The Comic Book Club: Fantastic Four’s Finale and Avengers #10

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: we end up discussing what we picked up. This week, Graeme McMillan, Evan Narcisse and Douglas Wolk talk about Fantastic Four #588 and Avengers #10.

DOUGLAS: Fantastic Four #588 has a big FINAL ISSUE banner festooned across its front cover. And I’m sure it will indeed be the final issue… for almost an entire year. (I can’t imagine that the new “FF” series beginning next month will miss its opportunity to switch its numbering back for the big #600 next January.) The lead feature itself is a very clever piece of writing from Jonathan Hickman, an almost entirely wordless story—“almost” because Hickman keeps finding ways to sneak text in. (And then there’s the backup story, featuring Franklin Richards and Spider-Man, which has a bunch of dialogue anyway.)

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Nick Dragotta draws this issue, and deserves a ton of credit–he should get a lot more credit than he does, in general (for too long I thought of him as “Michael Allred’s understudy” because of his work on X-Statix). I think it’s interesting, though, that Marvel’s essentially been framing the series as “Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four.” Whoever gets to draw it comes out secondary.

GRAEME: Well, the artists haven’t been consistent throughout the entire run. We started with Dale Eaglesham, then had a lot of fill-in issues in different styles before settling with Steve Epting, and now Dragotta comes in with a surprisingly Kirby-influenced take. And, yes, I know that it’s weird that I said this was “surprisingly” Kirby-influenced, considering that FF is maybe the most Kirby book at Marvel, but I really feel like the series hasn’t really felt like Kirby since… maybe Walt Simonson, back in the mid-1990s?

DOUGLAS: Dragotta really gets the story here across, which is a good trick under the circumstances. The only sequence that doesn’t quite work here is the big action scene with the Thing—the “let’s get one more Thing-vs.-Hulk fight in there” bit seems forced.

GRAEME: It also just doesn’t really work, on the page. It took me a while to realize that that was Donald Blake and Bruce Banner, and the scene just lacks a particular clarity without dialogue. On my first readthrough, I pretty much went “Who is that? Oh, it’s Thor. Why are they fighting? Is that the Hulk? What is this? This is ridiculous.”

DOUGLAS: What’s odd about this issue is that nothing much seems final about it: it seems much more like a transitional issue than a conclusion. (Not to mention that the main feature ends on a cliffhanger.) Maybe “the FF appeared in the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man/Spider-Man appears in the last issue of Fantastic Four” is an intentional point of symmetry, but Spider-Man’s appearance here seems much more like a lead-in to his role as the fourth member of the new FF.

Which also strikes me as weird in a number of ways. The FF are a team because they’re a family; if your uncle dies, you don’t go holding auditions for a new uncle, you know? I’m of two minds about the new Marko Djurdjevic-designed costumes that appear at the back of the book, too: the black-and-white color scheme is sharp, but I hate the fact that Reed and Ben’s look mostly functional and Sue’s is all sexy and check-out-my-panties.

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GRAEME: I liked the new costumes just fine when Frank Quitely designed them for Plastic Man’s son way back in 1999. (Seriously, they’re really similar, right? It’s not just me?). I agree with the addition of Spider-Man being odd… I can see the point of adding him as a regular guest-star, and also of the “Future Foundation” expanding and changing purpose following this traumatic event, but there’s something too traditional, maybe, about the idea of just replacing Johnny on the team. Especially with a character who used to be all about not having enough time for a double identity, never mind a double identity that now has a full-time job and membership on two other superhero teams.

Overall, I thought this issue was… okay? It was necessary, definitely, to set up the new series, but it felt too much like that: Like everything was set-up, instead of anything close to a real follow-up of the last issue. There was no real resolution or – and I presume this was a very intentional choice – emotional exposure in this issue, because of the silence, just implication and melodrama, and I found it surprisingly disappointing. I keep being told by almost everyone that Hickman is all about the long game when it comes to his writing, and I hope that that’s true, because the last couple of issues have felt entirely like a dry solving of logistical issues so that he could get the characters to the place he needed to relaunch everything. I want more than this, and it’d be nice to think it’ll come eventually.

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