It’s Jonathan Hickman. It’s Fantastic Four. We’re three volumes into this. You know at least a little bit what you’ve gotten into.
This volume’s a significant one – where volume 2 was centered around the great tragedy in Fantastic Four #588, volume 3 is all building up to the explosive climax that the run has always been about. From the first issue of Dark Reign: Fantastic Four to the final issue of this collection, the many threads throughout this run come together to weave a gorgeous tapestry. If you’re reading comic reviews, you likely are online enough to have seen the big moment of the climax at some point or another, but whether or not you have, it hits incredibly hard every time. Hickman paced the story incredibly well, leading to so many emotionally cathartic moments on top of the bombast he’s known for. In short, the run rules.
This collection also rules – it’s the first one that has to handle the actual crossover between Fantastic Four and FF, and does so very clearly. Between every issue is a title page, which is already one of my favorite practices in comics, and they ensure that it’s clear where Fantastic Four returns and when each of its issues starts. Fantastic Four #600, the first F4 issue in the run, is noted as “Fantastic Four Vol. 5: Forever” and every time another issue of F4 starts, the title card reads “Forever”. It’s kind of weird to focus this long on title cards of all things, but I genuinely really appreciated how they were able to maintain the optimal reading order for the big climactic crossover between the titles while still making it clear which issues were which.
The weakest part of this arc is the art — or maybe I should say some of the art. When Steve Epting or Nick Dragotta are working, this is a beautiful book. Epting is one of the most underrated superhero artists in my opinion; a lot of people seem to see his work as something better stylized for a more subdued run like Brubaker’s Captain America or even Velvet, but he delivers the grand scale that the climax of this run deserves.
But there are a lot of… less great artists in this collection. Greg Tocchini is a pretty solid artist as you can see in works like Low, but is not putting out his best work in FF. Barry Kitson isn’t bad, but feels more generic than what befits this series. Carmine DiGiandomenico only does a small bit, and he’s not bad at all, but he’s clearly not as refined as his more recent work on titles like The Flash. The worst of the bunch is Juan Bobillo — the way he draws children is the stuff of nightmares, and the rest of his work is only a little bit better. His work is especially jarring when juxtaposed with Epting’s.
But seriously, when “the art isn’t always great” is the only negative thing I can say about this book, it’s for a reason. Hickman’s Fantastic Four has always been, well, fantastic, and this collection’s contents are no exception. The reason people keep coming back to this run, the HUGE draw of it, they’re all here. Even if more recent comics have had you wondering if the Fantastic Four were actually worth reading, this run proves they absolutely are.
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