On Trial: Fantastic Four 601

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 Annihilus.

Powers: Annhilius has the ability to be continuously reborn upon dying, complete with all memories of his past lives. He’s also gifted with an exoskeleton strong enough to withstand most forms of injury and survive in the vacuums of space. Although gifted with flight and strength as well, Annhilius’ true power comes from the Cosmic Control Rod he often wields. It allows him to manipulate cosmic matter and control his armies.

Importance to Fantastic Four: Annhilius has been building an Armada of attack ships hell bent on conquering the universe. Although facing a devstating defeat at thye hands of Galactus and was killed by Nova, Annhilius retreated back to the Negative Zone and began to build anew. Johnny Storm gave his life to stop a wave of Annhilius’ forces invading Earth, but Annhilius captured him and rebirthed him, using him as leverage to stop Reed Richards from Nullifying the Negative Zone.

The Accused:

Writer: Johnathan Hickman

Artist: Steve Epting

Inks: Rick Magyar, Steve Epting, Mark Pennington

Colors: Paul Mounts

Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Cover: Mark Choi & Morry Hollowell

Editor: Tom Breevort, Lauren Sankovitch, John Denning

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

Forever (Part Two): The issue kicks off as a massive bomb detonated by the Kree pierces a hole through Sue and Tony’s shielding. At the same time in Soho, Ben is ready to give up fighting as several Kree mechs beat down upon him. However, after a quick chat with Peter, Johnny lights the sky with a flaming 4 and his allies quickly recover in time for Ben to lay down some Clobberin’.

 On the Inhuman side of things, Attilian forms with a massive Inhuman spaceship. The Supermor witnesses this and orders Ronan to destroy everything, but Ronan defies him. Since Ronan gave the Supremor his life, he allows Ronan and Crystal to leave with their lives, before the Kree retreat to space to bomb Earth into oblivion. 

After a quick happy family moment with Johnny, he reveals that he has control of the Annihilation Wave and The Fantastic Four (and for a limited time offer now including Spider-Man) take to space to fight the Kree Armada. They are joined by Black Bolt and the Inhumans, but even if they win the fight in space, the debris for the battle will destroy Earth.

Today’s Case: J. Hickman vs. Earth’s Defenders

Ladies and Gentlemen, when we last took session, Mr. Hickman was put on trial for the return of the Fantastic Four, whose ranks were once again complete with Johnny Storm coming back to life. The First Family’s affairs were concluded with indecision for the time being, but this time around, we look at how Mr. Hickman handles the defenders of Earth, albeit Alien or not.

Evidence A.) The Messiah of this comic is easily Johnny Storm, whose return is most ideal. He brings with him a sense of hope that inspires Earth’s Defenders to fight on, even when it looks like they are defeated. His moment of flaming glory comes early on in the comic, when Storm takes to the sky to do what only Johnny Storm can do, make the skies burn with hope. It is a beautiful, endearing moment that the issue never surpasses with the second half of the book.

Another note of interest is the fact that the Cosmic Control Rod seems to have morphed with Johnny’s suit, forming a type of protective webbing over his right arm. And for those wondering about how time in the Negative Zone works, in the roughly one month earth time that Johnny has been gone, two years had passed in the Negative Zone.

Evidence B.) Storm’s allies do not fair quite as well as Storm does this issue. On the human side, we see very little of them, since the plot revolves around Johnny Storm’s return and the reaction the Fantastic Four have to it. Iron Man is taken out, Captain America shows his strategical mind, and yet even when they left to defend Earth in the Fantastic Four’s absence, they don’t really do much. The stand out example amongst the humans is Ben Grimm, who is so empowered by Johnny’s return that he faces several Kree mechs who took down the likes of She-Hulk and wins.

On the alien side, Johnny’s most prominent asset is the Light Brigade, who have an almost blind devotion to Johnny, their motto becoming, “We follow the Storm.” An interesting conversation ignites between Captain America and Kal Blackbane about George Washington’s horse and while we don’t see them fight on panel, they c0-lead Storm’s Annhilation Wave against the Kree in space.

Evidence C.) The fight for the Terran Sky. The main factor in Earth’s defense against the Kree is the Annihilation Wave. An Armada of ships piloted by “A bunch of barely controlled, death seeking, bug people things” is how Johnny Storm explains it. The two fleets are evenly numbered, but the Annihilation Wave does not have the destructive power of the Kree Armada. Luckily, there is a Bolt with the Storm; Black Bolt & The Inhuman City Ship. The raw power of the City Ship aids Johnny’s fleet and the battle seems to turn in their favor. However, the fallout of the destruction in the sky will destroy all they are fighting for.

The Verdict: This issue is defined by Johnny Storm and what he brings to the table for Earth’s defense. Everyone else falls to the sidelines, save for Ben and of all people, Ronan the Accuser. This issue was meant to build the stakes for Earth’s fate and it succeeds in this aspect, the hope for humanity balancing on the edge of a very alien knife.

This issue is found GUILTY of being unable to portray Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the light they deserve.

This issue is found NOT GUILTY  in forcing the multiple alien races of the Marvel 616 upon us, they truly felt like a vital and nature part of the story.

This issue is found NOT GUILTY in forcing characters to react to Johnny’s Return, the reactions from every member of the Fantastic Four felt genuine and touching.

This issue is found NOT GUILTY in pretending to be Earth’s darkest hour, it truly feels like the stakes are high and Earth is in danger.

Hickman gives Earth some true defenders this issue, although surprisingly the most efficient of the bunch are a small group of aliens lead by an older and stronger Johnny Storm, who may be the one person who can save Marvel 616. Hickman is found INNOCENT of all charges this day. And the future only looks brighter, as Hickman will be joined next issue by Barry Kitson.

On Going Investigation: Spider-Man

Recent Case: “After serving time for ‘Carnage’, Zeb Wells is back with A-Vengeance.”

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.

In Fantastic Four #601, Peter Parker, like most of the cast is pushed to the sidelines, often seen on panel, but not speaking. However, Peter is the first to witness Johnny’s Storm return and it is a very touching scene, where the two embrace before exchanging witty banter. However, Peter is not only outshined by Johnny, but outwitted, as Johnny has the single best line in the comic: “Here, hold my Annihilus.” Despite being pushed to the sidelines, Hickman again walks away with a NOT GUILTY, since his scene with Johnny was handled excellently.

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