Editor's Note: Fantastic Four #572 arrives in stores tomorrow, October 28.
"Solve Everything: Conclusion"
It's only three issues into his run as Fantastic Four writer, and Jonathan Hickman has already finished off his first storyline, a nice change of pace in this age of extended six-issue arcs and talky, decompressed storytelling. Since the days of Lee and Kirby, Fantastic Four has been at its best when it's mixing rapid-fire ideas and well-drawn characters; Hickman is definitely going for that combination here, although he's started off with less of a team story than would be preferable, focusing on Reed Richards' quest to solve all the world's problems and the huge-scale, multi-universal issues that he ends up facing.
The resolution of Reed's internal conflict (for now) does end up being somewhat disappointing, with a pat speech from his wife Sue making him realize how much family means to him just as he's in the middle of a conflict that's almost beyond comprehension, but Hickman does deliver on the promised large-scale action, with a group of Celestials, the gigantic, hugely-powerful, godlike alien beings that Jack Kirby invented back in the 70s, attacking the headquarters of the collective of Reed Richardses from various parallel realities who have united to right all the multiverse's wrongs. It's crazy and violent, with a character's head exploding on the first page and others being incinerated or vaporized, or sacrificing themselves to save others. Sure, it's not especially dramatic to kill off characters who were just introduced an issue ago, but since they're all versions of Reed, their deaths do still have some heft. It makes for an exciting issue, although, once again, the revelation that Reed will have to leave his family behind if he wants to join this council seem like an easy out to end the story; if the Reeds were sure to make sure "our" Reed was aware of the heights of their accomplishments and darkness of their decisions, you would think they would have told him about this requirement in a way other than an offhand comment. It's nice to see that family and friendship are what's most important for Reed, but Hickman cheats a little bit to make it all wrap up a bit too easily.
As for Dale Eaglesham's art, it's nice-looking, for the most part, with lots of large-scale action, gruesome deaths, and big, cosmic energy flashing all over the page, but his character work leaves something to be desired. Facial expressions tend to be somewhat awkward, sapping some of the drama from the big emotional scenes. The depiction of Franklin and Valeria is especially egregious, with the kids looking like giant-headed gnomes rather than actual people. If that keeps up once the series shifts to focus on the rest of the family, it's going to make for some unfortunately chuckle-inducing pages.
It seems like Hickman might still be finding his feet on the series, but considering the ambition he's already shown, hopefully that means the best is yet to come. He's gotten the story dealing with Reed's actions in Marvel's various plots of the past few years out of the way, so now he'll be able to focus on the other characters as well, and make this an exciting cosmic science fiction comic with a focus on character again. I'm pulling for him.
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