Powers: Valeria is super smart, easily surpassing her father at this point in her life. On the flip side of things, Franklin has the ability to control and create realities.
History: This version of the Richards kids have been kicking around in the pages of Fantastic Four since Hickman took over, showing up very early on in his run to give the prophetic message All Hope Lies in Doom and to unlock Franklin’s dormant powers. From there, we saw them in the storyline where a younger Reed and Doom help Nathaniel Richards survive, where Valeria gives Susan a cryptic message. They then send the last Nathaniel reeling through time before seemingly sacrificing themselves for the future. However, recently Franklin was visited by his future self, who begun to train him for the battle to come.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Barry Kitson
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover Art: Mike Choi & Morry Hollowell
Editors: Tom Breevort, John Dennings, Lauren Sankovitch
I plan to live forever. So far, so good: Picking up on the heels of the last issue, Galactus shows up to fight the Mad Celestials. In light of this, the Supremor flees and the Inhumans give chase, future storyline most likely. Back with our titular heroes, they get a message from Valeria who urges them to come back to Earth for when Galactus fails in his fight against the Celestials. Valeria and Nathaniel reveal to Reed the Mad Celestials are here to kill him, the last member of the Council of Reeds, and reveal the purpose of Sol’s Anvil; it’s a god killer. The Mad Celestials form into one being and defeat Galactus, before coming after Reed. Reed uses the Anvil to draw power from the Four Cities and fire at the Celestials; it damages them, but does not stop them. The Celestials then attempt to kill the final Reed; Ben takes the first blast, allowing time for Sue to put up a force field around everyone. Johnny tries to Nova the Celestials to buy Reed some time to recharge the Anvil, but the Celestial overpower all of them but Sue. She is the last one standing and she recalls Valeria’s message and gives everything she’s got to protect Reed, buying him just enough time for Valeria and Franklin Richards of the future to arrive.
The coming days are going to be dark and full of loss. It will feel like everything is going to break apart, that it will shatter and everything will fall apart. Only you can hold us together. Can you be strong Mother? Stronger than ever before?
He’s got radioactive blood: I’ve given tons of credit to Barry Kitson in nearly every issue he’s in, but this one goes to Hickman. He packs this issue full of story, development, characterization, fantastic battles, great continuity, and payoff. This is one of the shining examples of how Hickman’s intricate storytelling works out well, so my hat’s off to Jonathan Hickman on this issue.
The Fantastic Four: Where to start? So much of this issue was so damn great, with the art kicking all kinds of ass, but foremost praise goes to the story, which manages to shrink from a massive Marvel Universe event to a story focusing on the titular heroes without managing to lose any of it’s intensity or grandeur. Hickman did a decent job trying to balance everything going on in the battle for Earth, but pulling back to focus on Reed and Galactus’ fight against the Mad Celestials really helped this issue, because we got to spend so much time with the Fantastic Four and their family. Johnny and Ben are truly heroic in this issue and heroic doesn’t even come close to describing how amazing Susan Richards was this issue. Franklin’s reunion scene with Uncle Johnny was touching, Franklin and Nathaniel’s allusions to yet another wheel in motion continues to add intrigue to this story, and that last page left me wanting so much more of this story.
The characterization in this issue hits every beat properly and if you don’t feel some emotion watching Johnny joke with his nephew with the end of the world around the corner or Susan Richards giving everything she can to protect Reed, you’re heartless. Not only that, but the chemistry and loyalty between Reed, Valeria, and Nathaniel here is on full force and it is nice to see how much Reed trusts his father and daughter. Then on the humor side, Johnny, Spidey, and Bentley give more humor to this title than it’s had in recent issues.
Another part that works so well for this issue is the return of the Future Foundation to it’s pages. Valeria, Bentley,and Franklin are the coolest kids in the Marvel Universe (suck it Power Pack) and I’ll never get tired of following those kids under Hickman’s tutelage. The Future Foundation also bring their enemy with them and Crazy Gods with more power than Galactus make helluva lot better enemies than an armada of space ships.
OK, can’t not mention the beautiful art this issue, but I’m giving the majority of the credit to Paul Mounts, whose beautiful coloring makes the battle against the Celestials leap right off the pages. Still, Kitson draws the Fantastic Four in battle so beautifully, giving their powers just the right touch, that I personally hope he never leaves this title. Also Ben smiled a genuine not emotional smile and Bentley looks like a badass mini Will Smith.
Spectacular Spider Moment: Once again, Peter did not get to do much this issue but drop quips and hold something (This time it was Franklin in place of Annhilius). There was one moment that made me laugh and it was Spider-Man going, “Uh-oh” as the Celestials came in for the kill. For some reason, maybe the way Kitson drew it, but I made it sound like Scooby Doo in my head: “Ru-Roh”. Something silly, but it made me forgive the lack of Spider-Man this issue.
There is going to be a moment where you’re going to want to give up, when you’re going to want to let go. When you reach that point, look up into the sky and remember the price that was paid.
Looking to the Future: In the hands of a lesser writer, the drastic shift change this title took may not have worked, but Hickman pulled it off. Three more chapters left and we’re at the end of Hickman’s original master plan for the Fantastic Four. We get a journey with Power Pack next week in FF and then we get to see what’s about to go down in light of the return of Franklin and Valeria Richards of the future. If you’ve been following Hickman this long and you’re not excited to see what happens next, I don’t know what to tell you. We’re looking at the end of what will be known of one of the best Fantastic Four stories that’s been published and I couldn’t be more excited.
In summary, Art- Fantastic. Story- Fantastic. Characterization- Fantastic. Action- Fantastic. Emotion- Fantastic.