Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fantastic Four #600

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Steve Epting, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ming Doyle, Leinil Francis Yu, & Farel Dalrymple
Company: Marvel Comics

To be completely honest, I had lost interest in the story that Jonathan Hickman was forming in the pages of FF over the past few months. When the focus of the book strayed from the main players to a few background characters, namely the Supreme Intelligence and the Inhumans, my interest dropped off the face of the map and spiraled into Don't Caresville. Those characters are tough sells to begin with and the story was boring and felt like a huge deviation from what had been building into a tense and memorable tale. After reading this 600th issue, I feel the need to go back to those issues and catch up. Why? Because taken as a hole, though those issues may have been
disappointing, with this one, Hickman ties everything that he's been working on together so distinctly and with panache. Call it the Hindsight is 20 20 effect, but this issue (forgive the pun) is Fantastic.

Yes, the big draw for some might be the return of a certain character, but it's more than that. It's a wallop of a story, the perfect example of the Marvel Universe being a shared land of stories tethered together. Hickman connects things that have not only been happening in FF, but also with books like The Mighty Thor. You also get to see the proceedings happening from every point of view imaginable, be it from the good guys to the bad guys to the guys that are treading water in the grey area. Hickman doesn't leave a man behind or out of the equation.

The book itself, coming in at a resounding 100 pages, is broken up into several different sections. The main one, which consists of a Kree invasion of Earth, starts things up. Hickman is certainly an idea guy and like some of the older Marvel writers, people like Claremont, he actually utilizes these characters and their powers in interesting ways. They aren't bland people shooting rays out of their hands, they're more than that. He also has the heroes being heroes, something that I personally appreciate. He also drops huge information bombs that will no doubt have a huge impact on the Marvel Universe. After that, the other sections focus on Annihilius, Franklin Richards, Galactus, and of course Johnny Storm. I will say though that Johnny's death from a year ago isn't cheapened or a cop out, it happened. There is a reason for everything, even his return, and more importantly, it's a reason that makes sense.

The art throughout is one of those rare occurrences of being great. Epting's work is at times a little stiff and photo reference-y, but the level of detail and the way that his work has as much impact as it does is exciting. The real star however is Carmine Di Giandomenico's work on the Johnny Storm and Annihilus story. He's been around in comics for a while, most notably with his collaboration with David Hine on Spider-Man Noir. His style, like you would imagine is definitely a more European feel, is a lot looser in appearance, has a great sense of storytelling, and is reminiscent of a lot of the work that was seen in the original Annihilation story. Really though, every artists style works well together and in concert with Hickman's overall vision for the story.

While the price tag for this issue is a little steep ($7.99), there's ample material here to warrant it. Also, the story is just that good. The only thing that I'm a little worried about is the need to have both the current FF book and a return of Fantastic Four, but with Hickman in the driver's seat on both books, we'll just have to wait and see. It should be fun.

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