Review by Frank Plowright
It’s not obvious from the first volume collecting Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four stories, but he was very much sowing seeds for the long term. There’s a greater insight into his intentions here where four self-contained tales are collected, each seemingly having no connection with the others, yet each has a significant impact on the surrounding environment.
The Fantastic Four are called to help four vastly different cities in a quartet of stories that re-establish the team as adventurers and explorers, not the last time Hickman will dig up themes from their earliest appearances. Their first port of call is deep below the Earth’s surface suspecting their first enemy the Mole Man is up to no good. They discover instead that some of his subjects have come across a city abandoned by the High Evolutionary, a being that tinkered with genetics. The atmosphere he left has a distinctive effect.
Under the enclosed ice of Antarctica an ancient race of Atlanteans has survived the centuries isolated from the remainder of their people. In space a ship the size of a city deposits itself on the moon in an area formerly occupied by genetically altered race The Inhumans, and it’s revealed that long-standing alien races familiar to Marvel readers have closer connections to the Inhumans than previously known. The city within The Negative Zone is under a constant state of war, and the Human Torch visits to prevent a stolen bomb being detonated. Each story contains a set of notes that cleverly have a purpose beyond following-up on events.
If a renewed sense of wonder about the series isn’t enough, some may find this volume lacking purpose. Conflict is kept to a minimum, although they do contain possibly the grossest scene ever to grace a Fantastic Four story. Congratulations to artist Dale Eaglesham for that on what proved to be his series finale. His clear storytelling and visual asides greatly enhanced what might have otherwise been complicated material.