Fantastic Four: Forever Conclusion
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting
Ink: Rick Maygar
Colour: Paul Mounts
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editors: John Denning, Lauren Sankovitch, and Tom Breevort
In the universe there are constants. Things that never change, no matter what timeline, dimension, or reality you are in. There was no stopping Reed Richards from entering the gateway and discovering the Council of Reeds (Fantastic Four #570). There was no stopping the War of Four Cities and the Death of Johnny Storm (Fantastic Four #587). Things could be done to delay the certainty of what must come, like the creation of the Future Foundation (Fantastic Four #579) and the sacrifice of Victor Von Doom (FF# 14), but nothing could stop this day from coming; the day Reed Richard’s sins caught up to him and he died at the hands of the Mad Celestials. Nothing, save for Franklin Richards.
For if we live, there is hope: Franklin and Valeria Richards arrive as the Celestials come to kill Reed Richards, with Franklin buying them sometime by transporting the Celestials away. Franklin has his younger self transfer his power into him, to face the final three Mad Celestials, while Nathaniel explains to Richard that this is the day he dies in every timeline. Nathaniel tried to save him every time, but watched his son die in every possible scenario. But it was Franklin who realized how to save this one Reed, who put his family before the fate of the universe. The answer was quite simple, Reed’s family could save him and Franklin plans to sacrifice himself so that his younger self can have the time with his father that he had never had. Franklin makes Galactus into his herald and together they face the Mad Celestials, until Franklin gives everything he has and the Earth is lit by a second sun as Franklin gives all he has to save his father’s life. As the second sun dies down, only one survivor of the battle remains; Reed embraces his son close to him as the story ends.
And if we hope, then there is a tomorrow: Recently, Joss Whedon shared his plans for the Avengers sequel. He wanted to make it smaller, more personal after bringing to the table the action packed fiesta everyone wants this time around. That is an excellent way of telling a story, bringing your audience in and then giving them characters than can feel for. Hickman followed that idea here, with introducing a massive plot that brought the whole of the Marvel Universe to the table to defend Earth and then slowly shrinking it down until it became a story solely about the Fantastic Four.
Carrying the immense emotion of last issue’s ending over immediately into the pages, Hickman and Epting kills it on every level with their work. The dialogue is moving, with several grand speeches spread out through caption boxes during this issue. There are tender moments with characters that are defined by both words and things left unsaid but felt. There are massive battles that redefine what awesome is like Franklin Richards and his only herald facing the Mad Celestials. There are powerful moments where Hickman lays down his pen and lets Epting’s amazing visuals sweep us off our feet. This is what a masterpiece looks like when it comes all together and I will not be ashamed to admit I let loose a few tears at the end of this story. And then that damn epilogue made me cry a little more, it was beautiful. I read comics because of tales like this, where you watch years of work conclude into something truly fantastic that will live in the legend of these characters you love so much.
When I picked up Fantastic Four #570, I had strong feelings for Johnny Storm, disdain for the other three, and had no clue who these kids were. Ask me now, I will tell you I love every character that is part of the Richards family, even Ben Grimm who came back from a rough patch in recent issues. Watching this family come back together after the death of Johnny and facing almost certain death together, reunited for the last is the driving force behind this story and it delivers in spades. Hickman got me so invested in these comics my wallet cries out every month as I try to gather more of their history.
There is so much about this story I can’t praise because there is so much in this story that harkens back to the past of this title and so much about this story is about the future and what will become of these heroes. Everything about this story is epic in scale and yet personal at the same time and I know when the time comes in October for Hickman to leave this family, it will be a sad day indeed that not even Franklin Richards can prevent. In fact, with this issue the man who started this epic with Jonathan Hickman leaves on to new things, so I hope the best of luck to Mr. Epting in his future endeavours.
For those curious, Spider-Man is barely present in this book save for one beautiful scene at the end where the Fantastic Four stand as a family and Peter is right there beside them. Not one word of dialogue, just that beautiful image. This is easily forgiven, because this is not Peter’s story, but the story of The Fantastic Four.
And if Tomorrow… Then… Forever: I wanted this review gig for this moment. When you finish a Hickman epic, you get the feeling you truly read something not only amazing, but something that is vital to the character’s progression. You want to shout out in joy to everyone that this is incredible and thanks to Brad, I can reach out to more people now and praise this story than I could on my own. This is everything comics should deliver to us, not on a regular basis but at the conclusion of a run. Hickman isn’t leaving the book quite yet, but if you found out this was the very last Fantastic Four publication and you got to read that beautiful moment in the epilogue of the book, that I did not post in the summary so you have to find out for yourself what it is, you could happily say you saw the pitch-perfect conclusion to the story Stan Lee and Jack Kirby started so many years ago.
I don’t need comments on this review, I just want people to go out and read this story. Start where you want, I’d recommend #570, but the pay off is well worth it. Marvel has them cheap (1..99) on the digital app I do believe leading up to the most recent issues.