Writer: Alan Davis
Artists: Alan Davis (p), Mark Farmer (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Things really start to pop this issue, as the FF, on three separate fronts but with new allies, face a plethora of complicated threats.
Comments: This is definitely my favorite Fantastic Four comic in some time, and it may be the best of the “The End” series yet. Davis shows everyone else how it’s done on every page, building an “Elseworlds” style story in the vein of his excellent JLA: The Nail and Superboy & the LSH mini-series specials for the competition.
Here the four have been driven apart by tragedy (the loss of both Franklin and Valentina in a disastrous confrontation with a mechanized Dr. Doom). Davis has taken the time to set up each of their reactions over the ensuing years. Though it doesn’t really feel right, they’ve moved on with their lives, as people inevitably must. John Storm is now an Avenger. Ben is raising a family with Alicia on Mars. Sue is developing her “soft” science interests and looking for clues in undersea ruins. And Reed has isolated himself on a science satellite as an obsessed workaholic.
Meanwhile, the Marvel universe has changed as well. The Sol system has been isolated by its residents, to protect humanity from alien invasion, and perhaps to protect the aliens from us as well. This self-isolation has only infuriated humanity’s enemies, however, who may or may not be behind the multi-pronged attack now facing the estranged foursome.
The new permutations of familiar faces are fascinating under Davis’ guiding hand. It’s a sheer pleasure to witness a master at work. Ben and Johnny join the Inhumans to fight a Sentry on Mars, and Davis makes sure each player has a moment to shine. Sue runs into an old foe, who may yet test her impressive self-reliance. And Reed faces betrayal from two different foes, caught unawares due to his depression and distraction, but ever inventive when it comes to his own powers of both attack and defense.
Davis pays attention to the details, and he has a wonderful vision of just how elastic Reed can be, or how Medusa might employ each one of her living strands of hair in a crisis. When Blackbolt must at last be heard, his speech doesn’t just destroy his target: it breaks the boundaries of the comic panels themselves. Davis’ compositions are dynamic, diagonal, fluid and yet he never loses command of anatomy or the requisite details of facial expression and posture. He’s the definition of what one means by the phrase “writer/artist.”
When the infuriated Kree and Skrulls link up with the Shi’ar, Davis gives us one panel that outshines the recent reappearance of the Imperial Guard in Uncanny X-Men. Davis clearly recalls the true inspiration of Lilandra’s personal security force, and his accurate depiction of each member (without forgetting a couple of Byrne’s later additions) is the best homage to the late great Dave Cockrum I’ve yet seen. I want that splash page as a poster.
This is the sort of jam-packed issue that is usually the penultimate one of a mini-series, but there’s no sense that Davis is rushing. Rather, he’s got even more to wow us with in the last two issues. The only reason for the one-bullet deduction is that this is a project designed for the long-term reader. Not that new readers won’t find a lot to love and entertain, but the resonance of the concept and Davis’ meticulous details grows exponentially for those who get every reference along the way. This is an homage to all the Marvel was and can be again.
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