FF#13: Catastrophe Theory

 History Note: Hickman’s run can get confusing at times, so I’m going to do a little bit note on a character each issue. This one is on Valeria Richards.

Powers: None, although her intellect is considered to be one of the most advanced in all of universes, rivaling Reed’s at the age of three and currently surpassing it.

History: Originally the daughter of Sue & Victor Von Doom, from a dark future, Roma (A universal guardian) used Franklin Richards to rewrite history and prevent Sue from having a miscarriage in the past, changing Valeria into the daughter of Sue and Reed.

Importance to FF: Since Valeria was visited by Franklin from the future, she has been working hard to prevent the future from becoming a dark place, alongside Victor Von Doom and Nathaniel Richards.

The Faculty:

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Juan Bobilo

Inks: Marcelo Sosa

Cover: Mike Choi

Colors: Chris Sotomayor

Letters: Clayton Cowles

Editors: Lauren Sankovitch, John Dennings, and Tom Breevort

History Lesson:

Upon opening the bridge to Alternate Reed’s world, they are confronted by The Celestials, who are hellbent on destroying all Reeds.

In the past, Nathaniel explains Catastrophe Theory to Valeria, who asks him why they don’t just stop an event before it leads to Catastrophe. Nathaniel explains they can’t stop fate: Black Bolt’s Revival and the Kree’s reaction, Johnny Storm and the Annihilation Wave holding back the destruction of Earth, The war between the Reeds and Celestials, and Galactus entering the fray once Earth is threatened, are all meant to happen. He does say that some events that did not happen before, like the creation of the Future Foundation and the War of the Four Cities, has given them a chance to save everything from destruction though.

Back in the present, Valeria threatens to Nullify everything if ‘Evil Dad’ doesn’t free ‘Uncle Doom’ and upon doing so, they turn to fight the Celestials, only to find that Franklin is talking to them. He tries to talk them out of fighting, but they attack him. He uses his reality powers to stop their attacks and begins to fight back, before they lock him in his mind.

The portal back to Earth is jammed open by the Celestials and they plan to destroy it to kill any possible Reeds back on it, before Franklin breaks free of his mind trap. Evil Reed decides to stay back with the Ultimate Nullifer to buy Earth some time, urging the others to go. However, Doom stays behind to protect his people (the jammed gate leads back to Latveria) and when Valeria tries to stop him, worried he will die, he sends her through the teleporter and asks her a rhetorical question: Who would dare attack Doctor Doom, destroyers of worlds?

  Once again, Hickman kills it with this issue, offering a much more fun adventure and more compelling cast in FF than it’s Mother title. The introduction of the Catastrophe Theory, when one horrible event leads directly into another in a system, until climaxing into the elimination of the system, is well played and going back to read back issues, Hickman has actually written his entire run as one big Catastrophe Theory. He takes time this issue to explain why Nathaniel didn’t try to stop the events in motion and also hints that Nathaniel might have had a bigger part in the creation of the War of the Four Cities than previously thought.

 Fantastic character moments a plenty this issue, from everyone to Nathaniel to Alternate Reed surprisingly. Nathaniel Richards really serves as the Madame Web of this series, but where Madame Web comes off as annoying plot device, Nathaniel feels fleshed out and the scenes with his granddaughter are fantastic and a good way to keep readers of FF caught up with events in Fantastic Four #600/601. Franklin vs. the Celestials was a blast to read, with Franklin’s innocence and naivety coming off as endearing and empowering for the character. Doom has a great moment at the end of the issue that left me longing for the next issue, as well as a touching moment with Valeria that really reminded me of Johnny’s sacrifice in Fantastic Four #587. The big surprise for me though, was the Alternate Reed having a great character moment. I’ve hated the Reeds since conception, but when the last of them realizes everything he has tried to do in the name of good has failed, his willingness to sacrifice himself for Nathaniel and Valeria’s plan felt sincere especially since he goes at it with a confident ‘I can survive this’ demeanor.

 On the art side, Bobilo is killing it again and now that his art isn’t a surprise upon opening the book, I enjoyed it even more. The way he draws the adventure in space and the futuristic tech of FF more than makes up for his confusing character layouts, which he worked at this issue to give everyone a more distinct look, even if it is as simple as putting goggles on Alex’s head. I’m really glad they decided to keep one steady artist on FF for this event, instead of a rotation like they have for Fantastic. And much kudos to Sotomayor, whose colors fly off when handling the special effects in the book.

 For an issue spent almost entirely on a bridge, Hickman has written probably the best chapter to date in his Forever arc and I can’t wait to see Doom and Reed going up against the Celstials next issue, let’s see if they are so smug after that battle. The future looks mighty bright for this title indeed. 4.5/5

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