Review by Frank Plowright
With the sixth collection of Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four, attention turns to Empyre, the crossover series Slott co-writes with Al Ewing. It concerns an invasion of Earth by plant-based lifeforms the Cotati, the threat of which is enough to unite the perennially warring Kree and Skrull races.
This can be read without reference to Point of Origin‘s events. The Fantastic Four’s involvement is pleasingly circular, beginning with their rescue of one Kree child and one Skrull child, enslaved and forced to fight on a gambling planet, and ending with their incorporation into the FF family. They’re seen on Paco Medina’s sample art, with Medina drawing them as the children they are, something not all series artists manage as convincingly, and everyone who picks up on the pin-up homage in his first story will have a good cackle.
Because the primary members of the Fantastic Four are intimately involved in the main event, Jo-Venn and N’Kalla are central to the story told here, sent back to New York with Frankin and Valeria Richards where, it’s presumed, they’ll be safe. That’s before the Cotati arrive, and with the Kree and the Skull children continuing their conflict help is required, so Spider-Man and Wolverine show up. With Wolverine’s instincts, though, that’s not such a great idea.
A downside to Slott’s run to date has been the sheer weight of supplemental material included in each collection, and with this content tying in with a company crossover the worst might be assumed. However, Slott writes everything, regular artists Sean Izaakse and Paco Medina draw most, with R. B. Silva a sterling substitute, so the only possible downside is the Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Mr Fantastic and the Thing being barely seen for half the content. However, Slott has made it clear he considers Franklin and Valeria co-stars, and Spider-Man and Wolverine provide the recognisable superhero quota. They combine for a fun adventure with a viable threat that connects with the main story, but without needing to know much about it for the fun to be had.
An Empyre aftermath chapter is low on action, but high on plot, so provides a contrast to the action-heavy bulk of the book, which closes with the story of why Iceman considers he’s briefly been a member of the Fantastic Four. It’s Slott’s attempt at an old style Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Fantastic Four adventure, although Medina doesn’t draw it that way. Both the younger Iceman and the younger Human Torch are in a huff with their teams and storm out, but Iceman takes the vacant FF slot. It’s light, but still fun.
Next up is The Forever Gate. This is also one of those graphic novels where Amazon only offer the digital package, so the links are to that.