Fantastic Four #587 - 'Three, Part Five: The Last Stand!' - Hickman, Epting, Perkins, Magyar and Mounts
Story - In many ways, this climactic, penultimate issue of Jonathan Hickman's run on Fantastic Four serves as a microcosm of his entire career. Brilliant and infuriating in equal measure, with fantastic individual moments, but a fundamental lack of... something vital yet hard to quantify which makes his work impossible for me to love. Is it a lack of heart? I don't even know, but this issue was an odd fish, it was satisfying in some ways, but in many others it wasn't.
I come to this issue in a fairly different state of mind to you, in that due to speculating bastards hoovering up all the copies of this book's first print to line their filthy industry-killing pockets, I have been forced to wait a long month for the 2nd print, and therefore know the gist of what happened already, and who it was who died. Now some of you who managed to get a copy of the first print may have been spoiled beforehand, but even then, the death of Johnny Storm burned brightly in your minds, and your reviews will have been fuelled by your reaction to that controversial event. Whereas I have been let that fire flicker down to a small candle. I had gotten used to Johnny being dead before I even read it happening, so my reaction is different, it wasn't a shock to me really, it wasn't really anything but a catalyst for new stories. Now obviously it was that for everyone, but in the heat of the moment, straight after reading a shocking death, reactions will be more heated.
I know I keep using heat puns, most of them are unintentional.
One of the things I liked about this 'Three' story was that there had been no indication which FF member would be dying, there was little to no foreshadowing, so it wasn't obvious. All 4 members were in a dire position of danger, and it could have gone anyway. Sue could have been killed by those evil Fish-dudes, Reed could have been killed by Galactus, and Johnny or Ben could have been killed by Annihilus.
In the end of course, it was Johnny who died fighting off an entire Annihilation Wave by himself, and therefore, this is the strongest part of the issue, what happened here actually mattered, and had some great moments, such as Leech being knocked out and Franklin unleashing his powers, and of course, Johnny's death scene was particularly well done, as Ben reverts to being the Thing just fractions too late, and Johnny goes out like a man.
But the strength of these scenes have the adverse effect of making the situations of Sue and Reed appear much worse. They are revealed to be basically pointless really, they served only to separate the Fantastic Four and cause Johnny's death. It does not seem right that a member of the team should die without everyone else being there. As much as I love how Hickman writes Namor, it was a calculated mis-direction, and one can only hope that the upcoming FF book picks up on those plots, and they go beyond being a simple swerve. One of the weaknesses of Hickman's run is that he hasn't really written the Fantastic Four as a proper team unit at all, he's always focussing on one or two characters at a time, he has never really written the team properly, and for a team as perfectly balanced as the FF, it's a real shame.
So, yeah, this issue was a busted flush for me really, it had some strong moments, in particular the actual death, but overall I was hit by a feeling of there being an opportunity missed, Hickman never really wrote the FF properly, and now he's killed one of them. Of course, the next issue of Fantastic Four, featuring reaction to Johnny's death was really good, and the new book with Spider-Man looks damn good, so maybe this is a good thing, as I said, the time it took for me to read this cooled my reaction from outrage to resignation and interest in what the future holds. I may not love Hickman's work, but I do respect it.
Art - Steve Epting is awesome, I don't think much more needs to be said.
Best Line - 'A billion to one... you think I'm afraid of that? YOU THINK I'M AFRAID OF THAT?!'