On Trial: Fantastic Four #600


History Note: Hickman’s run can get really confusing at times, so I’m going to do a little bit note each issue about a character. Today’s is on Galactus, Devourer of Worlds.

Powers: Galactus was the sole survivor of the universe before this one and began to bond with the universe for billions of years, as the Big Bang occurred and the new universe began. Upon awakening, he was gifted with the powers of the universe in physical form and plagued by an appetite so huge, only the life force of planets could sate it. This is very little Galactus can not do, but his weakness lies in the armor he must wear to control his power and his hunger.

Important to Fantastic Four: In Millar’s Fantastic Four, he had the heroes of a distant future where the Earth had died defeat Galactus and use his body to teleport to this timeline in order to stop it. Reed buried the body in another planet out of respect, but Galactus found it. Upon discovery, he promised to spare Earth so long as Reed could ensure the future in which he would die would not come to pass and he destroyed the Nu-World (where the remnants of humanity from the future resided) out of vengeance. However, Asgardians have put events into motion that will not allow him to destroy Earth for some time…

(This is going to be a long one folks)

THE ACCUSED:

Writer: Jonathan Hickman (Part 1-5)

Artists:Steve Epting (Part 1), Carmine Di Giandomenico (Part 2), Ming Doyle (Part 3), Leinil Francis Yu (Part 4), Farel Dalrymple (Part 5)

Inkers/Colorists: Rick Magyar & Steve Epting/Paul Mounts (Part 1), Andy Troy (Part 2), Jordie Bellaire (Part 3), Gerry Alanguilan/Javier Tartaglia (Part 4), Farel Dalrymple (Part 5)

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Cover Artist: Gabrielle Dell’Otto

Editors: Tom Breevort, Lauren Sankovitch, & Denning

 

Before the Trial, a Celebration: Colorist Paul Mounts has made a new milestone in Fantastic Four history, breaking Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s 102 issue record by one with Fantastic Four #600. His work in FF was incredible, with the colors practically leaping off the panel in flames, so here’s to you Paul.

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: 

Part One (Forever Part 1): All of the world watches on, as the Kree attack. To recap quickly: Latveria- Nathaniel Richards/Victor Von Doom/Alternate Reed Richards, Baxter Building- Future Foundation/Franklin Richards/Leech, The Other Side of the Zero- The Anti Priest of Annihilius, Attilan- Black Bolt and the 5 types of Inhumans; The Forever City- Crystal/Ronan the Accuser/The Supremor, New York- Sue/Ben/Peter/Reed/Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

The heroes begin to plan an attack, but Sue tells them this is not something that needs to be talked to death and starts taking out Kree ships, trying to push them to the outer limits of the city, to save lives. Battle ensues and we got tons of action, but Doctor Strange causes a ship to crash in Soho, where Alicia Masters lives.

The Anti-Priest informs Annhilius of the Kree attack and Annhilius panics and tells him to open the gate immediately, while he prepares his armies for invasion in the Negative Zone. At the same time, Nathaniel and Alternate Reed tell Kristoff (Doom’s son) that his father’s life depends on them gaining access to Latveria.

On Attilan, Black Bolt learns of Ronan and Crystal’s betrayal and plans to face them. At the same time the Supremor reveals that he was the one who ordered the attack and was reborn because he is here to kill all the Inhumans, now that all five are in one place, to which Crystal opposes.

Back in New York, Ben/She Hulk/Red Hulk face the Kree ground troops in Soho, though Ben is quickly the last one standing against the troops that vastly outnumber him. At the same time, Sue and Iron Man team up, using her powers and his suit to create a force field around New York to keep the Kree out. Valeria transports the top three floors of the Baxter Building and Reed sends Peter to see if anyone got left behind. Upon arrival, he discovers Annihilus’s scouts were attacking and that’s why Valeria fled and then the gate to the Negative Zone opens… to reveal Johnny Storm.

Part Two (Johnny Storm): Our story begins with the death of Johnny Storm. He Super Nova’s twice and defeats the armies of Annhilius, but Annhilius himself delivers the killing blow once Johnny refuses to open the gate.

Four Days later, Reed arrives in the Negative Zone with the Ultimate Nullifer and threatens to destroy everything if Annihilius does not give him Johnny’s body. Annihilius informs Reed that Johnny is in a constant flux of regeneration and wonders if Johnny would survive that blast. Johnny awakes to find worms feeding on his body and regenerating it, but Johnny keeps burning them when he’s unconscious, so he cannot fully be revived, dying three more times on top of Annhilius’ killing blow. When he begins to recover, he discovers the Light Brigade (made up of six Inhuman warriors) from Fantastic Four #578 are there as well, being used as gladiators for entertainment, forced to fight until death and then revived. Eventually, Johnny succumbs to the same fate. However, when he learns Alternate Reed is making plans with Annihilius to open the portal to the Negative Zone (FF #3), he plans to start a rebellion with the Light Brigade, intent on getting the Cosmic Control Rod Annhilius uses to control his armies. By the time they take action, it is running concurrently along side Part 1 and in a brutal battle, Johnny emerges as the strongest warrior and has Annihilius on a chain, his armies in tow, when he opens the portal and emerges on the other side to find Pete.

Part Three (Black Queen): A quick little story, where Medusa expresses her disdain for Black Bolt returning with other wives and the two of them link minds, to open a private world where Black Bolt can speak. They discuss what they are to do going forth and Black Bolt askes her to love him for who he must become, not who he was. They split minds and Medusa asks her fellow wives what they must do.

Part Four (Galactus): Galactus summons Reed and Sue to give them a device that will summon him, for Galactus is worried about the state of Earth in the days to come. Reed askes why he would want to do this in light of what transpired in the future of Earth and Galactus reveals the Asgards have a Galactus seed hidden in the World Tree and if Midgard (Earth) was to fall, it would become lost to him and be able to grow, becoming a new Galactus with power enough to destroy him and no self control, so it would consume the galaxy. Galactus fears this seed more than anything else, except for one person; Franklin Richards.

Part Five (Franklin & Leech): A short story in which Franklin reveals he can still use his power in spite of Leech being near him and they begin creating alternate realities with laws and rules in Franklin’s closet to play in. Then one day, someone else appears in them and tells Franklin that though this is impressive, he could do better and he plans to teach him.

That took “Forever” (see what I did there?), so as a treat for you guys who read it, I got a pun:

“What do you call Spider-Man without his webs? Peter Parkour.” (Wait, people don’t like puns? Whoops...)

“FF found innocent of Child Abuse; series to feature children prominently.”

Today’s case: J. Hickman & Co. vs. The Richards Family & Co.

Ladies and gentlemen of the court, I Shaun Martineau (Attorney of Law at Hamish, Hamlish, and Hamlin) have called you here today to address Mr. Hickman’s handling of the affairs of the Richards Family & Co., who consist of Mr. and Mrs. Reed and Sue Richards, their children Franklin and Valeria Richards, brother to the Mrs., Johnny Storm, and family friends Benjamen Grimm and Peter Parker. Under his care, Mr. Storm has fallen in battle (Mr. Parker coming in as his replacement), the universe known as 616 has nearly been destroyed on multiple occasions, and the bonds that tie this family together have been tested time and time again, wearing thin in recent days. Mr. Hickman came to care for the Fantastic Four, a team composed of the adults of the opposite party, in August of 2009 and in the beginning, he handled their affairs well. There was humor, there was emotion, there was action, and of course there was dramatics. However, in recent events, Mr. Hickman has been swept up in the telling of grand tales and has forgotten that family comes first, for they did not get the nick name ‘Marvel’s First Family’ by accident.  As we bring evidence forth from this point on, we shall decide if Mr. Hickman has returned to the roots of the well executed, family bonding he had in the beginning, with the return of the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #600.

The Evidence:

Exhibit A.) Your honors, we’re off to a rocky start here, as we turn our attention to the players on the board Mr. Hickman has weaved together. A simpler man would have the Fantastic Four, their off shoot the Future Foundation and maybe a close ally or foe to ponder at, but Hickman has drawn in the entirety of the Marvel 616 to handle this threat they face in the page of Fantastic Four #600. In the main story, each member of the opposing party has his or her moment to shine though, but they all get a single character moment, rather than the story being a shining example of why these characters lead this title. Still, you can’t deny moments like Mrs. Richards using Mr. Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor to produce a force field over the city aren’t well executed and the frantic disaster occurring in the main story is well executed as well. As it stands, the story places 3rd place out of five, because their is no real bond of family found here, only chaos that leads to a surprise moment that you could smell coming a mile away. As for the art, maybe it was the freshness of the others, but Mr. Epting’s art was not up to par with a couple of the others.

Exhibit B/C.) Speaking of that twist, we come to the main purpose of Fantastic Four #600; the return of Mr. Johnny Storm. Rather than cheap out here with revealing that Mr. Storm did not die in Fantastic Four #587, they do actually kill off Storm multiple times, but come up with a rather simple, yet well played device to keep him alive. This story serves as a trial of fire for the Human Torch, who emerges stronger than ever at the end. Also, it allows for the best moment of the comic, when we learn that Mr. Reed Richards went back for Johnny’s body, only to learn Johnny was alive and the only way to save him would be to open Earth to Annihilius’ armies; that is some prime character drama, which I hope we see addressed somewhere down the line.

It is known that Johnny Storm is the true core of the humor that stems from the Fantastic Four and his absence has been painfully obvious as of late. I will give Mr. Hickman credit for not striping Johnny of his heroic sacrifice and yet finding a way to bring him back as a stronger character. On the artistic side, Mr. Hickman is joined by Mr. Giandemenico, who brings a beautiful talent into the equation, in what I believe is the best art of Fantastic Four #600. If this man does not become a series regular, injustice has been done here today folks.


Exhibit D.) The story of Medusa and Black Bolt was a big misstep for Mr. Hickman, when the story ultimately amounted to nothing we needed to know or didn’t already know. While it was nice to see a moment of love amidst the disaster, it was also seven pages of story that could of been used on Johnny or the others, whom the book is about. Hickman’s detours with Black Bolt often fall flat, because the general audience has little love for him. I also thought the art was weakest in this part.

Exhibit E.) For everything the above evidence did wrong, this did right. A moment away from the chaos and insight on a major supporting player describes both the Galactus and Black Bolt/Medusa stories, but the former of the two does so in a way that adds gravitas  to the story, by taking a story arc from the Mighty Thor (and giving it more meaning in a few pages than the entirety of that six issue arc) and having Galactus cast his lot with one of the forces in this massive battle, albeit for selfish measures. The art here is fantastic, Mr. Yu handing in some very pretty scenes that play with the darkness of space really well, the evidence showing the darkness beginning to encase Galactus.

We now have Galactus with Reed, Annhilius’s forces with Johnny, and the Alternate Reed with Nathaniel, so the Fantastic Four is packing some serious heat for this upcoming battle.

It also continues to add gravity to the serious situation that is developing with Franklin Richards, a long running thread that has been put to the side for too long in negligence on Mr. Hickman’s part.

Exhibit F.) Which brings us to Mr. Hickman’s last chance to prove that he still has a grip on the family situation, in a short story where Franklin Richards shows us the development of his powers over the past year. A silly little tale, very lighthearted and filled with some good humor, as Leech and Franklin play well off each other. However, there was an issue of Fantastic Four (#580) where the two of them did have an adventure, with Mr. Storm, that was much better executed. The art here is a little weird, but it fits the story and while the identity of Franklin’s teacher is concealed by the light, I find the facial hair similarities between him and future Franklin to be very similar, which raises a question if it’s true; How did Franklin Richards survive after giving his life to alter the future? If it is Franklin from the future, then what else has Mr. Hickman been keeping from us? (The picture in the bottom of exhibit F is Future Franklin Richards, as seen in Fantastic Four #582)

Verdict: The recurring theme through Fantastic Four #600, seems to be the rebirth, an explosion of heat to bring forth life. This is really played up in the Mr. Storm’s storyline, but Galactus mentions it as well and so does the art in the Franklin Richards story. This really seems to be the summary of the series to date; we give way to the cute family centric short arcs that slowly add little things to the overall plot, in place of grand long running story arcs that are about epics and adventure. This is the rebirth of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four and this is the story to end his original plans since he took over the title. From here on in, we’ll be in for the adventure of a life time and all we can hope is that when the smoke clears, Marvel’s First Family will be still be standing and united stronger than ever.

This issue is found GUILTY of being inaccessible to new readers. It’s ambition to tell all new stories is a risky one, that I applaud, but you could of easily fitted in a excerpt of the Fantastic Four Season One in place of the Black Bolt story, to give just a little of the back story.

This issue is found GUILTY of losing the family charm that makes the early Hickman Fantastic Four issues such a joy to read.

This issue is found NOT GUILTY of returning Johnny Storm to the spot light by giving meaning to his death and making his return a path that made him all the more stronger. In an environment all about death, Johnny’s all about living and his ideals emerge victorious.

This issue is found with a HUNG JURY on the price tag of $7.99, for deliverance of two great stories (Johnny/Galactus), 2 average stories (Forever/Franklin), and one mediocre story (Medusa/Black Bolt).

This issue set up a story that has so much potential, while ignoring the elements that makes the Fantastic Four shine above other comics, that at this point I can’t pass a final judgement on it, so I’m going with an overall grade of HUNG JURY.


On-Going Investigation: Spider-Man

Recent Case: “Bendis found innocent in court case ‘Death of Spider-Man’; deemed a well written eulogy for teen superhero.”

Ladies and gentlemen, before we wrap up our session here today, associates at Crawlspace Inc. have asked me to take a closer look at the relevance of Peter Parker in the pages of the Fantastic Four and if Mr. Hickman is handling him in a distinctive and well manner. Recently, business associates of Mr. Hickman have been accused on multiple accounts of everything from Identity Theft to Homicide, with many distrusting Marvel’s handle on the character, while others fully support it. Regardless, we’re placing a close watch on Marvel and today we look to Hickman’s portrayal of Peter Parker in the pages of Fantastic Four #600. Since taking Peter Parker into the main cast with FF #1, Hickman has been writing Peter as the scientist he is, the wise-cracker Spider-Man is (to fill the gap left by Johnny Storm), but only when he can fit Mr. Parker into the script. This issue is a prime example of him trying to make a place for Peter amidst utter chaos, but all Peter ultimately amounts to is being told by Reed is he is not smart enough to handle the situation and being the first to witness Johnny’s return. This issue sets up potential greatness for Peter/Johnny moments to come, but it should be noted that Hickman writes Peter in a serious matter this issue, because he’s entirely focused on making sure the kids are alright. One thing to love about Spider-Man is when he stops dropping jokes and gets serious, it’s a noticeable change in his demeanor and works well here for the few scenes he gets. A good, not great portrayal of Spider-Man, so Hickman gets a NOT GUILTY this issue.


No Prize to Anyone who can point out all the references in here and sorry for the length folks. The comic was 96 pages and I wanted to try something new. 

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