It turns out that last issue’s foray into an alternate universe where the Fantastic Four are black and Johnny is Reed’s brother was a lot more important than I thought, as the way to save the ‘real’ FF from their powers fucking up is to travel to that universe. Old John Storm sort of clarifies what he meant at the end of last issue, and explains that even though he’s from an alternate universe, some things are universal constants and will also happen to the real FF, and the way to stop them is to go to his Universe.
Ben Grimm is now back in human form (permanently?) and even though he’s sick, flies the Fantasticar to Old John’s universe. Man, describing this story makes it sound insane. They arrive, but Doom, Kang and Annihilus spot them, and start blastin’. Old John flies off to fight, but, after being blasted with lasers that call back to the original ‘cosmic rays’ that gave them their powers, the FF are blown up. Only they aren’t, as Kesel reveals that, way back in the first issues of this run, Medusa gave Sue Storm a dog whistle to call Lockjaw in case the kids got bored, and she uses it to call everyone’s favourite teleporting dog dude to save the day. I love me some Lockjaw, so this was great.
Unfortunately, Johnny Storm got hit by some shrapnel, and not only is he in great pain, but he’s stuck in flame on mode. How the hell can he be sewn up whilst on fire? After using Lockjaw to send the kids home (so can Lockjaw travel between universes now? I didn’t know that), the solution is for Sue to use an invisible needle and unstable molecule thread to sew up her brother in a very tense scene. She manages it, but at the cost of her powers, as she now seems to be completely invisible. So, the FF are trapped in an alternate, dystopian universe with no powers. It’s looking bleak, but luckily, Stevenson Storm and this universe’s FF come along to help.
But just when you think things are looking up, they again take a turn for the worse, as the tension between Doom and Kang explodes here, as Kang realises that Doom plans to use Annihilus’ power for himself, and so, before Doom can do it, he steals it himself, becoming, as teased, Kang The Annihilating Conqueror. I love the idea that Kesel introduces here, that there is only one Negative Zone in the multiverse, and that the Annihilus seen here is the same one as usual. I imagine that this is going to come into play in the ending of this story.
I’m finding the transition from Fraction to Kesel here very interesting. Kesel has really ramped up the pace a lot, and there’s a lot of complex plot and time-travel craziness, but it works I think. I thought Fraction was going a bit too slowly, but now I think it might be too fast. I guess I’m just hard to please, but these last two issues have been event-packed and hard to really get one’s head around. I think I might need to do a re-read of this whole run.
Mark Bagley has left this title to do Cataclysm, and this issue sees Raffaele Ienco come onboard, and I’m not sure what I feel about his work, on some panels it looked really detailed and exciting, and on others, it was weird and rushed and scratchy. This is the first work I’ve seen from him, so I guess he’s new, but if he can refine his style, he could be special. But right now, it’s a step down from Bags. I’m not sure how I feel about this book as a whole right now, I think I kind of just want it to be over, for Fraction’s plots to get wrapped and for James Robinson to take over, it’s still enjoyable, but I’m just reading it with one eye on the future, rather than staying in the moment.