Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman, Vol 4 - Three

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written by Jonathan Hickman
art by Steve Epting and Nick Dragotta

I had been hanging onto Fantastic Four issues on and off now, and none seemed to impress me as much as this "final" issue of Fantastic Four. With the foreboding title of "Three", it seems that one of the member will go off the pages permanently, although fans of Western comicdom knew how much that will stay, what with all those dead heroes and villains showing up again and again via illogical reasons.

Counting Down to "Three"

This volume is the fourth volume of Fantastic Four, collecting issues 583 - 588 as well as chronicling the supposed death of a certain permanent member of the team.

Marvel's First Family was no stranger to dangerous missions, nor were they unfamiliar with situations when they had to worked out problems without the full team present. Unfortunately super major problems arose, each one of them having an equal chance of turning catastrophic and harm the member that had to confront it, leaving as equal a chance that each of them could perish.



Susan Storm was supposed to aid Namor the Submariner in dealing with other civilizations sharing the same submarine environment, but events turned ugly and she was trapped with the possibility of a war on her hands and no way out.

The genius of the team, Reed Richards, faced a far more intense confrontation in the form of Galactus, when Silver Surfer found out that his master died in an unnatural cause, leading to the discovery of Nu-World. Whether Reed or Nu-World will face the wrath of the Devourer of Worlds, or that both will, remained to be seen.

Back at home, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm were left to look after the kids, and it would have been a happy week for Ben, what with him retaining his human form for a week, were it not for the planned attack by Annihilus' underlings on the Baxter Building. With the portal to the Negative Zone triggered open, the Second Annihilation Wave was in progress. The only thing between the insectoid invaders and Earth was a bunch of clever kids, Human Torch and a very human Thing.

And one of them will perish. Permanently. Well, not that permanent I think...

The Story of Three

Hickman's handling of Fantastic Four stories has seen various novel introduction of surprising elements on the Marvel Universe revolving the family-cum-team members. While the "finale" to the family ended slightly too old-fashioned, with the promise that death will be as absolute as, well, death, the events leading to them were not really too dangerous.

Not all the events were as catastrophic, and although each of them were as endangering and life-threatening to the team member left to handle it, I am too used to them facing such circumstances that it left no sense of threat to them being there. So although there really was a death waiting at the end of the volume, it did took me by surprise as I anticipated this to be just a marketing ploy.

The threat faced by each member could be emphasized more than it was, though I could imagine that to be a tough try since they could even face off such threatening entities such as Galactus and Thanos. Having said that, the story was quite engaging. While not really a page-turner, I still literally chased across page after page to find out what will happen at the end of each issue when a new element was brought to light.

Compared to certain previous issues though, I find that I lean heavily towards some of those more surprising ones. For issues which are supposed to depict the death of an important member, the elements just did not deliver that kind of surprising sensation anymore. Maybe I was still drawn to issues such as those showcasing the Master of Doom and the people traveling from the future to escape the fate awaiting them there. The issues that were supposed to deliver a blow to readers just reared its fists without slamming the punch.

The Art of Three

The overall artwork was done quite nice, favoring darker shades for a foreboding atmosphere. My grief though, was with the end of the volume, where a requiem was shown to take place. The bunch of pages where no dialogue, monologue or descriptions were present presented a dark atmosphere, and that was quite appropriate and fitting, given that a very important member of the team passing away.

What I found disappointed was the artwork where the strokes and character outlines departed from those familiar ones from the rest of the issue. I am no artist and has no authority to comment on artworks, but the requiem seemed to be crudely drawn, with a style which I find to be unappealing.

The style itself is not the issue here, for it is usual for different sections or pages being penciled and colored by different artists, but the fact that such an emotional requiem was chosen to depart from the usual strokes and color, causing the funeral to be strikingly different, is disappointing. But then again, this opinion is strictly personal and does not affect all the collected issues, and is not fair to be used to judge the whole volume.

Three

And there goes Marvel's First Family, with the end of the line for one of their permanent members. Of course, they always bounce back from the dead, leaving the grave to once again depart for mind-boggling adventures. With Hickman working on FF, the next big thing after the family transformed themselves, one could cross his fingers in anticipation of the eventual return.


All images are taken from one of these sources: Comicvine and Marvel Comics website.




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