Marvel Comics
Fantastic Four #588
By Zak Edwards
March 2, 2011 - 16:33

Marvel Comics
Writer(s): Jonathan Hickman
Penciller(s): Nick Dragotta
Colourist(s): Paul Mounts
Letterer(s): Rus Wooton
Cover Artist(s): Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, & Javier Rodriguez; Variant by John Cassady & Laura Martin
$3.99 US

I have to say, this whole death in the Fantastic Four series never really excited me that much, and after last month’s issue did away with the obvious choice of Johnny Storm, I was tempted to just give the series up in favour of an extra four dollars a month to spend on something else.  Only Jonathan Hickman’s writing is keeping me around, being one of the more talented writers working for Marvel right now, if at the expense of his independent works.  This issue wasn’t really changing my opinion, but the final arc of the issue made up for the silent first half and gave me hope for the Future Foundation series coming.

For a final issue dealing with the death of a major character, Hickman decided to go with a silent first half of the series, taking the characters through the first while of grief at the loss of Johnny.  The silent section has mixed results, but not necessarily with Hickman’s choice and construction of scenes, but mostly in artistic execution, something discussed below.  The characters, with the possible exception of Susan, a character Hickman struggles with, all act as expected: Reed buries himself in work, Ben Grimm is silent and then gets in a fight that allows him to express his grief, Valerie very much follows in her father’s footsteps, and Franklin proves to be his mother’s son.  These reactions may be expected, but in a way which shows Hickman’s ability to write the characters consistently, even if they can be fairly flat at times.  The second half of the issue, with solid interactions between Spider-Man and Franklin, thankfully with words, is wonderful, and the parallel between Johnny Storm for Franklin and Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben shows a thoughtfulness to the entire event and in the formation of Franklin as a future character.  Fantastic Four, in its transition to FF (Future Foundation) appears to be shifting focus to Franklin and Valerie, a choice in focus that interests me greatly.  Overall, Hickman’s writing and construction of this issue continues to depict his ability to look very far into the future, the major asset in choosing to stick with his work.

But the art in this issue was a major drawback.  I can understand artist Nick Dragotta attempt to replicate an older art style that is fairly iconic for the Fantastic Four, but the emotional resonance of the silent half of the issue is inconsistently potrayed, with some moments working very well while others are distracted by extremely heavy lines or strange proportions or perspectives.  Susan Storm especially suffers from heavy lines, large foreheads, and a sort of static movement, all of which detract from the emotional resonance of the issue.  Dragotta’s art works best at a distance rather than the close-up, and the Thing’s encounter benefits from this, but other moments suffer from a lack of expression.  An exception is the close-up of Reed Richards near the end of the silent section, which shows a quiet stress fairly effectively.  The more melodramatic moments, however, are not captured as Dragotta struggles with extreme emotions.  When the characters’ emotions, however, are less pronounced, Dragotta seems to convey the resistance to emotional outbursts fairly well.  The section with Franklin benefits greatly from this, but it also helps that Spider-Man has a full mask.

Grade: B    Well written, inconsistent art, but hopeful for the future (foundation).

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