Since I didn’t want to eat up the title line, here are the collections that make up this review: Dark Reign: Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four vol 1-4, FF vol. 1-2, Fantastic Four vol. 5, FF vol. 3, Fantastic Four vol. 6, & FF vol. 4
The Fantastic Four is a group of super heroes (based vaguely on the four elements), each with their own dynamic personality, but you wouldn’t know that from reading this comic run better labeled: The God-Scientistic Reed Richards With Appearances From His Two Kids And Dad. The stories largely deal with Reed/kids/dad trying to save the world from cosmic threats they seem to have created, and how one solutions just leads to a more dangerous situation later–something that is rather interesting. I don’t know how anyone unfamiliar with the title could know who the characters are (both old and new ones) or particularly care as stories are rather bare boned, and, early on, tended to end as soon as something interesting might happen. I would like to tell you what the plot of these works were, but nothing really happens until volume 4 and only then because of events that start with a character’s death, which is a device I hate. Also, does anyone remember the time that the FF would solve problems that didn’t involves the slaughter of perhaps tens of thousands of people? (Wait, sorry, they aren’t humans that get killed–and they don’t cry out in fear/pain–so it is ok.) Additionally, while it may seem cool to have plots within plots, time travel galore–the bread and butter of Hickman–, and lots of scenes of a kid kicking people in the nuts, there is something boring about, for example, a 3 year old that is smarter than every genius that have ever lived put together and multiplied by 3 and capable of doing things in ten minutes that ever scientist on the planet, using every resource on the planet, could not achieve in a decade. And that’s hardly the worst of it, as people quite literally become gods. It may seem neat at first, but it quickly becomes pointless. Also, there is too much rock-paper-scissors in that hero X can defeat villain Y who can destroy entity Z who can crush hero X. Don’t misunderstand me. I love cosmic battles and alien invasions, but I don’t like to simply have “unclassified power levels” and aliens destroying all of Manhattan. Subtly is good, as are parameters, and without these elements the writing becomes sloppy. The best work is vol. 5 as various strings come together if nothing else and you have a sense of both completion, that past events were leading somewhere, and enough action and pathos to get a reader involved. However, I challenge anyone to say that there has been much of any character development, or that the events really mesh together (without one of the characters saying that this is simply what happens, always, in all time lines). The writing is not particularly snappy or funny and there are more artists than I can shake a stick at–and I’ve been known to shake a stick. I was ready to quit until the end of vol. 4 and that, sadly, kept me around as I saw the spark of great potential. Potential that never seemed to materialize. I will give props to vol. 6, which is more a series of vignettes of the aftermath, and I think these short, focused, rather self contained tales are where Hickman shines brighter. Luckily, this largely continues in FF vol. 3 (albeit on a slightly sillier note at times), which brings his run to its end. In the final analysis, I can’t really recommend these books. If Cej (who enjoyed it) had told me the entire story, I probably would have liked it more than reading it. Still, it is understandable why people get into Hickman’s convoluted plots; I guess I’m more interested in other aspects.