Or – “Thanks To Poor Typing, Spell-Check Wants To Call It Fat-Nasty Four.“
In the last few months, the Fantastic Four have faced the Celestials, communed with Galactus, retrieved their lost fourth member from the depths of the Negative Zone and met their children from the future. The team deserves a little time off, a break from the waves of destiny and catastrophe that have been buffeting them…
Sadly, this isn’t it.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Ron Garney
Cover Artist: Mike Choi & GURU-eFX
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Tom Breevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously, in Fantastic Four: The last few months have been, to use a completely devalued term, epic for the Fantastic Four. Reed’s father Nathaniel, a time-traveler, returned with vague warnings of something in the future, while Galactus himself gave similar portents of doom. The FF ended up facing the might of the Celestials themselves (who, you might note, nearly spelled the end of Galactus himself, making them no pushovers) and came out of it triumphant (or, at least alive.) Their latest mission is just as high-stakes, but on a much smaller scale…
A MYSTERIOUS, INHOSPITABLE WORLD…
We open in media res, as the FF’s craft encounters turbulence, and crashes in a strange alien landscape. I like the interplay of characters here, as we cut back and forth from the cockpit of the ship (where Ben Grimm is undeniably in charge) to the planning session (where Reed’s logistics reign supreme.) Sue gets a nice couple of moments as well, reminding her family/team that failure is not an option, and saving their lives after they crash on the hostile world. With their ride gone, the team is forced to walk across the landscape, and Ron Garney does wonderful work with the rendition of the world, with the art shifting perspective, and some panels completely flipped as the FF make their way to their mysterious goal. The story is revealed a little bit of a time, flashing back as necessary, with Reed explaining that they can’t use their usual methods to deal with this menace. The Human Torch shows us why very graphically (two words: hyperoxenated atmosphere) and Garney again makes the visuals work brilliantly with the story.
…WITH A NICE ROD SERLING TWIST.
Right about the time that I start wondering how the team is going to get home, the other shoe drops. I don’t want to give everything away, but suffice to say that the delicacy in dealing with the menace is in deference to the welfare of Willie Lumpkin, an old friend of the Fantastic Four, and Reed is apparently a fan of Isaac Asimov. The ending of the issue holds great power, serving as a touching reminder that personal struggles can be as thrilling as intergalactic battles in the right hands. Jonathan Hickman’s use of the supporting cast on this book has been amazing, and this issue is no exception. I can’t help but wonder if there’s an intentional attempt to return to a “traditional” Fantastic Four in this issue, as the encircled-4 chest symbols make a very welcome return, and this issue draws heavily on and honors classic FF concepts. There are some issues with the art, as Garney periodically has a sketchy line that reminds me of the worst art of the late Michael Turner.
THE VERDICT: I LIKED THIS.
It took me a moment to catch on to what was really happening in the issue, which I liked, but not so long that I lost interest in the story being told, a hard balance to take. The character moments (especially the Thing’s half angry/half determined “Does that guy have any idea who he’s talking to?”) are strong throughout, and the issue ends with a lovely family tableau as Ben, Reed, Sue, Johnny and the kids all visit Willie Lumpkin causing even Mister Fantastic to smile. Fantastic Four #606 is a lovely stand-alone issue, the kind of jumping-on point I like (as opposed to the clip-shows that generally show up in Marvel’s Point-One initiative) and does it’s job well, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. It’s good to see Marvel remembering that not everything has to be about universal consequences and massive crossover implications…