Collects Fantastic Four # 583-588

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Steve Epting, Paul Mounts, Rick Magyar, Mike Perkins, Nick Dragotta

The original issues collected here had a “countdown to casualty” in their covers and that in the end one FF member would die. I, of course, scoffed at it. Let’s face it, there’s been many, many times one of the FF has either fake died or it has been a member from alternate time line or future (yeah, I’m looking at you Miller, as the latest gimmicky “death” writer). This time around… well, I’m not going to spoil it.

The first issue focuses on Valeria, who is now apparently smarter than Reed but still very young. She breaks into Reed’s lab and finds out that he’s been working on the Bridge and what happened because of that. Then, she figures that she needs Doom’s help and teleports herself to his castle. However, Doom has suffered brain damage (apparently on the pages of Hulk?) and isn’t himself anymore. Val strikes a bargain with Doom: she’ll help him get his intellect back and he helps Reed. Also: Val makes a big mistake while spying on her dad.

In the next issue Ben (finally) takes the medicine the kids concocted to him: he gets to be a human for one week each year. The serum takes effect and Ben returns to normal. He and Johnny have a great day. But it all ends when Galactus comes calling: he knows about the future Galactus’ corpse buried deep in the Earth (last seen in Millar’s run). Also, we see Susan really taking on the mantle of Speaker for Man. When the FF found a lost civilization on the bottom of Antarctica, it had three races from an ancient Atlantis living in it. They needed an arbiter from the world of humans, the Voice of Man, and Susan volunteered for it. Now, she going to negotiate a deal between Namor and the other Atlantis people.

Then each of the situations escalate and the group divides to deal with different threats. Susan is trying to defuse a war under the seas and Reed is trying to save the Nu-World from Galactus. Meanwhile back in the Baxter Building Johnny, a powerless Ben, and the Future Foundation kids are dealing with a possible invasion from the Neutral Zone. One of the original members of FF is indeed lost.

In the final issue the remaining FF mourn their fallen member along with all the superhuman community. Even some villains turn up to respect the fallen hero. It’s mostly a soundless comic and the talk at the end between Spider-Man and Franklin is very touching.

These stories start the big pay-off and they also bring a big change to the FF. Hickman has several storylines going and I don’t think it was too obvious who was going to die. (Although I suspected all along that it wouldn’t be Susan because of the kids.) Still, the death hits everyone hard and the almost soundless comic captures that beautifully. Dragotta’s art is different from Epting’s, reminiscent of Kirby, which is fitting. Again I enjoyed the characterizations and especially blustering Namor crying “Imperious Rex!” and Johnny first making fun of Ben and then being with him when he explores the world as a human. The new Yancy Street Gang was also fun. Highly entertaining comic.

Next up is the Future Foundation and a new member to replace the fallen one.