Marvel comics

Collects FF 18-23

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Nick Dragotta, Steve Epting, Chris Sotomayor, Chris Peter, Andé Araújo

Volume 4 collects a lot of one-shots. In the first issue, the FF kids are minded by Johnny. They get to have their first field trip – to the Negative Zone. But there’s trouble brewing and as the current monarch, Johnny has to tend to it.

In the next issue, the FF go to Wakanda in a companion piece to the two-issue Wakandan arch in the Fantastic Four. While Reed and Susan confront the magical part of Wakanda, the kids are riding around and having fun, until they come face-to-face with the infamous Hyena tribe.

The next couple of issues tie up dangling plotlines with Inhumans, and Johnny.

Then, it’s the little clone Bentley versus his “dad”, the adult Wizard. Wizard is convinced that his clones can never be anything else than little copies of him, destined to be an evil madman. Is he right and Bentley’s destiny is already written?

In the final issue, we return to adult Valerie and Franklin. In a bittersweet story they have to say goodbye to their family.

These issues tie up the Hickman run very nicely but they’re not essential to the storylines, unless of course the reader is interested in knowing what happened to Annihilus in the end or what happened with the Inhumans. However, they’re an entertaining bunch and less disjointed than the Fantastic Four volume 6.

The Future Foundation was a great idea and for the most part is was well written. There were a lot of kids, and adults, but most of them got a scene or two in every issue. The group had quite an interesting mix of kids. The most annoying one was Bentley and even he felt (still) adorable with his anger and assumed evilness. But Valerie started to creep me out more than a little bit. She’s only three years old and already reading, writing, and doing calculations better than Reed. She doesn’t really have a childhood; she’s like a small adult and is just frustrated when her parents tell her what she can’t do. Otherwise, I really liked Val and Franklin’s relationship. Overall, this was a good read and companion comic to Fantastic Four.

Collects FF 12-17

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Juan Bobilo, Marcelo Sosa, Nick Dragotta, Steve Epting, Chris Sotomayor, Paul Mounts

The first four issues happen at the same time as the Fantastic Four “Forever” story and we finally get to know what “All hope lies in Doom” means. Also, the fate of the Reeds from the other dimensions is revealed.

Issue 16 is the aftermath of the big fight and the revelations about Franklin. Valerie has to also face the music for all the things she’s done behind her parents’ backs.

Then Johnny moves in with Peter. After returning from the dead, Johnny feels that he needs a change and so he becomes Peter’s roommate. Peter isn’t thrilled, to say it mildly.

This is an excellent companion volume to the “Forever” trade. It’s not absolutely necessary but it has a pay-off to the multiple Reeds storyline and the Doom story, too. I enjoyed following the FF kids and the Johnny/Peter issue is quite funny.

Collects Fantastic Four 605.1-611

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Mike Choi, Ron Garney, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Karl Kesel, Ryan Stegman,

This collects a series of shorter stories with various artists. They feel quite disjointed after the previous long storylines.

In the first issue we get to see a Fantastic Four in a world where the Nazi Germany conquered USA.

In the next issue our familiar First Family does some exploring in dangerous circumstances.

Next up is a two-issue story set in Wakanda. T’Challa has had to abdicate the throne and his sister is the new queen. But T’Challa has another quest and he asks Reed to accompany him. Reed has to confront the magic which is the source of T’Challa’s powers.

Then, in another one issue story, the Defenders from the Future are going home in a strange way. Essentially, the Nu-World storyline is wrapped up here.

Then, it’s A.I.M. and the Wizard vs the Fantastic Four plus Spider-Man. A.I.M. has bought themselves a whole island and the US president is worried about it. So, he sends Reed’s team to see what the A.I.M. is up to. The story continues with Bentley, the Wizards’ young clone, in a FF comic which isn’t in the collection.

The trade ends with Dr. Doom which feels appropriate. In the FF comic, Doom was left on the Bridge to secure the others’ escape. Now, Reed, his dad Nathaniel, and the adult Valerie return to the Bridge.

Hickman’s run was a wild ride. I bought the individual issues and rereading them I remember the long wait between them. I got them about every four months, three-four issues at the time which turned out to be a good way to read them. He did use a lot of set-up which I understand can frustrate some readers but the pay-off was worth it. In these final issues he sets up future adventures, too, intertwining Reed and T’Challa’s destinies together and showing some of the background for his own stories, too. Most of the time I enjoyed them a lot. His characterization was very good, especially with Susan. He used classic elements and foes like Galactus and the Inhumans but also brought in new things. Great stuff! That said, this last volume isn’t a necessary read.

Collects Fantastic Four # 600-605

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

Most of Hickman’s long-term plots come to an explosive, and cosmic, conclusion in this trade. Issue 600 is a double sized anniversary issue where the Avengers and the FF unite to defend the Earth from the Kree Empire, led by the reborn Supreme Intelligence. We also finally find out what happened to Johnny Storm. He returns and leads his own army against the Kree. However, the huge fight escalates further with the appearance of Galactus and the three Celestials!

So if you have read the earlier trades leading to this one, it’s the big payoff. If you haven’t… don’t start with this collection. It’s an excellent conclusion to the story. Pretty much the only I dislike is the brief appearance and disappearance of the Inhumans. I found them more distracting to the story than adding anything, especially since they’ve changed so much since I last saw them. But maybe that’ll change after I read War of Kings.

I very much enjoyed Johnny’s story this time around and would have loved to see more of his Light Brigade (but I don’t think they were seen much after this story). But I think that I disliked his quick reappearance the first time I read these, simply because his sacrifice was written so well that his return felt like cheapening it. Of course, he did die, several times.

In the final issue, 605, Reed and his dad travel to the future of Fantastic Four, the Future Foundation, and the Earth and we’re shown Ben’s startling future. It was clearly a cool off from the previous issues and an epilogue of sorts but I’m not sure if it really added much.

Collects FF 6-11

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Greg Toccini, Steve Epting, Barry Kitson

The first two issues concentrate on the Inhumans. They’re back from conquering the Kree Empire on the pages of War of Kings. Apparently, Black Bolt died during the limited series but now he’s back. He’s also changed because he wants to rule the Earth. The two issues have a different artist, Toccini, so they feel very different from the usual FF comics.

In the previous trade, the alternate universe Reeds were attacking the High Evolutionary’s Forever City and now Attilan interferes with that fight. And Reed and Peter, Reed’s dad Nathaniel and the villain gang are also fighting against the Reeds.

The fights look cool but there are a lot of characters and their motives aren’t told or are baffling. (Crystal is now married to Ronan the Accuser?? And she agrees to attack the other Inhumans??) It’s, of course, because this continues a storyline from the War of Kings trades and I haven’t read them. They’re available through Marvel Unlimited, though.

There are some intriguing things in this trade, too, but they’re set up for future stories. Doom’s, er, situation with an alternate Reed is a very interesting thing which happens late in the trade.

Sadly, a disappointing trade for those of us who haven’t read War of Kings and it ends with a cliffhanger (although of course the FF, Avengers, and the X-Men are going to kick Kree butt in the next issue). The storyline continues in Fantastic Four volume 5.

Collects FF 1-5

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Steve Epting, Barry Kitson

The storylines from the Fantastic Four continue here and they could be confusing to people who haven’t read the previous issues. In this trade, we find out what became from Val’s deal with Doom and what happened with the Reeds from alternate universes: they’re now running around in the main universe and apparently trying to wreck it in the name of greater good. This is all very exciting but I’m just not sure that destroying Earth in order to help other planets is really something Reed would do, so it seems a strange goal for the alternate Reeds.

But first, the fallen FF member gets a replacement: Spider-Man. However, I felt that Peter is here quite muted. Maybe the loss of a friend which is probably on his mind all the time does it. But he’s clearly not the main star there, the FF are. He just hangs around, not doing much.

The first issue ends with Doom teaming up with the FF. The rest of the team doesn’t want anything to do with him but Reed and Valeria force it to happen. Reed and Valeria also establish a council of villains which consists of the High Evolutionary, Diablo, the Mad Thinker and Wizard and his A. I. M. flunkies in addition to Doom. They’re supposed to give Reed advice on how to defeat the other Reeds. The problem with this, as Susan points out, is that the FF has defeated them many times so I’m not sure how they can be of assistance. But the snark level is high.

Frankly, after “Three” this is a bit of a let-down and not as entertaining. The storyline doesn’t end in five issues, either, but is just heating up. But we get Doom and Kristoff. And the Future Foundation kids who are always fun.

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.

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