By Colin Andersen
Jul 1, 2011 - 16:30
Without a doubt, Jonathan Hickman has made the Fantastic Four comics books the most relevant and highest quality that they have been in a very long time even if, ironically, they are no longer called the Fantastic Four. FF #5 carries this recent tradition by really kicking off the long-awaited “War of the Four Cities” storyline. As the cover might hint, this issue brings back some very important characters that only make this story more interesting than it originally seemed.
I’d try to avoid spoilers for the end of this issue if the cover didn’t go ahead and spoil it for you: at the end of the FF #5, Black Bolt (along with the rest of the familiar Inhumans) returns to Earth, looking less-than-happy and ready to start a whole new battle. No explanation is given yet for how Black Bolt has returned from his death during his battle with Vulcan in the pages of War of Kings a couple years back, but no doubt Hickman has some explanation yet to come.
It’s moments like these where Hickman really shines. Sure, his long, well thought-out story arcs are excellent as well, but the emotion in his writing is the best thing that he brings to FF. You can “see” how his characters feel just by reading what they say. This especially true of any of the moments between Reed and Sue Richards; their absolute love of each other is always apparent and you can hear the heartbreak and disappoint when they confront one another. Unfortunately, even someone like Hickman can occasionally stumble at these quiet moments. Though I am one who thought that Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters should still be together, Hickman writes a rather blunt scene between that simply says that they belong together without ever showing it in their words; they just decide that given recent events, they should try again. Perhaps I’m misreading the section and it really is just the sorrow of a mutual friend’s death that reminds them that they need each other, but their dialogue never truly convinced me of this. Luckily, Hickman is spot-on nearly everywhere else in the issue.
No matter how good Hickman is at writing, FF would be nothing with a poor artist attached to the series. Thankfully, readers are blessed with having Barry Kitson penciling he makes every character glow. Like their dialogue, all of the characters’ emotions are laid bare for the reader: you can see the shock of Sue’s face when she realized the Reed with the Mole Man “isn’t her Reed” and the sorrow on Reed and Ben’s faces when they are sad is truly heart wrenching. His battle scenes, however brief they may be, are energetic and fun and hard-hitting where they need to be. If I had one complaint it would be that show of his personal touches on a figure don’t quite look right. For example, for the second issue in a row, he has made Dr. Doom’s mask too expressive. For most characters this would never be a problem, but Doom’s mask should be static to convey his arrogance and removal from the events around him. Also, the face he uses for The Thing just looks off to me for some reason, but this could be a matter of taste. All in all, this is a damn fine looking book and Kitson is quickly becoming one of the quintessential FF/Fantastic Four artists.
I honestly cannot believe the way that Hickman has improved the Fantastic Four franchise since he took over. It has consistently been excellent and this issue is no exception. As far as I’m concerned, everybody should be reading this series, in trades or single issues, because it is just that good. The biggest complaint I can give this issue is that it’s over too soon.
Rating: 9 /10