Review by Frank Plowright
Reckoning War is an eight chapter Fantastic Four story with a single chapter tie-in, so why couldn’t Marvel supply the entire story in a single collection like they did in the UK? God forbid they have any consideration for readers.
The broad background is that someone has been arming the universe’s warlike races and encouraging them to attack. The creative background is that Slott has taken an idea he dropped fifteen years previously in She-Hulk: Time Trials, fed in some concepts from his Silver Surfer run, explained the arming of the Cotati in Empyre and followed up on the teaser of the Watcher and Nick Fury included in The Forever Gate. Millennia ago before the Watchers watched, they attempted to advance other races, but ceased and became Watchers when one race destroyed themselves and too many others with the donated advanced technology. That race, the Reckoning, have now returned, and with their help the Badoon are threatening Earth.
Whether or not Slott ever intended to follow up on a couple of passing lines of dialogue dropped into an old She-Hulk story is a moot point, but in doing so he faces the same challenge superhero writers have dealt with for years. Every year there’s a universe-threatening event, and after a while that type of existential threat just induces crossover fatigue, plus technological progress means movies and games now achieve what only superhero comics could previously, and better. The way around that is by concentrating on the individuals, and here that’s Reed Richards. He absorbs the knowledge of the Watchers, so having a greater understanding than anyone about the problem and what might be done, but at a terrible cost reducing his humanity.
By the halfway point that’s had serious consequences, although the more experienced reader of superhero crossovers isn’t going to be fooled. They always involve a death to provide a cheap shock, but not on this scale.
Carlos Pacheco is a long proven illustrator of the epic, and does his part over the opening chapter, but he’s matched by Rachael Stott who really delivers the cosmic over the next three, and who continues into Reckoning War Part II.
Javier Rodriguez illustrates the closing chapter, which is an interlude examining what might have happened had Uatu the Watcher never interfered on pivotal occasions. Slott’s script focuses primarily on the Fantastic Four’s first meeting with Galactus and the Silver Surfer, during which Uatu interfered with events several times, most crucially revealing the doohickey that saved the day. Slott’s alternate version reconstitutes events satisfyingly, and Rodriguez on both art and colours is impressive as he modifies both style and tone. It’s filler, but it’s good filler.
A distraction common to crossovers is overcrowding, and that occurs here as Slott not only attempts to draw together many strands from his earlier Fantastic Four stories, but also keeps throwing in more heroes. Doctor Doom’s actions are the best of these, working for once to save the planet, not rule it.