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Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1

Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009
By: Matthew J. Brady

Jonathan Hickman
Sean Chen
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 4.

"The Bridge, Chapter One"

Jonathan Hickman has made a name for himself with creator-owned series like The Nightly News, Pax Romana, and Transhuman for smart writing full of interesting ideas and snappy dialogue. So now that he's working for Marvel Comics, the Fantastic Four seems like a good fit for him, at least in the smart ideas department, if not necessarily the place for political and social commentary. And sure enough, Hickman will be taking over the main title once Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch finish their run, but for now, he gets to bridge the gap with this miniseries that ties in to Marvel's overarching universal plot. It's kind of a shame that Hickman is spending his early days with Marvel trying to wrap up other writers' plots in order to get characters into the places he needs them, but hopefully he will be able to make the best of it.

He's certainly doing what he can here, with a story that sees Norman Osborn's H.A.M.M.E.R. attacking the Baxter Building, the FF trying to get everything situated after recent events, and Reed Richards embarking on a multidimensional quest with the goal of figuring out where he went wrong in his decision-making. It definitely smacks of Hickman trying to address what came before him, but the way he's doing it shows promise for the upcoming run, since he seems to have a good handle on the main appeal of the series, which is the team's personalities and the crazy cosmic adventures on which they embark. Unfortunately, as often happens with first issues these days, not much actually happens here; it's all setup for upcoming issues, and the reader will have to judge whether they trust Hickman to live up to the potential shown here.

He does get a little help from artist Sean Chen, but nothing all that amazing. Chen does a good job with the technology and background detail, but the character art leaves something to be desired. Faces often seem frozen in odd expressions, and shouting characters appear to have gaping, toothy maws on their heads rather than mouths. One image of Sue Richards yelling at Reed makes her look like a pointy-toothed harpy; it's an image that is sure to haunt someone's dreams. Maybe this will get better as the series continues, and maybe there will be more of an opportunity to draw wild cosmic stuff and cool machinery, but right now, it's not very appealing to look at.

Given this single issue, it's hard to judge whether the series will be worth reading. Hickman does set up a story that could well be very good, but the fact that he doesn't do much more than that here is kind of a mark against him. And the artwork doesn't help, either. So, this first issue only gets a mild recommendation, but keep an eye out for the rest of the series. It could be a keeper.







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