Review by Frank Plowright
Writer Jonathan Hickman’s first Fantastic Four material was the Dark Reign story, which provided few concessions to the crossover event after which it was titled. As such, and with its focus on Reed Richards wanting to rectify the mess his world had become, it leads directly into this first collection of Hickman’s run on the parent title.
The twin themes of science and children dominate Hickman’s Fantastic Four stories, and these twin representations of hope are apparent from the opening pages of this collection. Also apparent is that this is going to be different style applied to the Fantastic Four. The Wizard, a genius-level inventor had previously been a formidable menace, and here delivers a viable threat, but it’s dismissed in a few pages and the action is related as bedtime story by Reed to his son Franklin. Hickman has bigger worlds to explore, and super-villain threats are, for the most part, off the agenda. To compensate, the wonder returns.
Richards has built a machine that accesses alternate dimensions in the hope of finding a solution to the problems besetting the world. The machine also transports him to an inter-dimensional council of other Reed Richards, each of which began with the same aim, and who have bettered reality throughout their worlds by pooling their intellects. The familiar Reed aids in some missions and observes the impressive difference they have made, but, of course, there’s a price to be paid.
The concentration on Mr Fantastic leaves the remainder of the team the supporting cast in their own title for a few chapters, which isn’t ideal, but their turn in the spotlight follows. The Thing and the Human Torch opt for a vacation on Nu-Earth, introduced during Mark Millar’s Fantastic Four run. Time passes there in accelerated fashion, and the two weeks elapsed since the FF visited has been eight years for the residents, during which ‘pear shaped’ hardly begins to describe the situation. It’s further complicated by Franklin and Valeria Richards stowing away.
A birthday party for Franklin ends the book, and brings down the breakneck pace at which momentous events have occurred. It introduces many characters who’ll play a later part, and delivers some fine interaction between them. It serves an appetiser with a final sequence in which an intruder with enough power to keep the FF at bay manifests in the Baxter Building.
The pencilling is split between Dale Eaglesham and Neil Edwards, both capable of supplying the splendour, the humanity and the action Hickman has in mind. It’s a very promising start to what would become a consistently engaging run.