Page 45 Review by Stephen
Bumper book of brilliance and one of the best runs ever on this sporadically functional family. I've hardly had to change a word since my original reviews in 2010, just find you the appropriate pretty pictures.
Even the opening quote sent shivers back up my spine after all this time.
But you'll also find plenty of fun!
Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman vol 1
"So... you've been spending a lot of time with yourself."
"Yes, yes I have."
Right from the cover with its heads circled around the logo, the whole thing smacks of the George Perez era made glossy with Eaglesham's finishes feeling half John Cassady, half David Finch - clean and sturdy with hairy forearms and some great stubble on Reed Richards. Thought's even gone into the flashbacks which find a school-aged Reed receiving sound advice from a father who could never quite follow it himself. There the pages are framed by corners of copper wiring and old transistors. And I loved the Perez era, but this is so much sharper and on a much grander scale.
For a start there are some neat parental interactions, background smiles, and a broad theme of having to try without the fear of failing. There's also the potential for more marital strife as Reed becomes obsessed not with his successes but with the potential he has squandered to do more. For in the face of a future far from bright and in his search to solve everything, he has discovered The Council - The Council of Infinite Reed Richardses. They show him The Farm: hundreds of previously uninhabitable planets terraformed to feed galaxies. They show him The Hole wherein a legion of Dr. Dooms are locked away, collared by a mechanism that destroys their higher functions. Then they show him the infinite possibilities of solar surgery from the Upper Dimension. The problem is, he may have to choose between all that accomplishment... and his family.
There's a poignant but also joyful juxtaposition between Reed's dramatic Extra-Dimensional exploits and the morning breakfast table where dreamboat Johnny Storm is a bed-haired slob in a vest, and almost certainly talking with a mouth full of cereal when he's peeved to hear that Franklin wants Spider-Man to come to his birthday party:
"What do you want that guy for? If you want a super-cool superhero at your party --- someone that says, "Franklin Richards: Livin' The Dream!" -- then you're gonna want the Human Torch, kid. I'm sure I can squeeze it in."
"Mom, I'd really rather have Spider-Man."
"Listen, I'm going to tell you this because no one else will, Franklin. Spider-Man sucks."
"You suck, Suckface!"
"Okay, Mom. Fine. Sorry, Uncle Suckface."
Johnny's not just vapid here, he's hilariously childish, only a few mental grades up from Franklin. There are neat visual nods in The Council to previous incarnations of the FANTASTIC FOUR, some interesting variations on former foes, and a return to a Nu-World gone wrong. But Hickman's opening salvo culminates ominously after Franklin's birthday when, late at night, the family's home is invaded by an intruder who has grave news for daughter Val. Unfortunately Franklin stumbles on him first and his mother watches helplessly as her young son is 'neutralised' in front of her. What Sue says next is born of pure maternal instinct:
"It doesn't matter if it takes me the rest of my life, I'm going to find you... I'm going to find you and make you wish you had never been born."
Or is it?
Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman vol 2
A second tremendous book by Hickman, this time with 100% Eaglesham wonder as the Fantastic Four do what they always do best: explore.
It's more science than supervillains and that's how it should be, give or take a Latverian despot. In four seemingly self-contained chapters Hickman and Eaglesham take us around, under and high above the Earth as Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben encounter other races. Some species are new, some quite familiar, for Hickman is building a wider picture peace by peace (sic). But one thing's quite clear: we are surrounded.
Some clever new ideas like the home-pad analysis after each episode (then, tellingly, during one) and I'm still laughing at Johnny Storm striding onto the Antarctic Ice wearing little more than cowboy boots and a pair of black, red- and gold-flamed boxers. Why would The Human Torch need insulation?
NB This volume also includes DARK REIGN: FANTASTIC FOUR #1-5 which I've never read and a slither from DARK REIGN: THE CABAL.