousness of it all, and even THEY recognize that they probably can’t really trust their current allies in this whole mess.  Reed realizes something strange about the leader of his doppel-gang, but before he can change tactics, Medusa and Lockjaw arrive and teleport him away for an audience with Black Bolt.  The issue ends with a betrayal, a blast, some blood and somebody gets backstabbed hard (but as the great sage Barry Manilow would memorably ask, just WHO SHOT WHO?)  The art is first-rate throughout the issue, as Steve Epting delivers the goods on both mutated monstrosities and battle action, but still making an argument betwee Sue and Nathaniel Richards tense and meaningful.

The Verdict:  Where’s Dothen?

This is a good issue, but it’s clear that one of the goals is to put the experienced comics reading public (i.e. you and me, Faithful Spoilerites) off their game and keep us guessing.  From the question of which villain revealed that he was a scorpion on the frog’s back to the question of what the Reeds are doing to the question of whether this is actually OUR Black Bolt, nothing is simple or clear here.  I can even look back to issue #7 and see that the very frustrations that I felt in reading it are intentional, which helps to ameliorate the problems I’ve been having with FF.  That said, I still feel adrift in the wilderness, and certain story beats confuse me (Why would Doom work with Reed?  Why, after decades of silence, is Black Bolt suddenly cutting loose with screams and whoops?  Where in the world is Ben Grimm during all this?  Where does the issue occur, vis a vis Fear Itself?), but all in all, it’s an impressive issue that doesn’t force one to read a big crossover to get the full tale.  FF #8 makes the grade but still leaves some confusion in my mind, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s a good issue, and the more adult take on the conflict is well-handled, but I want more than I’m getting…

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Do you think this is the same Black Bolt we’ve known, or are we dealing with a duplicate/alternate universe/clone thingy?

 

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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8 Comments

  1. August 24, 2011 at 11:04 pm — Reply

    I’m not sure what he realized about the leader of the Reeds… that one I think I skimmed a previous issue if that is supposed to be an obvious explanation.

    For Doom. They haven’t explained it. It appears to be genuine since he showed up as part of the FF in X-Men recently. They’ve made it clear that it’s “OK” for some reason but don’t really go into detail. I think it’s another plot line we’re being thrown a bone about and not given.

    Black Bolt… while we can’t be 110% sure it’s him I will say it is. He was starting to get more ruthless with using his power before he was ‘killed’ and the way they’ve been bringing him back I’m going to say he’s ours.

    Fear Itself and this. Shitty. I’d love to know that where it falls into it timeline wise. I mean is this before or after Thing had a hammer or was returned to normal.

  2. SenorEjaz
    August 25, 2011 at 5:24 am — Reply

    Hi Matthew, did you read Hickman on Fantastic Four before FF? Val made a deal with a brain-damaged Doom to restore his intellect if he helped the FF with the coming War of Four Cities (Future Franklin came back and told her ‘All hope lies in Doom’).
    I agree about the last couple of issues though – the ones dealing with the Kree and Black Bolt I found baffling.
    I honestly think, that if you have been reading Hickman’s run from the beginning all your questions are answered (or will be).
    I don’t know if you’ve been reading it but SHIELD explains what’s been going with Reed’s dad (along with a couple of previous issues of his Fantastic Four.
    I’m a HUGE fan of the Fantastic Four (they’re my guys, so to speak) and I believe that Hickman’s building to something that going to surpass both Byrne and Simonson’s runs (which I love).

    P.S. I loved Val getting a time-out and having it extended when she tries to break out – hilarious stuff.

    If you haven’t read the new Ultimate Comics: Ultimates (ugh, is it ULTIMATE enough?) Hickman’s big bad is Ultimate Reed Richards and his EEEVIL F

    • SenorEjaz
      August 25, 2011 at 5:28 am — Reply

      Sorry – EEEEEVIL Future Foundation, it’s an intriguing start building off the recent Ultimate Enemy trilogy Bendis did – where Reed ‘THE WORLD IS RAPING SCIENCE!’ Richards goes coo-coo for coco pops.

  3. Eric (CMonocle)
    August 25, 2011 at 11:02 am — Reply

    I’ve come to dislike Reed in recent years. Sure, he’s made trouble for himself in the past, but it always felt like a good-natured mistake. Lately, he just seems reckless and doesn’t seem to care about the repercussions of any of his actions. It’s kinda ruined the books for me.

    • SenorEjaz
      August 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm — Reply

      If you’re refering to cloning Thor and Civil War then I agree. If you’re talking about the Council of Reeds, then I disagree –
      1. The council isn’t evil, they’re Utilitarians and when Reed discovers this he leaves them.
      2. When he sought them out, it was to find ways of fixing the world’s problems.
      3. Hickman in paticular has been emphasising the more human aspects of Reed, his father encouraging him to be a good man for example.

      It can be hard to distinguish when he’s written badly (JMS) or when he’s actually doing in character things that are dubious. Reed’s one of my favourite Marvel characters (and consistently under-rated in my opinion) but he has been written terribly (the time Byrne had him crack Sue in the face comes to mind).

      There’s an interesting article here –
      http://toobusythinkingboutcomics.blogspot.com/2011/08/on-stan-lee-mark-waid-jack-kirby-mike.html

      it’s about Reed’s development from inconsiderate cold war jerk to hero, surprisingly the element of him not considering the effects of his actions on others has been there from the beginnning.

      • Eric (CMonocle)
        August 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm — Reply

        I was definitely referring to Civil War and Clor and shooting Hulk into space, etc… I see what you’re saying though, for sure. Thanks for the educated and constructive response!

      • Eric (CMonocle)
        August 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm — Reply

        Oh, man… That article makes me miss Wieringo. :(

        • SenorEjaz
          August 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm — Reply

          I miss his work too. I really loved Weiringo for his story-telling chops, but his uber cartoony style always put me off a bit (I feel the same about Romita Jr). I’ll always pick story-telling over style though. Losing him and McDuffie (who also had a great run on the FF) has been a huge loss for comics over the last few years.

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