Fantastic Four #570 - 'Solve Everything Part One' - Hickman, Eaglesham and Mounts
Story - For a very simple concept, the Fantastic Four has been difficult for many writers to get right, nobody has really struck the right tone since Stan and Jack. People may suggest John Byrne or Waid and Wieringo, but they still don't come that close. Millar and Hitch had promise early on, but by the end of their run, things had petered out. So now it's the turn of Jonathan Hickman to take the reins of Marvel's first family, and for my money, he does a pretty great job.
This is not Hickman's first go around at the FF, he previously wrote the team's Dark Reign mini-series, which recieved mixed reviews, but I really enjoyed, it was full of great ideas, funny alternate worlds, and some great Norman Osborn moments. Hickman picks up from that series here, as Reed Richards decided to use his 'Bridge Machine' in an attempt to 'solve everything'. That's a big statement, it may be a bit nebulous, but it's a catchy hook for a storyline, it's very Reed, and an inventive writer can do a lot with such an idea, and I think Hickman is the man for the job.
Make no mistake, this opening issue is the Reed Richards show all the way, the rest of the family barely get a look in. But I don't really have a problem with this, Reed has often been short-changed by many writers, and ever since Civil War many fans have hated him with a ferocity close to Tony Stark levels, Hickman began to rehablitate him in DR:FF and he continues here. The issue opens a flashback to Reed's childhood, where he is afraid to leap off a ledge, but his father gives him some sage advice. It's a scene which explains much of Reed's motivation, why he does what he does in general, and also why he does what he does in this issue.
In the present day we see the FF facing one of their old foes, The (Wingless) Wizard, in a scene that is genuinely creepy, the clones' blank faces, and then the poor cloned child, it was a dark touch, but it worked. I also liked how Hickman played up the parallels between Reed and the Wizard, they are both brilliant minds, and both have a desire to change the World, but go about it a different way. Hickman even compares their parenting techniques, the Wizard is disappointed in his 'children', whereas Reed is kind and tells them stories. Hickman set up some interesting threads with Franklin in Dark Reign, but they aren't picked up here as of yet, but I anticipate some interesting stuff with him and the Wizard's son.
Reed's secret Laboratory is one of the coolest scenes I've read in the FF for a while, the scribbles all over the wall, the 'deep in thought' personal touch, it's exactly what a brilliant, distracted mind like Reed would have, that scene is a sense of normalcy, before things get truly weird, and they do get weird, like... Grant Morrison weird. Reed turns on his machine, and is greeted by... himself. Well, not himself, but alternate reality versions. There follows a lot of fun pseudo-scientific words, which even Mister Fantastic doesn't get, but essentially, he's joining The Legion Of Super-Reeds, and it's awesome. It's a kooky idea, and it can go a lot places, Hickman has shown he's got a willingness to do crazy stuff, and an idea like this is much more akin to a DC idea than a Marvel one, especially these days, but the FF should always be going to new places, and this is just that. And that last page, with the Infinitey Gauntlet Reeds... he's even picking up on threads from the Illuminati. Hickman is bringing the FF forwards again, but also tying up some loose ends, and it's a lot of fun.
But there are still some problems, as I said, this is Reed all the way, Sue does pretty much nothing. Johnny and Ben get a bit of set-up for a holiday to Nu-Earth, which should be fun, it's good to see some of Millar's plot threads being picked up, but the balance of the FF is integral to the book's health, and Hickman needs to be able to focus on all the team members equally. Hopefully in future issues he will do, Millar tried to have each of his 4 story arcs focus (sort of) on a different team member, maybe Hickman will try something like that.
But overall, this is a strong first outing for Hickman with the FF, each team member is written well, especially man of the issue Reed Richards, there are some great new ideas floated, and I really got a kick out of the Legion of Super-Reeds. From his Indie work, we know Hickman is a writer with a lot to say and a lot of ideas, I hope things get even crazier from here on out. He's not just doing Galactus and Doom again, this is a personal story in many ways... but a cosmic one at the same time.
Art - Dale Eaglesham was one of the best artists at DC while he was there, which was why it was such a shame he was wasted on Johns' increasingly dull JSA. Now he's at Marvel, I can see his art on a good book!
Much has been written about how Reed is looking too muscular, but I don't particularly have a problem with it. He's a superhero, he fights people all the time. Before it got retconned, he was a WW2 veteran, if you go back and look at Kirby's work, he's pretty tough. To me, it makes Reed seem like Doc Savage or something, a kick-ass science explorer. I also like his stubble, for a man that's driven by work, it makes sense.
The other characters look good too, I like how lumpy Ben is, and Johnny's face is hilarious on many occasions. Eaglesham has a knack for great expressions. I was particularly chilled by the face of the Wizard's child clone, that blank, painful stare, great stuff.
And you can tell he had a lot of fun with the Legion of Super-Reeds, some funny alternates there.
Best Line - 'But to say that you're not even willing to try... that's unacceptable Reed' That pretty much sumes up the ethos of Mister Fantastic.
7/10 A strong opening issue, perhaps too much focus on one character, but the way Reed is written is very strong. There are some mad ideas in here, and some loose ends too. Plus, creepy villain. What more do you want in the FF?