Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

“All Hope Lies in Doom” — Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Epic Part IV

I’ve been having a fantastic time (pun definitely intended!) reading Jonathan Hickman’s epic run on The Fantastic Four.  Click here for part one, click here for part two, and click here for part three.

Now, at last, we come to the final issues of Mr. Hickman’s massive story-line.  Everything came to a head in Forever, the story-line in Fantastic Four #600-604 (collected in Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four volume 5) and it felt in some ways, like the end of the story.

FF Volume 3 — All Hope Lies in Doom — FF # 12-16 — But, in fact, Mr. Hickman’s story was not yet over.  Opening the pages of this collection, I realized that I had forgotten about a huge story-line left hanging by the events of Forever — what the heck had happened to Dr. Doom??  Young Valeria, Franklin, and the other kids of the Future Foundation find themselves trapped in Latveria, along with Nathaniel Richards, Doom, and Kristoff, who are under the sway of the last surviving evil Reed.  Together they journey back to the between-universes realm of the destroyed Council of Reeds, where a number of very angry Celestials await them.  It is in these issues that Nathaniel’s plan lies revealed — to find a way to change the past and delay the Celestials by just a few minutes from their arrival at Earth (where they will battle Galactus as seen in the pages of Forever).  Those few minutes will, Nathaniel & Future Franklin and Val believe, be enough to change a key event and give our heroes a chance for victory.  The events in this collection at first feel like a side-bar from the main story, but I love how quickly we understand that these are critical events indeed.  I love the multi-sided battle-of-wits between Nathaniel, Doom, the evil Reed, and Valeria, with each character plotting and scheming against the others and the reader rushing to keep up with what is going on.  I adore the version of Doom we see in these stories — he’s evil and arrogant, but incredibly smart, a powerful enemy and ally.   Sometimes I feel writers write Doom as too much of an egotistical idiot, but this Doom is clearly clever and dangerous.  But he’s also noble in a way, and I love the bizarre almost-friendship that we see formed between Doom and young Valeria.  I also love the connection we see in these issues between Franklin and Galactus (I LOVE that Future Franklin calls Galactus “Galen”).  Great stuff!  Reading these issues sheds new light on many of the events of Forever, helping to flesh out the story and to address story-threads I hadn’t even realized had been left hanging.

Fantastic Four volume 6 — Foundation — Fantastic Four #605-611 — The final collections of both Fantastic Four and FF together represent a series of epilogues to Mr. Hickman’s story.  The main tale has been concluded, but I love that Mr. Hickman stayed on both titles for a few more issues, to flesh out the resolution to his various story-lines, and to explore a few different nooks and crannies of the tale he was telling.  In Fantastic Four #605, Reed and Nathaniel travel into the future to discover the final fate of Ben Grimm.  This issue provides an intriguing suggestion as to what the future holds in store for The Thing (one that I wonder if future FF writers will pick up on), and ultimately it builds to a very heartbreaking ending.  In Fantastic Four #605.1, we learn the origin of one of the three Reeds who led the Council of Reeds (and caused so much trouble in recent issues).  This issue epitomizes these epilogue issues, in that while this story is in no way essential to the saga Mr. Hickman was spinning, it provides some fascinating backstory and further dimension to one of the central characters in the tale.  Fantastic Four #606 brings FF mailman Willy Lumpkin into the story, and boy, nothing makes a long-time FF fan like me happier than seeing ol’ Willy Lumpkin!  Fantastic Four #607 & 608 tell a two-part tale set in Wakanda, one that on the surface seems a little random, though in hindsight I realize that this story planted important seeds for storylines that would bloom in Mr. Hickman’s current run on Avengers and New Avengers.  Fantastic Four #609 returns to Alyssa Moy and the characters of Nu-Earth (characters and concepts created by Mark Millar during his run on the FF that preceded Mr. Hickman’s).  As I commented in earlier posts, I don’t think Mr. Hickman’s depictions of these characters really jives with how Mr. Millar wrote them.  However, that being said, this issue provides a far more satisfactory resolution to these characters’ story than where Mr. Hickman had previously left them.  Fantastic Four #610 returns us to the Wizard and his young boy, whom Reed Richards had adopted in one of the earliest issues of Mr. Hickman’s run.  This is a great example of why, as I wrote above, these Fantastic Four and FF issues should have been collected together.  This issue ends on a cliffhanger, one picked up in that month’s corresponding issue of FF.  But this collection just presents the end of this story as an unresolved, enigmatic moment, then moves on to the next issue.  Very weird.  Finally, Fantastic Four #611 picks up on where we’d last left Dr. Doom and his Parliament of Doom (all of the brain-wiped Dooms left by the Council of Reeds).  It’s a great final story for Dr. Doom.  (I love Doom’s comment about his experiences with the power of a God: “I found it… beneath me.”  Man does Mr. Hickman write Dr. Doom well!)  We also get a few final moments with Nathaniel Richards and Future Valeria.  All in all, I loved this volume, it was a great wrap-up for Mr. Hickman’s story-lines.  Except we’re still not quite at the end…

FF volume 4 — You Are Whatever You Want to BeFF # 17-23 — This collection of one-off stories and epilogues is even more far-out than the previous Fantastic Four collection, though just as wonderful.  FF #17 is a hilarious comedic story, telling the tale of Peter Parker and Johnny Storm’s ill-fated month as room-mates following Johnny’s return from the Negative Zone.  The image of Annihilus on the toilet is one of the silliest, craziest things I have ever seen in a Marvel comic book, and while I am not sure exactly how this pants-wearing Annihilus fits into the same universe of the deadly-serious goings-on in recent issues of Fantastic Four and FF, I don’t care.  What a great last page.  FF #18 addresses the situation in the Negative Zone following Johnny’s return to Earth, and finds a clever way to bring the Negative Zone back to something approaching the status quo for future FF writers, without ignoring everything that had come before in Mr. Hickman’s story-line.  FF #19 tells a story of the Future Foundation kids in Wakanda, in a story clearly meant to take place concurrently with Fantastic Four #607-608.  FF #20-21 give us a little more information on the status of the Inhumans and, in particular, Crystal & Ronan the Accuser, following the events of Forever.  The ending of Crystal and Ronan’s story is sad.  I wish I had a little more clarification, though, on why it was so important to Supremor and Black Bolt that the couple separate (especially after Supremor had seemed to give Ronan his leave, as gratitude for aiding in his resurrection, back in Fantastic Four #601).  FF #22 concludes the story begun in Fantastic Four #610, as the boy now called Bentley has to choose between the path of the evil, mad Wizard or that of the heroes in the Fantastic Four.  I love the time spent in this issue with all the kids in the Future Foundation, and I love the ending given to Bentley.  (But, wait, Valeria is only supposed to be THREE years old???  That’s crazy, it’s always seemed to me that she was depicted as being eight or nine.)  Finally, FF #23 gives us a great story of the young and future versions of Franklin Richards.  It’s a sweet, quiet tale that provides a lovely wrap-up, both for those characters’ stories, and for Mr. Hickman’s entire run.

What a delight it has been to discover Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four.  I am sorry that I didn’t follow these comic books as they were being published monthly!  Mr. Hickman has crafted a phenomenal Fantastic Four saga, one that is suitably epic in scope but also very, very personal for all of the FF characters.  Mr. Hickman did a wonderful job using many classic characters from the Fantastic Four’s storied history (The High Evolutionary, the Mole Man, the Kree, the Inhumans, Ronan the Accuser, Galactus, the Celestials, Nathaniel Richards, and on and on and on) while also contributing a thrilling number of his own brand-new characters and concepts to the FF universe (the Council of Reeds, the Parliament of Doom, the Future Foundation, the different families of Inhumans, and on and on).  Mr. Hickman’s run definitely stands among the greatest Fantastic Four runs of the comic’s history.  I am so happy to have discovered it.

Because Mr. Hickman referred to a number of characters and story-lines from Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s run on Fantastic Four (twelve issues that immediately preceded Mr. Hickman’s taking over the FF), after concluding Mr. Hickman’s saga, I decided to step backwards and re-read Mr. Millar’s story-line.  I had mixed feelings on that run when it was originally published, and I was eager to give it another look.  I’ll be back soon with my thoughts!

The volumes discussed in this post are: Fantastic Four volume 6: Foundation; FF volume 3: All Hope Lies in Doom; and FF volume 4: You Are Whatever You Want to Be.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone