Saturday, September 4, 2010

Staying Current(ish) Fantastic Four #581

Fantastic Four 581:“When Everything’s Lost, the Battle is Won”
Cover Date/Price : September 2010 $3.99 (still bitter about the newsstand price….)
Writer/Artist: Johnathan Hickman/ Neil Edwards
Cover Tagline: “All Hope Lies in Doom”

(Editor’s Note- As the famous line says, “brevity is the soul of wit.” …Well, I just got the memo. So I’ll try and keep this post as short as I can, while still giving you a maximum dosage of FF-related goodness.)

What Happened: This issue starts off with a nod to issue #574 (as well as a glimpse into the future!), which featured Franklin’s birthday party. In that issue, a future version of Franklin visited his younger self and the younger version of his sister Valeria and distributed some B-day “gifts.” To his sister, the older Franklin revealed the war of the 4 cities was coming, and to himself he restored his mutant world shaping powers. I guess Val got the short end of the stick on that one.

We catch up with future Frank and find out he’s in cahoots with future Val. While this reveal isn’t huge in nature, it at least tells us Val lives to see tomorrow(and grows up to be a stunner).

As far as big reveals, the next page shows who’s really pulling the temporal strings…

… it’s none other than Nathaniel Richards, the time-hopping father of Mr. Fantastic (and grandpa to Franklin and Val)!
It appears Grandpa Richards has some scheme going, and future Franklin is creating a pocket dimension for them all to escape into once the plan has been enacted.

We cut to a scene in the distant past at the world famous “State University.” Within a class a lively ethical debate rages between two students, Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom. On the subject of “what is right?”, Reed offers that what is best for all is right, while Doom posits that not all are equal, so what is best for the upper echelon is what’s best.

As Reed leaves his lecture, he meets up with his best friend and possible Archie comic reject (look at that sweater!) Ben Grimm. As Ben and Reed have the cliché “you’re not going to spend all weekend in the lab!” jock-to-nerd discussion, a man suddenly teleports into the room with them. It turns out that it’s everybody’s favorite time altering deadbeat dad, and by-default star of this review, Nathaniel Richards!

Nathaniel reveals that he has been involved in a temporal mishap, which involved an exploding “quantum power source.” Because he was near the source of the power, every Nathaniel Richards from every reality was transported to the same point in time, hundreds of thousands of years in the future. In this time, the villain known as Immortus ruled the Earth.

As the resident “time cop”, Immortus declared that all the Nathaniels in one time period was bad for reality as a whole and that much like Highlander, there could “be only one.” So in other words, it was open season on all Nathaniel Richards, and the “great hunt” began, with Nathaniel Richardses (not a typo) killing themselves off left and right. vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Wichardses! And now we get to the crux of the matter: there are only two Nathaniel Richards’ left, and now they are headed for a showdown.

Reed, being dismayed by the news that his own dad is going to fight himself to the death, says that maybe Victor can help. He goes to Doom for help, and Doom makes him grovel accordingly.

Doom gives Ben Grimm a power suit to wear (a nice nod to his future as the Thing), while he dons a familiar looking piece of protective headgear.

The crew heads to the future and finds the alternate Nathaniel Richards waiting for them….

What I Thought: Since the beginning of the “Heroic Age”, the stories in this book have taken on a much smaller scope. I know Hickman is actually in the middle of a big 30 issue arc that he mapped out, but after last month’s “filler-esque” Arcade issue, this plot feels a bit generic as well. But with this issue tying into #574 (which seemed like filler when I read it in December), and the mysterious quantum power source mishap that Nathaniel mentioned, I have a feeling this story is going to pay off at some point down the road.

Having that said, it was still a decent read. The characterizations of Doom and Reed in college were perfect, if not predictable, with each taking that hard idealist line for his own cause. Hickman writes one smug and arrogant Doom, with a certain sense of charm that makes you want to read about him more. It’s reminiscent of Lex Luthor: the guy’s a jerk, but you love to hate him.

I should just do a “cut and paste” review of the art for every month that Neil Edwards stays on this book, because he is consistently great. With this issue, Edwards officially moved beyond a “fill-in” in my mind, and has my sincere vote for the ongoing artist whenever it is Steve Epting leaves. With increasing shades of Bryan Hitch and Michael Turner, Edwards has the ability to successfully mix realistic character design with a science fiction frame. The one thing I will say against Edwards is that many of his panels have little to no background art, but even this helps to focus on the characters a little more.

Overall, this was pretty standard FF-Fare. But that’s not a slam. With good Doom moments, an easy to follow plot, and a quick sense of pacing, I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing who will come out victorious in the “great hunt.” I’m guessing the winner will be Nathaniel Richards, but don’t hold me to that. So until all my alternate reality duplicates have a fight to the death, vive le fantastique!


  1. Great review dude. This looks intriguing. I may have to pick up the trades of Hickman's run. I remember being fascinated by Nathaniel Richards when I read the trade of 'Nobody Gets Out Alive' as a teenager. I really loved that story at the time, proper '90s fun. Have you ever read it Kello? If so I'd love to read your take on it.

  2. I've yet to read that storyline Paul, but I'm slowly making my way into my 90's run of comics (I feel busted into 1987 with my next review).

    I've only read one other tale to feature Nathaniel,(plug: I talked about it in my 4th post here at Four Freedoms). Sometimes I think 90's comics are going to go down in history as some of the biggest "guilty pleasure" reads.