Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Steve Epting, Carmine di Giandomenico, Ming Doyle, Leinil Francis Yu and Farel Dalrymple
“FOREVER” Part One THIS IS IT! The 50th anniversary issue of the Fantastic Four! This month we begin the 5-part conclusion to the story that began over 30 issues ago. Joins us for the epic celebration of Marvel’s First Family with 96 pages of all-new content written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Steve Epting, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Leinil Yu and Farel Dalrymple.
Instead of talking about the thing that we all knew was going to happen in this issue and embracing spoilers, I’m going to spend this review explaining to you, our faithful readers, how this is completely worth every penny of that $7.99 cover price.
Find out how after the jump, and beware mighty spoilers.
I think the worst thing that a person could do is leave their reading of this book and only think “wow! Johnny Storm is back!” or “Marvel sucks! They can never let a good character die!” If so, they are focusing on one thing when this entire issue is a cavalcade of incredible comic book storytelling.
It’s not every day that you see a comic that costs $7.99, but I can say matter-of-factly that this comic is completely and utterly worth that price. This comic presents readers with 31 pages of main story from artist Steve Epting and 65 pages taken up by four other stories that feature art from artists Carmine di Giandomenico, Ming Doyle, Leinil Yu and Farel Dalrymple, with everything written by series architect Jonathan Hickman.
Not a single panel of those 96 pages are wasted, as the main story effortlessly flows out of the closing pages of FF #11 and sees all of the tributaries that have been developed in Hickman’s run begin to meet together into a mighty river of bad news for the Earth and its heroes but with one most excellent silver lining in the return of Johnny Storm.
The main section of the comic is filled with incredible moments through and through, most definitely highlighted by Johnny’s return and his response to seeing Peter Parker in a (to him) weird costume. It was inherently a big moment, but the presentation from Epting and the build-up from Hickman make it a transcendent one for comic fans. Other top spots include the fierce loyalty and defense Ben Grimm throws towards his long-time love Alicia Masters, the bridging of Sue Storm’s powers with Tony Stark’s suit, and the Future Foundations machinations with the top floors of the Baxter Building coming to fruition, all of which help make this easily one of the most memorable comics of the year from Marvel.
It’s simply fantastic to see the recent events begin to pay off, as the return of the Supreme Intelligence, the Reed/Nathaniel/Doom bits, the Inhumans and the Annihilus story lines are all starting to overlap and represent one titanic mess for the Fantastic Four and their friends. I love how, amidst all that, Hickman layers little threads (like Leech’s use of the word “practice”) in there that see great pay off in the back-up stories.
And those back-up stories by themselves are worth every penny, as we see can see the true depth of what Hickman has been doing.
As I said, some will complain about the return of Johnny Storm, but the way Hickman delivers it (with the aid of incredible art from Carmine di Giandomenico), deus ex machina ignored, adds significant drama and all of the back story we could ever want or need behind it. Stories like that one, Ming Doyle’s Black Bolt/Medusa centric one, Leinil Yu’s Galactus “break glass if needed” story, or the Farel Dalrymple Franklin and Leech story act on their own as significant and spectacular little stories, but the fact that they beef up the value of the main story mean they are two-fold successes.
I have to give a big shout out to Hickman and Dalrymple on their story, titled “Remember.” We had previously seen – in memorable fashion – adult Franklin giving a pep talk to young Franklin and helping him rediscover his Omega level powers, with young Franklin creating a baby universe in the process. This story shows what Franklin and Leech do with that baby universe, and what a mysterious white figure (that looks strangely like adult Franklin’s outline) does with the opportunity to work with them. Hickman is a writer who we’ve long known to be a master crafter of stories and of developing highly imaginative concepts, but this charming little story finds Hickman embracing his inner child while developing that “practice” word’s background from the main story.Continued below
There are five artists that work on this issue, and all of them completely nail it. Each of them have wildly different skill sets and styles, but each of them are perfectly attuned to the story they are working on and Marvel/Hickman/whomever deserves massive props for doing just that. Each artist has specific strengths that work particularly well for their individual story, and it makes them pop all the more. Really, this book is worth $7.99 just for the efforts of Epting, di Giandomenico, Doyle, Yu and Dalrymple.
Major props to Epting though, whose final page in this issue will assuredly be a highly prized treasure for original page collectors. It was one of the major moments of 2011 in comics, and he completely stuck the landing and then some. A career defining moment for the artist, assuredly.
Fantastic Four #600 is an issue that had high expectations, high cost and high degree of difficulty. With Hickman and his cadre of talented artists tasked with the new job, we knew they wouldn’t disappoint, but from page one to the very end, this is a highlight reel book for what Big Two comics can and should be. Bravo to everyone involved, and I can’t wait to see what is next.
Final Verdict: 9.9 – Buy