Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Howard Porter (p), Norm Rapmund (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
With Reed's behavior becoming increasingly erratic, we see his teammates slowly become aware of just how dire the situation has become, as the United Nations has assembled a security force that stands ready to invade Latveria, and forcibly remove Reed from power. However, as they race to make contact with Nick Fury in a bid to get him to hold off this military action, we see Reed's earlier refusal to listen has apparently already burned this bridge.
I'm not sure how many issues this "Authoritative Action" arc is supposed to run, but given it was supposed to be Mark Waid's final arc up until Marvel made nice with the temperamental writer, I do have to say I'm rather impressed by how far down the road of no return this arc appears to have traveled. I mean this isn't the type of story where the characters can simply wipe the sweat off their brows, and comment on how close things came to becoming a full blown disaster, as this issue takes the story over the line, and then builds a brick wall to ensure our heroes can't go back to the way things were before. Now the threat that Nick Fury offers up on the final page to keep Ben, Sue, and Johnny from rushing back to Reed's side seems a bit much, as frankly I doubt Reed's actions could really construed as being treason against the United States, but it makes for a fun little sound bit, and combined with Reed's ominous sounding letter we have ourselves a pretty exciting showdown for next month's issue, as you just know what choice Ben, Johnny and especially Sue are going to make in light of this threat. My only problem with the arc is that the book has Nick Fury and company a little too ready to believe the worst about Reed's actions, and while this does make for a more exciting conflict, it does seem to ignore all the goodwill that the Fantastic Four would have to have built up with the world-saving heroics.
As for the art, before I comment on the interior art I have to say that this month's cover stands up as one of the worst displays of the computer blurring effect that I've ever seen. I mean it effectively ruins what could've been a pretty solid cover image. As for the interior art, Howard Porter continues to be far more impressive on this guest-stint than I found his work to be over on the JLA, and there's some fairly impressive visual moments that nicely capture the big impact moments in this issue, with the Fantastic Four's exit from the castle in their bid to contact Nick Fury being particularly impressive. I did find Ben's escape from the prison cell to be a bit overly exaggerated though, with Ben's head looking far too small for his massive body. The page where the crowd attempts to lift the Thing on their shoulders didn't really convey the considerable strain of the people trying to accomplish this task either.
I'm starting to suspect there is more to this story than meets the eye, as frankly both Reed and the government forces that have assembled against him both seem a little too set in their ways, and this has me suspecting that this build up of tensions is all been orchestrated, though I have to say I'm not quite sure as to what either side hopes to accomplish with this rather elaborate act. Now perhaps I'm reading too much into the inconsistent behavior from Reed and others, but I honestly feel that this pigheaded behavior on both sides is covering up a secret deal. However, there are moments that serve to throw water on this theory such as Reed's rather dire sounding letter to his wife, and his very cold, and harsh method of pushing her away, by labeling her an uncaring mother to his children. Still, my steadfast belief that there is something we haven't been made privy to, is a continued nagging doubt that I can't put out of my mind, and until the final issue arrives I can't help but feel I should be prepared for an unexpected twist that will explain Reed's odd behavior.
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