Or – “The Great Book With The Spectacularly Unattractive Covers…”

Ever since Joe Quesada’s guest-shot wraparound cover for issue #600, I’ve been struck each month how weird some of the covers for the Fantastic Four title look.  Just glancing at this cover on the stands, I was confused as to why Reed Richards would take the time to cop a feel during a giant intergalactic crisis situation.  Maybe it’s just the coloring, but this issue’s cover is just flat weird looking…

So… How’s the actual book?

FANTASTIC FOUR #603
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Barry Kitson
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Fantastic Four:  The arrival of Galactus is always something to worry about, but when he’s come to Earth to fend off an invasion of the equally-powerful and doubly-crazy Celestials, it’s pretty much a can full of Armageddon.  Of course, at the same time, the Kree Armada is attacking, and the only thing that can hold it off is the (once again) equally-powerful Annihilation Wave.  All in all, the cure is just as deadly and catastrophic as the metaphorical disease.  Also, Valeria Richards may have betrayed her entire reality.  So, that’s fun…

“LOOK THERE AND SEE THAT GALACTUS STANDS AGAINST YOU!”

So, last issue ended with a tense confrontation between Galactus, The World Devourer and the host of the Celestials standing nose to nose (figuratively, as only the Big G has a nose.)  Four space-giants versus the last survivor of the universe that existed BEFORE ours, each empowered with the Power Kirby?  $#!+ just got real.  Even the massive, jaded intellect of Reed Richards is left a gibbering child in the face of the battle that ensues, and even the Fantastic Four has to retreat as the entire sky opens up with power undreamt of.  It’s pretty awesome, honestly, and serves to solve the secondary problem, as the onslaught of giants slugging it out causes the Kree to flee (dum dee dee) and the Inhuman battle-cruiser follows suit.  The art of Barry Kitson is a huge change from Juan Bobillo on the sister title, FF, and I have to say I much prefer the work in this issue.  The moment wherein Galactus plows into the assembled Celestials like Randy Orton in a handicap match is truly amazing, and the sheer amount of Kirby dots involved put a huge smile on my face.  I also enjoy how it’s Susan Richards (whom I have long believed to be the steel in the spine of the FF) is the one who takes command in the face of a godlike clusterschmozz, with a little help from Valeria’s Hail, Mary, as seen in the last issue of the FF title…

FUTURE FOUNDATION?  L’IL BIT, YEAH…

Page ten of this issue is a literal “Holy Crap” moment for me, which you simply have to see to believe…  (Suffice to say that Galen of Taa hasn’t had a beatdown like this in the memory of any living being in OUR universe.)  The remainder of the issue has the Fantastic Four returning home to find out what Valeria has been up to, but what strikes me the most is how subtle the art is.  Franklin’s resemblance to his uncle and mom is wonderful, as well as the subtle traits shared by Reed, his father and his daughter.  It’s always difficult to deal with these kind of facial feature issues, but Kitson seems to do it effortlessly, which strengthens the ending of the issue even more, as the members of the Fantastic Four battle Celestials one-on-one.  It’s Sue who lasts the longest, I might add, and Sue who is the only one conscious to remember the prophetic words:  “There will be a moment when you’re going to want to give up…  When you reach that point, look into the sky.”  She does, and the final full-page splash of the issue is awesome, inspiring and terrifying all at once.  I cannot bear to spoiler it for you, you’ll have to check it out, but it’s a doozy…

THE VERDICT:  WORTHY OF STAN & JACK’S LEGACY

Fantastic Four is a problematic title for many reasons, most of which have to do with the ground-breaking madness that Lee and Kirby put out for over 100 issues back in the day.  Since then, most writers fall into the trap of either rehashing or one-upping those amazing tales, and neither approach is usually successful.  Hickman balances respect for those old-school tales with a fresh take that recombines and strengthens concepts like Galactus, the Supreme Intelligence, the Inhumans and more.  In the last 15 years or so, the Fantastic Four title has been all over the board, but has seldom been the center of the Marvel Universe that it historically should be.  I found some issue with the bits of the story that deal with time-travel and predestination, but even that will likely be explained in the next couple of issues.  Fantastic Four #603 continues to impress, emphasizing family at the same time as it gives us interstellar hand-to-hand combat, earning a truly earned 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★½

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. brainypirate
    February 25, 2012 at 7:06 pm — Reply

    Why is this post tagged DC??

    • February 25, 2012 at 8:26 pm — Reply

      Because I’m an idiot?

      • February 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm — Reply

        Also: I have fixed this, so it’s now just a relic of good times gone by. :)

  2. Ian
    February 26, 2012 at 1:19 am — Reply

    Why are they still wearing those crappy white costumes?

  3. Slappy
    February 26, 2012 at 7:14 am — Reply

    I will go on trcord as liking the crappy white costumes and being glad they are sticking around. Let’s face it, blue pajamas with a “4” in a white circle is not high fashion, it is just very similer to what the creators did when they had limited colors in the printing process to use.
    What I like about the drastic departue is that it is radically different, makes sense in as an abstract Reed Richards design concept, helps incorporate the costume of Spider-Man into the group feel, and separates them from any other Teams or individuals out there. Blue is so common, I can understand a little confusion in a slobberknocker as to recognizing your teammate.
    Aesthetically pleasing? Not at all, but add some pouches and shoulderpads, and Liefeld would approve. Long Live the Legion!

  4. TaZ
    February 26, 2012 at 9:30 am — Reply

    Oh…my…stars….and…garters. This entire issue was so Lee/Kirby in it’s span and reference to damn near all things related to the extended Richard’s clan that I thought my head was going to explode by the end of the issue. Galactus, Celestials, Inhuimans, Kree, Old Atlantis, Forever City, time paradoxes, alternate universes, Ben Grimm showing that he can still take the brunt of an energy blast from a freaking Celestial and still try to get up. Sue Storm Richards kicking ass and taking names like she first started to do in the John Byrne run on the FF. Wow. Simply WOW! This issue had EVERYTHING that I had been missing about the FF for many, many years and then some. This is the FIRST Marvel issue that I have read in a long, long time that I have absolutely nothing negative to say about. I didn’t even notice the cover art.

  5. aerohalen
    February 27, 2012 at 6:56 am — Reply

    I havent read FF in a long time,wtf is up with those outfits?

  6. Ari
    February 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm — Reply

    I picked this book up at #600 and I am in. Gonna buy all the Hickman trades and collect this run because this is just astoundingly fun comics.

  7. February 27, 2012 at 11:01 pm — Reply

    Do I need to read Future Foundation also or can I read Fantasic Four and be ok? Also is Spidey in Fantasic Four comics or just Future Foundation.

    • February 28, 2012 at 7:35 am — Reply

      The characters appear in both places, but Future Foundation for the last couple of issues has been all about Franklin and Valeria, with Doctor Doom and Nathaniel Richards. Fantastic Four has been primarily about the grown-up heroes… Spider-Man has been in both, historically.

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