Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Staying Current Quickie! Fantastic Four #588

Fantastic Four #588-“Three ,Epilogue- A Month of Mourning”
Cover Date April 2011 Price $3.99

Writer/ Artist-
Jonathan Hickman/ Nick Dragotta
Cover Tagline: “Final Issue"

What Happened: I'm going to forgo the usual longwinded summary, because frankly, I didn't like this issue. I'll get to that in a second, but let me sum up what happens. This issue deals with the fallout of the death of Johnny Storm, but does so without the use of dialogue. Told in snapshots from a "month of mourning", we as readers are treated to a visual feast by artist Nick Dragotta.

As the month rolls along, we see Sue push Reed away, Reed threaten Annihilus with the Ultimate Nullifier, and the Thing throw down with Thor and Hulk all in the name of grief. Doom even appears in a few spots, having lost his position as ruler of Latveria to his successor Kristoff Vernard. We also find out that the kids of the Future Foundation have a new mission: "Kill Annihilus." And finally we're treated to a backup tale featuring the Amazing Spider-Man consoling young Franklin Richards with his own tales of loss. The cliffhanger of the issue? Nathaniel Richards, the time-hopping father of Mr. Fantastic, appears from a temporal vortex, and with him comes word balloons.

What I Thought: So why didn't I like this issue? Well, it's the words "Final Issue" that really get to me. When I think "final issue" of a series as iconic as Fantastic Four, I tend towards delusions of grandeur, as if somehow everything that could be said about these characters is stated with such climatic fashion that you can't help but feel a sense of closure. Instead, this "final issue" feels like nothing but a stop along the way. While the new Future Foundation series (which starts this month) spins directly out of the events of this issue, I fear for the longevity of the concept. I almost feel as if Marvel could have done a "Future Foundation" maxi-arc (that sounds so wrong) within the pages of the Fantastic Four title and all would be well.

But I shouldn't be surprised. The FF have been canceled and relaunched before, and they tend to even out in the long run. It's just this time the gimmick is hurting an otherwise great story (Hickman's epic) instead of inflating a mediocre money grab ("Heroes Reborn"). I've said it again and again that Hickman's bigger story is something to behold, and Marvel wants to market it in all the wrong ways. But then again, I'm buying all the issues, so maybe they're on to something.

And it's not to say this story was awful by any means. It was perfectly acceptable and at times downright heartfelt. The choice to use a completely visual bookend to the series is a rather interesting idea.
I hated the art upon first look, but I soon realized that Dragotta's Gene Colan-esque style is meant to be a homage of sorts to Fantastic Four co-creator Jack Kirby. While I would have preferred Steve Epting completing the entire "3" arc, I can appreciate how Dragotta plays a vital role in the storytelling here. Heck, without the dialogue, the pressure is squarely on his shoulders.
As for the "future" (little pun there) , Hickman has promised a lot of the stories from Fantastic Four will be tying up in the relaunched title. Plots such as the Valeria/Doom deal, the war of the 4 cities, and Franklin's status in the MU are finally going to come to a head. Now if we can get some more Namor/ Sue moments, I may forget how I felt about this issue. So until "dead means dead" isn't an insanely laughable notion, vive la fantastique!


  1. I think we're pretty much on the same page here, Kello. I just didn't really enjoy the lack of dialogue in this one. Dialogue in some parts would have really boosted things in spots. So what's the over/under on when the main Fantastic Four series restarts? I say we get 11 FF books before we go back to the main Fantastic Four series with issue #600. Any thoughts on when you think the main FF title returns to the stands and how? A relaunch at #1? At #600? Starting back up from issue #589?

  2. Hmmm X-Man. Let me concoct a theory, based mostly on the current Thor and Iron Man franchises.

    I think Marvel will launch FF, have it go until the next Fantastic Four movie comes out, and then revive Johnny and move the regular team back to the "Fantastic Four" title. "FF" will still be published, and feature some weird second string team. The book will fizzle out, and we'll have the regular "Fantastic Four" title (with original numbering!) back. Don't get me wrong, FF looks really cool, but I give it all 2 years.

  3. Is there even supposed to be another FF movie? I kind of thought that ship had sailed.

    So it sounds like you expect the FF books to turn into Fantastic Force! :P With the way Marvel likes to cancel books though, I'm not sure if FF will stick around for a full two years. I'd say once the main FF book returns, this new FF series gets the ax. But maybe Marvel will surprise me. I mean they shockingly haven't canceled the Namor series yet!

  4. Fantastic Four will come back, we know that, but it's interesting to think FF will carry on even after that.

    If it does end, I'd like it to be because Hickman had planned it that way, and not because he was told two months in advance it would be canceled.

    If it ends as he planned it, it can be an epic book.

  5. I dont approve of this absurd "future foundation" at all. To me, the Fantastic Four are EVERYTHING. I never wanted this book cancelled in the first place, and will wail with bated breath till my favourite team returns.
    Why they cant have two comics [one for each] I just dont know.
    Hey, my first time posting here!!!!!

  6. Caesar- I agree with you 100%. I hope this story gets to play out naturally, because so much time has been spent putting the pieces into place. Hickman truly deserves the title of "architect" that Marvel has bestowed upon him.

    Karl- Thanks for the comments! I'm always interested in what the hardcore Fantastic Four fans have to say, because I am by no means among your ranks.

    While I do look forward to the "FF" storyline, I know what you mean about the cancellation.
    On one hand, they didn't need to change the entire book to service one plotline. But on the other hand they can always save face and go back to the old title if this "FF" thing doesn't pan out.

  7. Oops, I meant "Cesar"! Sorry, I had Little Caesars pizza for dinner and that name must be on my brain. Many apologies.