Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Staying Current: Fantastic Four 576-579

(Editor's Note- "Staying Current" is a feature intended to to let all of this site's loyal readers know what's happening within the newest issue of Fantastic Four. However, as the feature hasn't been "current" for quite some time, today is going to be a summary of the past 4 issues. It is urged that in addition to reading these synopses, you go enjoy these books in their fullness, because they are really jam packed with wonderfully engaging stories.

What is essential to understand is that in issue #574 an adult Franklin Richards came back from the future and told his sister Valeria that there would be a war between 4 cities. In issue #575 the FF came across city #1, the city of the High Evolutionary.... )

Fantastic Four #576-"Prime Elements Part 2- The Old Kings of Atlantis"
Cover Date: APR 2010 Price $2.99
Cover Tagline :"Tell me, who speaks for man?"
Writer/Artist: Jonathan Hickman/ Dale Eaglesham

What Happened- The issue starts with Sue explaining to Ben and Johnny the existence of an Arctic base that she and Reed's science grants help to fund. Because of the base's unique location in extreme temperatures, it was of interest to science when it was discovered that there was a large body of suspended water near the area. According to Sue, this means that any living thing in the area will have been untouched by human evolutionary standards for the last 500,000 years, and could follow a divergent evolutionary path.

The research team stationed at the base then discovered that there was some type of "superstructure" beneath the ice. This structure was also of interest to the terrorist group called A.I.M., who Reed discovers via spy satellite is trying to infiltrate the area. Naturally, the Fantastic Four head to the base to stop A.I.M. and any dastardly deeds they may enact on the area.

The FF arrive at the base and are told by of the research team that there is a thermal vent near the superstructure whose sheer noise will prevent the team from communicating while they are below the water. In a masterpiece of graphic storytelling, the comic goes "silent" for the next few pages as the team dives below the water past the thermal vent and finds not only A.I.M terrorists, but giant eel and fish-type creatures as well. The FF repel the A.I.M. threat, and are cornered by what could be referred to as "fishmen." The fishmen give the FF some telepathic communicators (not unlike the brain slugs from tv's Futurama), and the team is taken before three royal undersea figures.

The main royal figure speaks to the FF and identifies himself as Ul-Uhar. He welcomes the team to Atlantis, to which everyone gives a big WHAAAA?? Reed tells Ul-Uhar that Atlantis has been destroyed, to which the other royal figures reply that the entire SEA is Atlantis. Ul-Uhur then goes on to say that he is confused, because the A.I.M. agents and the FF are both human yet fight each other. He then basically asks the FF to "take me to your leader", wondering who the king of humanity is. Reed tells him that humanity isn't like that, with things like democracy, the U.N, and text voting on American Idol speaking for the best interests instead of one person. Sue then stops Reed, and tells Ul-Uhur that she speaks for humanity. Ul-Uhur tells Sue that she needs to deliver a message: "The old kings of Atlantis have returned."

What I Thought: This issue was very powerful. Although at first I felt cheated by the lack of dialogue, it all came together after taking the time to appreciate Mr. Eaglesham's visuals. And seeing Sue step forward as the voice of humanity gave me chills, because it fits her personality yet promises huge repercussions. But that's what a Fantastic Four issue is supposed to do, right?

Fantastic Four #577-"Prime Elements Part 3- Universal Inhumans"
Cover Date: MAY 2010 Price $2.99
Cover Tagline :"How Does One Best Serve the Universal Collective?"
Writer/Artist: Jonathan Hickman/ Dale Eaglesham

What Happened: This issue starts six months in the past on the blue area of the moon, which is home to the Fantastic Four's allies (and sometimes lovers) the Inhumans. The leader of the Inhumans, the tight lipped and ultra cool Black Bolt, summons his people to head out with him into space. Before they leave, Black Bolt and Medusa bid farewell to a white-bearded Inhuman who will be staying behind. Some ominous words about a "gathering" are spoken, and Black Bolt places a large rod (it's kind of like a citronella candle) into the surface of the moon, and then the Inhuman ship takes off. Time goes on, and as the bearded Inhuman waits, he tells the other inhabitant of the moon, everyone's favorite voyeur Uatu the Watcher, that some crazy stuff is about to go down. Suddenly, a giant alien space ship lands on the surface of the moon.

Reed uses his spy satellite (just like last issue!! Maybe he wants Uatu's job) and sees the ship landing on the moon. He tells Sue, Ben, and Johnny that it appears to be a colonization vessel, and invites them to come investigate. When the team gets to the moon, Reed sensors pick up tens of thousands of heat signatures within the vessel, and the team wonders how to get inside. The white bearded inhuman from the prologue appears and invites the team to come inside. The Inhuman reveals that his name is Gandal--I mean "the summoner", and he welcomes the team to the "universal city."

The summoner shows the team around the ship, and asks Reed if he knows how the Inhumans came into existence. Reed gives the summoner a big "duh" and Reed basically tells beardy to "tell me something I don't know. " The Summoner obliges by telling Reed that the Inhumans the FF have come to know are not the only Inhumans. They are creations of the Kree race, and their mutations are brought on by their skins exposures to the Terrigan mists. But the crazy thing is, there are 4 other kinds of Inhumans, all with different catalysts that change them (included in these 4 kinds are Dire Wraiths, who were last seen in this site's review of issue 277).

Reed, Sue, Johnny, Ben, and I are all blown away by the implications of this wide of a scope of Inhumans, but that's not all. The Summoner goes on to tell Reed that Black Bolt went on his space journey to go and destroy the Kree Supreme intelligence, and that when he comes back, he is going to be the leader of all 5 of the tribes of the Inhumans. Reed asks if they plan to live on the moon, and the summoner drops a final bomb: They are all going to live on Earth.

What I Thought: This issue blew my mind. Pure and simple. Jonathan Hickman took a play out of the Geoff Johns handbook and totally retconned an established property such as the Inhumans, giving them an entirely new purpose in the Marvel Universe. In one issue. See, this is why I tell people to read this book!

Fantastic Four #578-"Prime Elements Part 4- The Cult of the Negative Zone"
Cover Date: JUN 2010 Price $2.99
Cover Tagline :"Here you die. In the Negative Zone, you can live."
Writer/Artist: Jonathan Hickman/ Dale Eaglesham (in his final issue...tears.)

What Happened: This story is narrated by Johnny Storm and begins with him scammin on a hottie in da club. Actually for a club it's really weird, and there's a bald guy calling himself the anti-priest and yelling about "new rules for life."

As for Johnny and the girl, he invites her back to the Baxter Building to see his "rocket ship" (okay, that was my joke, not his), and when the girl finds the opening to the Negative Zone portal, this happens:

Yes, you saw correctly, giant mechanical bugs with bombs jumped out of her back and flew into the negative zone. Johnny follows the bugs inside and finds that there is a battle raging with the N-Zone. The battle is being fought between those who follow Ahnillus, the former bug faced ruler of the Negative Zone, and Blastaar, who used to just be a lowly Negative Zone villain. Johnny then goes on to tell that the "#42 Negative Zone Prison" from the Civil war has been re purposed into a city. We as the audience find out at this point that he has been telling the story to Valeria, who is entering facts onto her computer. She comments that the Negative Zone Prison City, along with the city of old Atlantis and the city of the Universal Inhumans, is now the fourth city that the team has recently come across.

We cut to a scene with Susan Richards visiting Ul-Uhur (the king of the Fishmen from issue #576), along with an envoy of Namor. Namor's envoy tells Ul-Uhur two things: Namor is awesome, and until they're willing to come to the surface, the "old kings" of Atlantis have no say in anything. So just to spite Namor, Ul-Uhur raises the city...

We cut back to Johnny, as Reed comes in to have a heart-to-heart with him. Reed basically tells Johnny that bringing that bug filled flusie back to the Baxter Building was really bad judgment, and that everyone else is changing, so Johnny needs to grow up a little.

And just for good measure we end the issue on a scene of the Inhumans. As they prepare to conquer the earth, they offer a sacrifice: they send 6 of their best warriors into a battle they cannot win. The issue ends with the warriors rushing into the negative zone, and a caption that reads "And so, in the Negative Zone, the war of four cities begins."

What I thought: Another terrific issue. Hickman captures Johnny's voice in a way that Mark Millar only wishes he could. Youthful, humorous, but experienced as a superhero, this is a Johnny I'd like to (and probably will) read more about.

As the end of the "Prime Elements" arc, I will say that there was very little resolution here. I don't think you can really criticize something for having too epic of a scope, but it does depend a lot on presentation (like Final Crisis, with its big ideas but limited space). This arc sets the stage for the future of the FF series, which I knew from reading interviews with writer Jonathan Hickman. The casual reader may be a bit put-off by the scope of these stories, and this might falter when read in a trade, but I appreciate that threads from Hickman's first issue are still paying off eight issues later. I'd liken this book to Green Lantern in the sense that everything eventually serves a purpose, no matter how small it may seem. Rest assured, it's a HUGE story, but if you stick with it, it's very satisfying.

Fantastic Four #579-"The Future Foundation"
Cover Date: JUL 2010 Price $2.99 (Thank you, Marvel!)
Cover Tagline :"The Future of Man is not is out there."
Writer/Artist: Jonathan Hickman/ Neil Edwards

What Happened: Our story starts At the Singularity conference in Golden , Colorado. A meeting of the most brilliant minds from around the world, speakers come to Singularity share ways in which Science will effect the future(apparently it's real), and it's Reed Richards' turn to speak. Well, does he have something to say. After praising the ideals of the keynote speaker (who happens to be the She-Hulk, who talked about the ethics of genetics within the confines of the law), Reed rips into his fellow presenters. I never thought I'd enjoy reading a comic where someone gets a "stern talking to", but watching a smart guy tell a bunch of other smart guys that they've gotten lazy is just plain awesome. Anyway, after Reed tells the audience they've gotten old and their ideas are not bold enough, he resigns from the Singularity council like a total rock star.

We cut to a week later, and Alex from the Power Pack is arriving at the Baxter Building. Alex tells Reed that he doesn't feel smart enough to be included in Reed's new project, but Reed tells Alex his experience as a superhero offer him a unique perspective.

We cut to a scene of Sue talking to Ul-Uhur (the king of the fishmen), and he tells her that her request is unusual, but now that he raised the city, he feels as if he can dream again. He tells her that her wish is granted, and the scene leaves us hanging...

We go back to the Baxter Building, where the super smart Moloids who Ben Grimm rescued from issue #575 are doing equations. One Moloid realizes that there is a curved axis that runs through the 4 cities that the FF have recently been exploring...

We then cut to a two page spread about Nu-World, which was seemingly destroyed in issue #573. I'm gonna be honest, I'm not fully sure what this part of the story means just yet, other than it obviously has huge bearing on what's coming up next.

We then jump back to the Baxter Building, where Franklin is sparring with Artie and Leech (these Morlocks were taken in by the FF around issue #574). Franklin is looking for a catch phrase, while Ben Grimm and Alex from Power Pack watch the fighting. In the corner of the room Valeria Richards tinkers with the brain of the Dragon Man, saying she is trying to make him better, but can't get it right. As Franklin beats up his friends, Artie shows Valeria with his mind what the Dragon Man's brain looks like disassembled. Val then asks him to show her with his mind what her pen looks like disassembled, and she thinks it's really cool...

We then cut to a scene of Reed visiting the "Wizard", a.k.a. Bentley Whitman, in his psychiatric hospital. Whitman asks Reed if he solved everything (referring to Reed's former goal in issues 570-573), and can tell by Reed's demeanor that he tried and gave up. Whitman gloats and tells Reed that it is scientific fact that everything will eventually burn. Reed, unimpressed, tells the Wizard that he is going to raise Whitman's young clone (who the FF adopted around issue #570) to be a good person. As you can imagine, the Wizard is not too happy about this development.

When we cut back to the Baxter Building, we see the coming together of all the elements of this issue into one conglomerate: a group called the "Future Foundation", made up of all the kids Reed has adopted as well as Alex and Dragon Man. Whether this has the makings of a new superteam or the comic book equivalent of the Hitler youth movement remains to be seen...

What I Thought: This is the first issue of Fantastic Four to feature "The Heroic Age" banner at the top, and I can very much see how it is intended to be a jumping on point for new readers. In that spirit of renewed hope and direction, it succeeds. We see the culmination of the fact that Reed has been taking in a lot of stray kids lately, and we see the seeds of their role within the promised "war of four cities." While I think it's time the ball got rolling on the war, I'm still impressed by how good these FF stories are.

Woah. There you have it. My brain is sufficiently fried from all that catching up. And since the newest issue of Fantastic Four hits stands today, we'll be seeing the summary of issue #580 shortly. Until I learn to not procrastinate, vive le fantastique!


  1. Hmm, you know, after reading your review for issue #577, I'm kind of tempted to pick it up... For the most part all of these comics sounded pretty good(unlike the abomination that was Mark Millar's run!). You've got me on the fence here Kello!

  2. I know you've been burned before, but this storyline is on par with Green Lantern in terms of epicness. Plus, Steve Epting (from Ed Brubaker's Captian America) is going to be the new artist!