Editor's Note: Fantastic Four #570 arrives in stores tomorrow, August 26.
"Solve Everything, Part One"
Paul Brian McCoy:
Matthew J. Brady:
Plot: With an all-new creative team on the book, Mr. Fantastic re-ups his grand plan to "fix everything."
Comments: Before I get into the story content of this review I have to say artist Dale Eaglesham--late of Justice Society of America--draws an uncomfortably beefy Reed Richards. He looks a bit off-model – like Hawkman poured into an FF costume. Strangely he also has five o'clock shadow for most of the issue, giving the character a disheveled, almost grim look.
To a certain extent the unkempt Dr. Richards works within the confines of Jonathan Hickman's first issue of FF, formerly of the widescreen stewardship of Mark Millar. Richards has a grand idea to fix everything – to exert his mind to resolving the world's problems great and small.
Hickman actually begins the story with a young Reed being challenged to take a high jump by his father – the writer is telling us in not so many words that nothing ventured nothing gained, no risk no reward. Indeed, in the present, the FF face down the mechanical creations of another genius-level longtime foe who challenges Richards to exert what he believes is the mental authority of the incredibly gifted.
For all the banter between Johnny and Ben this is a somewhat grim opening issue for Mr. Hickman. There's a bit of a worry line on Reed's brow through much of the issue which has him reversing a promise he made about a piece of technology and gaining some interesting allies in his struggle to resolve the problems that plague the world.
As a start it's very solid if not exactly mind-blowing. I think it's primarily because of the drastic switch in gears from the oddball bombast of Millar's run. The only thing keeping the issue from a higher rating is that odd Reed Richards Eaglesham has put on the page. I think it's just a matter of him settling in with the character and readers settling in with the new team.
Final Word: Hickman has a solid start out of the gate although the story is held back a bit by Eaglesham's off-model character designs.
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the author’s work at Monster In Your Veins
Paul Brian McCoy:
The last time I read The Fantastic Four regularly, was during and just after Civil War. Let's just say I thought JMS's run started strong, but became more and more tedious as it went along. Maybe that's the fault of the crossover. Maybe that's because JMS doesn't seem like much of a team player.
I tried McDuffie's run, but it didn't really grab me, so after four issues I dropped the title and haven't really looked back. Sure, I checked out a few advance copies of the Millar/Hitch version, but really didn't care for it; which was odd, given how much I loved their work on The Ultimates.
Now, Jonathan Hickman is taking the reins, with Dale Eaglesham on art duties, and I've decided to give the title another look. Mainly, this is because of how much I'm enjoying Hickman's work on Secret Warriors and the promise that his Dark Reign: Fantastic Four mini showed.
I'm not really up on what's been happening with the team since the Civil War, but luckily, Hickman takes the story back to issues that were raised during Reed's involvement with the Registration Act. It's almost like I didn't miss anything; which maybe says a lot about what's happened in the past couple of years with this property.
Hickman's run is also springboarding directly from his Dark Reign: Fantastic Four mini, which was a lot of fun, if a little drawn out. Essentially, Reed has built a wondrous machine that lets him study alternate realities in order to find out how many worlds went through the Civil War, and what happened in the worlds that didn't. Disturbingly, the only realities that didn't suffer through the disasters of the Civil War were realities where Reed acted alone, and usually quite ruthlessly.
So, with that knowledge bouncing around his elastic noggin, Reed's got himself a bit of a dilemma that's summarized in the title of this storyline. Reed wants to make things right and "Solve Everything" that's gone wrong. Wisely, though, Hickman moves quickly to make this about more than just societal issues and includes a dash of the apocalyptic.
It's a strong start; More ambitious than anything that I've read dealing with the Fantastic Four in quite some time, so that's good. The twist at the end of this issue is nicely done, piling revelation upon revelation over the course of the final five pages that more than make up for the sheer absence of direction that this title's been suffering through since, well, since Byrne left, really.
If Hickman is allowed to cut loose with the ideas that he's playing with here, we could be looking at another defining run.
Artistically, this is something of a mixed bag. There's no denying that Dale Eaglesham is an exceptionally talented artist. However, some of the layouts are a bit cramped, particularly during the opening battle with the giant robots, and I'm not really on board with his bulked-up versions of Reed and Johnny. But it is pretty, especially with the color art by Paul Mounts. There's a very impressive subtlety to the way Mounts applies the colors, creating depth and surface textures that border on photo-realism.
This is a good place to get on-board if you've been away, and if you were thinking about abandoning ship, I'd suggest sticking around to give the new creative team a try. It could be made stronger with more restrained page layouts, but the last page splash is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Hot on the heels of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's run on Fantastic Four, Jonathan Hickman takes over the reins of the book to provide his own vision for the team, kicking off his run with an issue that provides an entertaining mix of action, solid characterisation, and sci-fi/fantasy ideas.
I say that this is the first issue of Hickman's run, but in all honesty, his story really started in the five-issue Dark Reign: Fantastic Four miniseries -- so I would strongly recommend tracking those issues down to get the necessary background on this story. That said, all of the crucial information is presented here, whether it's in the recap page or the story itself.
After a flashback involving Reed Richards's father, we're treated to a fast-paced and exciting action sequence as the FF take on the Wizard. The conflict is brought to an end surprisingly quickly, but there's enough detail included here that I suspect that Hickman may be setting up some plot points that he intends to revisit in future.
The writer also throws in a few subtle touches that demonstrate his appreciation of what makes the FF different from other run-of-the-mill heroes, notably with his deft handling of the family group's interpersonal relationships, and in the humane and considered manner in which he has Reed deal with his enemy once defeated.
Much has been made of Dale Eaglesham's artwork here, which is coloured directly from the pencils. It's less sketchy and more defined than that approach can often seem, with a fairly high level of detail that suggests that Eaglesham's pencils must have been pretty tight -- and also that colourist Paul Mounts can read his artist's work well, and add any enhancements that are necessary during the colouring process. Mounts also adopts a slightly softer approach for the issue's opening flashback sequence (which reminded me a little of Laura Martin's work on The Stand), helping to make the issue's first present-day scenes seem particularly bold and brightly-coloured in comparison.
However, as nice as Eaglesham's artwork is, a couple of elements felt a little "off" to me. Most notably, both Reed Richards and Johnny Storm seem to have been gifted with the physiques of bodybuilders -- and Reed's face seems to be more closely modelled on Nick Fury than on any incarnation of Mr. Fantastic that I've ever seen. It might seem like a fairly minor complaint, but given the nature of Hickman's plot, it turns out to be quite a significant one. Still, Eaglesham pulls off the big reveal of the last few pages well, with a wealth of weird and wonderful designs that help to create the impression that Hickman seems to be aiming for.
I get the same impression from this issue that I did from the Dark Reign: Fantastic Four miniseries: Hickman obviously has some strong sci-fi ideas for the FF to explore, a good grasp of the characters, and an appreciation of the kind of tone that best suits the Marvel Universe's First Family. Even if it didn't blow me away, this issue sets up a fairly interesting new plot, and I look forward to seeing where it leads in future issues.
Matthew J. Brady
Now that the Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch run on Marvel's supposed flagship book is over, it's up to Jonathan Hickman to steer things in a new direction, or at least try to continue piloting the series in a way that keeps it fresh and interesting without going too far away from the original concept. That's a fairly difficult task, but hopefully Hickman is up to it. He certainly seems to have some ideas to pursue, relating both to the way that the characters interrelate and to their place within the larger Marvel universe. We'll have to see how it goes.
Several plot threads are introduced here, including a few picked up from the previous run, such as Ben and Johnny taking a vacation to Nu-World to help the former get over his recent heartbreak and Sue worrying about how to deal with the onset of Valeria's superintelligence as a parent. But the main plot seems to stem straight from the Hickman-written Dark Reign: Fantastic Four miniseries, which saw Reed set out to discover what had gone wrong with all the Illuminati/Civil War/Initiative schemes and set things right by searching through parallel realities for answers. His quest continues here, as he gets ushered into a pocket reality populated by alternate versions of himself who are working to better the multiverse. It's a neat idea, similar to Alan Moore’s Supremacy from the Supreme series, and it makes for some striking, M.C. Escher-style imagery and the kind of cosmic, mind-expanding ideas that hearken back to the good old Stan Lee/Jack Kirby days on the title. If all goes well, this should be a great source of stories for Hickman.
And while the cosmic craziness is cool, Hickman seems to have a good grasp of the down-to-earth ideas as well; the main conflict in this issue is a fight with the Wizard, who seems to miscalculate badly when sending some robots to take out the team, with one created to take out each member. One of the oldest strategies in the book (switch opponents, of course) is enough to take them down, but the aftermath of the fight is the interesting part, as the FF discover that the robots are piloted by the Wizard's clones, and Reed heads off to his lair to take care of him. It's fairly standard stuff, but Hickman sells it by giving the villain a real creepiness, with weird technology built into his clones and a disturbing megalomaniacal monologue. It's nicely done, a good start to the run that promises to lead to more interesting, large-scale stories down the line.
On the art front, Dale Eaglesham seems to be pretty competent, if not especially dynamic. He's using a "digital color over pencils" technique that looks kind of flashy but doesn't necessarily work all that well with his slightly old-fashioned style. When it's good, it looks pretty nice (a standout panel sees Reed stop the Wizard from pushing a button by wrapping himself around the villain's body and stopping his hand from moving), but a lot of the facial expressions are awkward, and we never get a good look at those killer robots to get a feel for the threat. He does do some nice Kirbytech though, and the pages of Reed's interdimensional think tank are quite impressive. As with the story, hopefully he'll get better as the series continues.
So, yes, it's a good debut which should lead to some good, exciting, thought-provoking stories down the line. If it all turns out to be for naught, we can look back and complain, but at the moment, hope springs eternal. Don't let us down, Hickman!
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