Fantastic Fun Fact: This is not the first review I’ve ever written but considering the amount of interaction I’ve had with the Crawl Space community, I shall reintroduce myself. My name is Samuel Savage aka PirateBeck and you may have heard my wonderful British voice if you had previously listened to episode #121 but there’s more to me than just asking questions about sharks. I’ve al ways had a passion for the media and what better way to broadcast my writing than by reviewing something I have a passion for; comic books…
“Three, Epilogue: Month of Mourning” and “Uncles”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Nick Dragotta (MoM) and Mark Brooks (Uncles)
Color Art: Paul Mounts
Lettering and Production: VC’s Rus Wooton
Cover Artists: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and Javier Rodriguez
Be warned, this issue is the explosive epilogue to the fiery finale of ‘Three’ and if you haven’t read the pulse pounding conclusion in FF 587, then you will be spoiled! So be full warned true believer, this issue is the end of everything as we know it!
Plot: Following the death of the Human Torch, the Former Fantastic Four cope with the loss in their own unique individual ways. The back-up expands upon a page seen in the first half of the story, as Spider-Man spends some time with the grieving Franklin.
Throughout the many comic books I have read during my lifetime, few issues have dealt with death in such a personal yet powerful way. While the unfortunate release date of this issue creates some direct comparisons with Amazing Spider-Man #655, which utilises a very similar atmosphere, I must confess in that in other titles that death, while an important part of certain storylines and characters, is never usually discussed or thought upon in such way, especially of that in the issue after said character’s demise. The first half of this entire issue shows how each individual member of the remaining four, plus Valeria and Doctor Doom, react to the death of the only person who made the phrase “Flame On” mean something to fans around the world.
I must confess that this is the first (and last) issue of Hickman’s run on the FF I have read but I can honestly say that he’s done a fantastic job at showcasing each individual character’s emotions and, considering the person who speaks most in this issue is ol’ webhead, that’s quite a feat in of itself. What really drives the point home is that each of their reactions could be compared to their powers and namesakes. The Invisible Women just wants to be left to her own thoughts, enclosing herself from the world, the Thing just wants to smash everything in his way, like the monster he once believed himself to be and Mr. Fantastic may be able to stretch out to an amazing length but, no matter how versatile, he will never be able to reach Johnny’s dead body. The realistic atmosphere created just ads to the moment, as comics have an unfortunate tendency to stereotypically portray certain character types after death but every moment in this short story felt real and relatable.
I won’t go into further detail about the events that take place in this issue as I neither want to spoil those moments (Thing vs. The Hulk AND Thor) nor do I believe I can do them justice in this simple explanation. What I will say is that Dr. Doom, or who I believe to be Dr. Doom, arriving at Johnny’s funeral itself shows that, even when the person he despises most is right in front of him, Doom will he pay his respects to his most hated of foes. This honour is something I’ve always believed Doom to possess and is just another example of why, even in the smallest of panels, makes this entire experience worth the $3.99 price tag.
I should mention that while the artwork for the first half is done by a fill-in artist (I believe), I think it captures the atmosphere perfectly. The coloring evokes a dark, damp and somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere which I believe perfectly captures the mood of these characters since their burning candle has been, for the moment, forever extinguished. I could explain more but as I stated before, I think this is one of those stories where revealing too much would ruin, rather than interest, the reader in purchasing it. However, I will say this. If you’re a long time fan of the Human Torch, all I can say is this farewell epilogue is a fantastic send-off to the character and what he stood for. But, then again, with a name like “The Fantastic Four”, should one expect no less than the fantastic?
The second half of this issue, briefly showcased in the first half on an amazing-ly Ditko-esque page, focuses on how Franklin feels over the death of his uncle. As Spidey is swinging around New York, he finds Franklin and, after a brief conversion, offers the young lad a hot dog. After a classic Spider-Man moment, in which he asks Franklin “Can I borrow a dollar?” Peter tells Franklin that his uncle died from a gunshot wound when he younger. Franklin then reveals his guilt, telling Spidey that “I think I could’ve stopped Uncle Johnny from dying”. Spidey reveals that he knows he could have stopped his uncle’s killer but says that, even though he’s gone, he’s learnt to understand that gifts such as his own should not be wasted on self-gain, rather to help those who are in need of what they can provide. In a final scene that I shall not spoil, Spidey bonds with Franklin over the one thing they now share; guilt over the death of their uncle.
I have note that, throughout the past few years of publication, Crawl Spacers have felt that the Spidey they knew died after his deal with the devil, as he’s become an irresponsible and unlikable character. If I can say anything about this short tale it is this; this eight page moment captures everything I have enjoyed about the character more so than any issue of Spider-Man has done in the past three years. It is a tale that truly speaks to the heart and really reminds me of why I loved the character in the first place.
It may be unfair to make such a comparison but, as I was reading his dialogue, there was only voice I felt would do his words justice; Christopher Daniel Barnes. The reason why is simple; the animated series adaptation of “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”. Whenever he talks to the young girl (and in general somewhat), there’s this kind caring nature, a sincerity that exists within his voice that warms the heart as, no matter what he may be saying, they sound real and true. I felt that exact same emotion here, as Spidey’s dialogue, although somewhat simplified, feels organic and caring. He’s lost a best friend but this kid, he’s lost an uncle and who else in the Marvel Universe knows what that feels like. If you have some spare time, try imagining his words with the warmth of Barnes and you may feel that what I did; Hickman gets Spider-Man in a way I think many other Marvel writers did not over these past three years.
There’s not much else I can say about the story as it is an all around and well written piece of fiction. The coloring is bold and bright, which reminds me of the older Marvel Universe and the artwork by Mark Brooks is just as good. His Spidey has a realistic body structure and yet, reminds me vaguely of the 70s era stuff. It’s not perfect as his right foot on the first panel looks more like a duck’s foot than a human’s but everything else looked great to me.
I cannot think of anything to say about this issue but the way to sum up the tales contained within would be to say that it was both a fantastic issue of The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. If you want to read something that has the feeling and sincerity of the classic Spider-Man, then all I can say is buy this issue. When my biggest complaint is “Spidey’s foot looks wrong in one panel”, I think that speaks wonders about the condition he’s suffered through these past few years. Hickman’s writing has honestly engaged me and if I have succeeded in getting you excited for this issue, then I hope that I will do the same when I look into the Future Foundation one day soon. This issue may be the finale to one adventure but may be the beginning of so much more.
Final Rating: 5 out of 5 webheads