This newest series of the Fantastic Four opened with portents of bad times ahead for Marvel's First Family. They were slammed last issue, and the cracks are starting to show. Spoilers below.
Let's start with what this issue gets right. The FF have always been a family. Reed and Sue stand strong together, and even after all these years, it's clear that Ben and Johnny see each other as brothers.
There are colossal undersea creatures, massive machines in Reed's lab, a mystery or two for Reed's towering mind. Ben spends a tender moment w/ his longtime on-again-off-again girlfriend, Alicia Masters. These are ingredients of a FF book, and they're not going out of style anytime soon. I feel like they would have already, if they were going to. Which makes watching them lose what's important to them that much more meaningful.
This issue represents a particular moment— the moment on a beach just before you turn around and see the tidal wave that's going to send you head over heels. Things are gonna go bad.
So, Johnny's powers went kaput. Seemingly forever. He seems to accept this fairly well, but the fact that he immediately leaves seems out of character. "Welp, good-bye forever, until you figure out how to get my powers back. Back to being a rock star!"
Ben's time w/ Alicia is stained by the reveal that he's being watched by some ugly hypocrite with evil on his mind. Grimm's vow to keep Alicia safe becomes ominous foreshadowing.
Oh! And as if Johnny's departure isn't bad enough, Valeria has pulled up stakes and run away from home... all the way to Latveria, where "Uncle Victor" welcomes her with open arms. Hoo boy.
The construction company known as 'Damage Control' makes an appearance, standing side-by-side with Reed to assess the damage from last issue's attack on the city. It lends some reality to the comic, confirming that yes, after a devastating encounter, there's clean-up work to do.
Speaking of devastating encounters, who should show up for the issue's end, but a bigger, badder, Frightful Four? With one swing of an enchanted crowbar (don't ask), they're able to tear Times Square to pieces. Johnny tries to leap into the fray, before remembering he can't actually do that anymore.
The combined artwork of Leonard Kirk, Karl Kesel, and Jesus Aburtov continues to impress. The sheer size and scope of the creatures and gadgets is, in a word, fantastic. The splash pages featuring the Frightful Four and Doctor Doom are iconic. It's great looking stuff. And James Robinson's script largely works to show a tightly woven family unit that is slowly but surely unraveling.
Then there's the stuff that doesn't work so well. The issue reveals that the thousands of monsters that attacked last issue a) are still alive, and b) were once human. It's an interesting twist, but it also smacks of bull****, a bit. A video call with Nick Fury (Jr.) confirms that the monsters have been carted away, and he's looking into ways to exterminate them.
Reed has the gall to question Fury's decision, after he himself set every single one of these creatures on fire, before they plummeted hundreds of feet out of the sky onto unforgiving concrete. If these mystery monsters aren't dead already, it's certainly not because Reed wasn't trying hard enough. I get that he's the good guy and that he'd feel bad about killing, but prior to the reveal that these creatures were once human, these things are exactly the sort of baddie that heroes regularly squash with impunity. So go figure.
On the whole, it's a solid FF comic. We're in the thick of important events for them, and things are only going to get worse before they get better. The artwork's great, the writing is steady and well-paced. You should pick it up, if for no other reason than the gorgeous panels of Sue's undersea field trip. It's a definite 'buy'.
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