Marvel Comics is in the process of releasing the Empyre event and its tie-in issues in trade paperback (See Captain America and The Avengers and X-Men), and it’s Fantastic Four’s turn this week. Collecting Empyre #0: Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four #21-24 and Empyre: Fallout – Fantastic Four #1, this series was one of the most crucial tie-in series you need to read to fully appreciate the Empyre event. This series sees Franklin and Val Richards taking on a secret cult with the aid of Spider-Man and Wolverine to get the job done.
If you were skeptical of the Kree and Skrull making peace, this story opens with a scene involving a Celestial as well as moments with each race of aliens speaking true to their hearts. It’s an interesting way to show how their cultures are now one and things are moving on. This further explains how the child Kree and Skrull in the care of the Fantastic Four are the embodiment of the hate between species that lasted for millennia.
The plotting can meander a bit, but for the most part, it’s good superhero storytelling. We get moments with Spidey, Wolverine, and key scenes with Val and Franklin that should placate fans. A secret organization starts to rear its head, which ends up playing a large part in Empyre. Slott has been good at showing how the Fantastic Four solve problems with their minds, not their might, and you get that in this series. Wolverine and Spidey certainly offer some fun muscle, but the real closer comes from fast thinking. The events in this story end up preventing the main villain in Empyre from getting a huge advantage, which is why this book is important to understanding the larger war. Writer Dan Slott weaves in Alicia Masters in an organic way, too, and it appears she may play the part of the parent that is of sound mind to the kiddos.
The art in this book is by R.B. Silva, Paco Medina, and Sean Izaakse (with colors by Marte Gracia, Jesus Aburtov, Marcio Menyz, Erick Arciniega) split somewhat naturally in each issue. Medina ends up drawing two issues solo with help with Izaakse, while R.B. Silva also teams up with Izaakse with Izaakse closing out the trade paperback with the Empyre: Fallout issue. All of these artists are exceptional at big blockbuster superhero artistry with showstopper moments throughout. It’s not all about powers and splash pages, though, as each artist is quite good at making you feel the humanity in these characters.
In general, there’s a nice flow in the story (though if you haven’t read Empyre it may be confusing to go from Empyre #0 to the main story to the Fallout issue). They smartly positioned Fantastic Four #24 at the end of the collection as it has a natural progression from a few story threads we’ve seen in Empyre and in X-Men/Fantastic Four. Jo-Venn and N’Kalla are now part of the family, officially mixing things up for the familial dynamic as these Kree and Skrull kids add a new wrinkle to the team. Meanwhile, Franklin is allowed to hang out in Krakoa, even if his overprotective mother would rather Franklin stay at home more often than not. These elements are a nice reminder that events and story arcs matter, but they also serve as a great way to change things and make the book feel new again. It’s a nice taster for what the series will be like going forward.
Outside of a somewhat jarring experience when read from cover to cover, certain chapters can have odd pacing. A slowing down of the story only to speed up later can make portions of the book feel boring and then overly action-heavy.
Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 6 is an important chapter in the Empyre event, which is a rarity when it comes to big-two tie-in stories. It’s a good reminder of how this team does their best work when they think their way through a problem. On the other side of the coin, Wolverine and Spider-Man punch up the action, providing the best of both worlds in this series. This is one of the strongest examples of how a tie-in can matter as much as the event itself.
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