It’s the end of the road… But what terrible force could bring about the demise of the legendary Fantastic Four? What could succeed where Doctor Doom, Annihilus, Galactus and (worst of all) HERBIE failed? Your Major Spoilers review of Fantastic Four #645 awaits!
FANTASTIC FOUR #645
Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Leonard Kirk
Inker: Karl Kesel With Scott Hanna
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov and Israel Silva
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $5.99
Previously in Fantastic Four: Fifty-four years ago, our time, a brash young scientist named Reed Richards took a terrible risk in testing his rocket ship without authorization or proper safeguards. This left his family forever changed, each with strange powers that they tried to make the best of, by protecting the universe(s) above all else. Now, it’s all about to come to an end, thanks to corrupted heroes from an alternate Earth, and the machinations of a villain called The Quiet Man. Johnny Storm has no powers. Ben Grimm is fighting a deadly battle against Avengers far more powerful than he. Reed Richards stands toe to toe with the villain who has brought their world down. Susan Storm-Richards has spearheaded an attack on Counter-Earth to stop the nightmares her son unintentionally brought to life.
It’s the last issue, but does that mean that terrible things await our four heroes?
“IF WE’RE DOWN, WE RISE…”
Last issue’s separation of the team into individual units actually told me a lot about how this issue was going to go. Each of our heroes gets their due in this issue, showing off Reed’s intellect, Sue’s Will, Johnny’s bravery and Ben’s tenacity. Reed’s confrontation with the Quiet Man features our hero talking the villain down, and showing him the flaw in his own plans, leading to the two of them having to work together to close the portal between dimensions. Susan’s battle with the Psycho-Man plays on her fears and historical weaknesses, but the Invisible Woman and her team (Namor, Sleepwalker, and the original android Human Torch) succeed in holding him cold. Ben’s battle in New York ends up being a guest-star extravaganza, with the Frightful Four working on the side of the angels, Salem’s Seven putting in an appearance, and a lot of Avengers cameoing, while Johnny and Wyatt Wingfoot hold the line in the Baxter Building. I haven’t always been on-board with Robinson’s FF, but this issue allows our heroes (except for Ben) to break out of the strict roles they’re sometimes stuck in, and makes great use of the various conflicts this run has set up.
AND A BIG RIGHT-CROSS FROM REED
When James Robinson is on his A-Game, he not only explores the things that make our heroes cool, he gives them depth and character that some writers miss, which makes for wonderful moments where Franklin and Sue bond, Reed encourages daughter Valeria to solve a problem even he couldn’t, and Thundra admits to hanging out with the Frightful Four just because she didn’t want to miss the big fight. The only real down-side comes in how satisfying this final issue is after a long and rambling storyline, and how quickly the plot-points are sewn up. The main story is followed by four individual stories, one for each hero, and the team is left intact to rebuild the Baxter Building as the issue ends. The art throughout the issue is quite wonderful, with Leonard Kirk making the chaos clear and exciting, and a particular kudos goes to the full-page reveal that the Human Torch once again has his powers back, thanks to expended energies of the blah blah blah science cakes.
THE BOTTOM LINE: THANKFULLY NOT A BIG CONVOLUTED BLOW-UP/BREAKUP
I was really worried that this issue was going to be one of those heartless final issues that tears the team apart (see the final issue of the original run of ‘Power Man/Iron Fist’, or pretty much any Marvel last ish of the 80s/90s), but instead serves as a nice celebration of the Fantastic Four’s history featuring tons of guest-stars, renewed plot elements (Sue’s turn as Malice is referenced, as is Johnny’s death and the whole Counter-Earth incident, which is best left unexplained) and strong characters on display. Reed and Sue get to be parents, but also heroes (he gets in a really impressive punch) and the interplay with their children is pretty wonderful. There are two major weaknesses to the issue, in my mind: First, The Thing’s portion of the story feels underserved (even his solo tale is just him cleaning up rubble and feeling pretty peeved about it.) Secondly, the rumors that (allegedly) the title’s (hopefully temporary) cancellation is only to spite the producers of the upcoming Fantastic Four film. Still, Fantastic Four #645 is a solid issue that delivers a solid punch and a good place to pause the adventures of Marvel’s first family, even if I might question the reasons for said pause, earning a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars overall.