The penultimate issue of Fraction’s (and now Kesel’s) run on the Fantastic Four goes some way towards explaining just what the heck has been going on, but I have to admit… I’m still feeling kind of confused by it all.
The issue opens with a flashback to #1, with the FF back in time at the dawning of mankind, and where Reed received the bite from that Dinosaur that caused him to discover their powers are breaking down. Only, for some reason, this flashback is different, and ends with Johnny getting bitten. It’s not clear whether this is just a fever dream on the Torch’s part, or history being changed, but I’m leaning toward the former. The ‘real’ Fantastic Four meet up with their alternate universe counterparts, and the reason for their powers’ malfunctioning is revealed. I may have misread this, but from what I gathered, the alternate FF, after losing their powers at the hands of Doom, sent a flare containing those powers out into the multiverse, in the hopes of finding other versions of the Fantastic Four to come help them. They knew to do this because they previously had gone to another reality and dealt with another ‘Doom The Annihilating Conqueror’, an event which is a universal constant, that happens on every reality. Our version of the FF received these extra powers, but it was an overload, causing their bodies to break down. In order to solve this problem, our FF have to give Stevenson Storm and his team their powers back. It’s all very complicated, but I think it makes sense. I think.
They get ready to so, and it seems to work, until the alternate FF are trapped in a time bubble by Scott Lang, who is working for Doctor Doom in exchange for Doom resurrecting his daughter. The FF have their powers back properly, but they aren’t perfect, and are in fact at their original levels, so Thing looks a bit more melted than rocky, and Sue can’t make forcefields, she can only turn invisible. Ant-Man confesses his betrayal, and agrees to help the Fantastic Four to stop Doom, by helping them find a temporal anomaly to break the time bubble. Luckily, he knows exactly where one is, in the form of OG Jean Grey. Jean is a prisoner of Kang, but she is busted out by Doom, who needs to use her status as an anomaly to hide from Kang. The FF intercept Doom, but they in turn run into some of Kang’s troops, and in the midst of battle, Doom escapes to the Time Platform with Jean. The FF aren’t able to follow him, but they are able to make sure he returns straight back, and so the fight resumes.
Jean is able to open the bubble and give the Fantastic Four their full powers back, but as soon as she does so, Doom tries to kill her. Ant-Man leaps in front of the bullet, redeeming himself really, and now Doom has to deal with 2 fully powered versions of the FF. Well, he has more than that, as Kang The Annihilating Conqueror shows up to, I assume, annihilate and conquer. He is about to kill Doom, but then we find out just what he got up to when he and Jean travelled back in time. Doom tampered with the ‘cosmic power siphon’, giving it a time limit, so that it would stop working for Kang, and allow Doom to absorb both his powers, and Annihilus’, creating, you guessed it, Doom The Annihilating Conqueror.
I do think it’s a little odd that the end of this story is playing out in an alternate reality, but I suppose FF is dealing with the ‘real’ world, and I’m guessing the two stories will dovetail a bit more next month. I apologise if this review is a bit more recappy than usual, this is a complex story, and writing out what happened is really more for me than you guys, but I think I get what’s going on now. I think I’m going to do a big re-read of this and FF before #16, see if I really do get it.
The art from Raffaele Ienco was once again solid, I’m annoyed that Bagley isn’t still drawing this story, but Ienco is a decent replacement and I particularly like his Kang.