By Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting and Rick Magyar
An established writer before he took on the Fantastic Four, Jonathan Hickman is now regarded as the man who made the book the success that it should always be. The blending of the family dynamic with hard science fiction and fantasy may sound easy, but there is a list longer than Galactus’ thumb of creators who attempted that approach and failed. FF is not just a reboot of the Fantastic Four, it is proof positive that Marvel trusts Hickman’s direction with the title.
As the last issue of the previous series broke records, made the press and got people talking about comic book’s first family again, FF is the next step forward and comes heavily hyped. I am familiar Steve Epting from his work on Captain America and he excels here once again. A cast of sixteen characters would be insurmountable with any other creative team, but Hickman and Epting make it look cozy… or as cozy as sharing your home with Doctor Doom can be.
Following the death of Johnny Storm, the FF take heed to their former teammate’s wishes by recruiting Spider-Man as his ‘replacement.’ This is superb as Parker has a great brain that is seldom utilized in his own book. A gifted scientist as well as a formidable fighter, Parker is also an unofficial member of their family. It just feels right and you wonder why it didn’t happen sooner. In the second issue, another teammate joins the crew, Doctor Doom. The most dreaded foe of the FF ever, Doom comes recommended by Reed’s daughter Valeria, who insists that something will happen in the future that demands Doom’s help.Valeria has been getting progressively more brilliant lately and her knowledge of the future, no doubt gleaned from Reed’s time-tossed father Nathaniel, is another notch in her precocious genius belt.
Due to the events of his abduction by the Intelligencia in the pages of the Hulk, Doom has lost his brilliance. Luckily, he created a back-up copy in his adopted son, Kristoff. By deleting and over-righting Doom’s imprinted brain scan from his son to the original, Valeria and Nathaniel Richards believe that they can fix him.
Ben and Sue are outraged by this turn of events and depart for the nearest bar to drown their rage. The massive android Dragon Man tags along (New York of the Marvel Universe is an odd place). The scene in the bar is very interesting as it establishes the family dynamic of the FF in another way. The team functions as a finely tuned machine, but they know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. Sue loves her husband but she has already seen him side with the wrong decision before in Civil War. Both Ben and Sue are still reeling from the loss of Johnny and no sooner do they begin to rebuild their sense of reality than it goes pear-shaped. Both agree that they need to more firmly decide their place in this new reality they found themselves in and it is unclear what that will be.
The think tank portion of the FF, however, are more than eager to take on the challenge of rebuilding Doom’s mind if only because it is nearly impossible. Yet when the parts are put in place and the operation underway, Reed realizes that he has an opportunity to remove Doom from his life entirely. He falters, but comes to his senses and transfers the saved data from Kristoff to Doom… and the bad guy of all bad guys is back. The final panel is a thrilling image of Doctor Doom surging with power, both of the technological and mystical kind… and who knows what is next.
I have been a big fan of the Fantastic Four since I read my first John Byrne issue as a kid (the one printed sideways when they visited the Negative Zone). Through the many years since I have yearned for the book to reclaim the level of greatness it deserves and with the arrival of Jonathan Hickman I believe that wait is over.
If you aren’t buying this book… start.
The Flash #11
By Geoff Johns and Scott Kollins
The Flash has been gearing up for his place as the centerpiece of DC Comics’ next big event for some time now. Flashpoint will be a crossover featuring more tie-ins than you can shake a foil-covered issue of Shadowhawk at. So can he bear up to the immense responsibility? In short… yes.
Johns is an old pro at rebuilding comic book characters that seem far too broken to function. He has proven this with his work on Hawkman (a hero whose convoluted history is a jaw-dropping mess) and Green Lantern (who had been messed with so much by editorial that it was unclear what the intention was). Along with those successes, he produced an impressive body of work with the Flash with Scott Kollins. The character of the Flash was once the coolest ever, yet he had wavered in recent days. Johns brought some edge and vitality to the book, Kollins introduced a unique art style that hinted at the maestro Carmine Infantino. But that was the ‘modern age’ Flash, Wally West.
The new series sees a return of the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen. Allen is a police scientist, something that was very different in the 60′s and has become fashionable in the 21st Century. Allen is currently working on a case in which the victims are found dead of premature old age. While investigating the mystery, he runs into a different version of himself from another Earth who is also investigating his own case. Bart Allen, Kid Flash, confuses the alternate Allen as he is a temporal anomaly, a being from a probable future who should be dead. Bart also makes Barry uneasy as he is a reminder of the family that he is attempting to avoid by engrossing himself in his work.
The latest issue sees many of these elements come together. Allen’s wife Iris arranges for an intervention for Barry as he is distancing himself from the people who love him. Of course her timing couldn’t be worse as Barry is working on a very important case that has terrible implications. Both Wally West, Barry Allen’s protege, and Jay Garrick, the first Flash from the 40′s are present to provide some mythology for new readers and remind die-hard fans how multi-layered the history of the Flash comic book is. When it comes time for Bart to speak, he bolts and Barry has to run after him… super speed style.
Another development in this issue is the return of an old associate of Barry’s, Patty Spivot. Patty used to work alongside Barry and is reluctant to become involved in the police department or the case for fear of rekindling old flames with her old ‘friend.’ Of course Barry is oblivious to this, but demands that Patty help out wherever possible, especially when a witness to one of the murders is found. A young boy who hid in a container while an unknown assailant attacked the victim, he has refused to connect to anyone but Patty. Seeing that she has little choice but to become involved, she takes responsibility of the witness.
The conclusion of the issue is a two-way shocker as the alternate Barry Allen decides that Bart is the rogue element he has been searching for and the young boy with Patty turns out to be the Flash’s chief nemesis, Professor Zoom. Both are big shocks and hold a lot of suspense for the next issue, but I couldn’t help but feel that this installment was mainly filling up time before the mega-event showed. I’m still a devoted reader and will try and keep up (despite the fact that I have no plans to buy the Flashpoint tie-ins), but the tile becoming part of a larger story threatens the stability of my interest.
The writing and art are still solid and it is nice to see Scott Kollins back on the Flash, even with a distinctly different art style. If yo are an old fan of the Flash, this may not be the best jumping on point, but I can recommend the recently released Flash Omnibus.