Team Up Trade Post: Superman, Batman, Galactus & Darkseid

superman dark knight over metropolisSuperman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern & Jerry Ordway, drawn by Art Adams, Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod & Ordway
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Action Comics #653-654, Adventures of Superman #466-467 & Superman #44

While Hal Jordan might not have been my early bread and butter as a comic reader, Superman and Batman definitely were. I love both heroes, so seeing them team-up in this interesting period (1990) where they didn’t really trust each other and definitely weren’t friends was a trip, especially because I came around later and saw them team up in JLA.

The first comic in this series is a classic that brings both heroes together. It’s written by John Byrne with art by the crazy-awesome Art Adams, but I’ve read it a handful of times and the surprise is a bit gone so I skipped it (well, I flipped through it cause, daaaaaag, it’s pretty). The rest of the book builds off of the title three part story, but kicks off two issues before that to add context. Part of that context involves seeing the origin of Hank Hall, the man who would become Cyborg Superman, one of the most important characters of my childhood!

The actual “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” story had been built up to for a while in the Superman comics because a woman who worked for Lex Luthor stole his Kryponite ring and also figured out who Superman truly was (but Lex didn’t believe her and ruined her life). She gets murdered, the ring gets stolen and winds up in Gotham where Batman gets clued into it. The work the case in and out of costume and eventually, Superman entrusts Batman with the Kryptonite ring (another iconic moment that I always heard about when I started reading a few years later, but didn’t actually read until this point).

This book is steeped pretty heavily in the world of Superman books of this era, much of which is covered in the Man Of Steel trades (which I, of course, adore). I don’t know how easy it would be for a new reader to just jump right in and read these issues, BUT I’m guessing that the dynamic between Batman and Superman in this comic is a lot closer to what’s going on in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice than the Super Friends we later came to know and love.

darkseid vs galactus the hunger Darkseid Vs. Galactus: The Hunger (DC & Marvel)
Written & drawn by John Byrne

Of the three books in this post, Darkseid vs Galactus: The Hunger is actually the one I read as a kid. The mid 90s were actually a really great time to see characters from Marvel and DC crossover, first with the DC Vs Marvel series and then the All Access books and one-offs like this one. At the time, I knew the basics of Galactus and the Fantastic Four and probably knew a bit about Darkseid, Apokolips and the New Gods, but zero clue that these were all Jack Kirby creations coming together.

Though over-written in the grand tradition of both Kirby and Byrne, this super-fun book finds the World Devourer trying to turn Apokolips into his latest snack thanks to Silver Surfer discovering the world of awfulness and sorrow.

There’s a twist at the end of this book that blew me away as a kid and stuck with me ever since. In fact, it was the ONLY thing I remembered about this book that I first read 21 years ago. Again, it’s both reflective of Kirby’s work as well as Byrne’s writing of the mid 90s, so I’m not sure how accessible it is, but if you have even the remotest interest in Kirby’s worlds and always wondered what would happen if they collided, track this book down!

Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man Is Awesome

amazing spider-man the fantastic spider-manIt might have been a few months since I wrote about how much I enjoyed Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, but I’ve been burning through every subsequent trade and issue leading up to Superior Spider-Man with a quickness and anticipation I haven’t felt in a long time. Since we’re talking about nine more trades here, I’m going to talk in a few broad strokes about this excellent piece of longform comic book storytelling.

As I wrote last time, I was emotionally blown away by what Slott did with ASM #655. He didn’t stop there. In fact, he got me again not much later when Spidey joined the Fantastic Four after Johnny Storm seemingly died. It’s been a while since I read those FF issues, but I was really moved by how Spidey honored his good friend and also worked with these new teammates.

In fact, Spider-Man’s team interactions are a real high point for me in these books. He’s a great superhero on his own, but he’s even better as part of the FF and the Avengers. Some solo books do their best to avoid the idea of calling in the teammates, but Slott has Spidey utilize them in ways that make sense and feel organic (they are all in NYC at the same time, after all).

I also love how complex, yet surprisingly easy to understand the villains are. These are characters older than your parents and yet Slott makes them feel fresh, new and yet filled with just the right amount of history (instead of info dump/continuity overload territory). He makes you love and hate characters like Lizard, Morbius and even Doc Ock in ways that make them real.

amazing spider-man ends of the earthAnd then Slott goes and does the unthinkable, he made me love a story about everyone in New York getting Spidey powers. When I heard about this mini event, I kept thinking of things like JLApe, but it turned out to be an incredibly compelling crossover that felt big enough and important enough to keep me interested. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about the “Ends of The Earth” story which finds Doc Ock threatening every living thing on earth as he gets closer to his deathbed. This was by no means a bad story — in fact, seeing Spidey, Black Widow and Silver Sable try to save the world is pretty rad — but I think I have had my fill of Big Two “the world might end” stories. Slott does a great job of getting me interested, mainly from the villain side, but the more of these stories you read the harder it can be to suspend your disbelief. Of all the books in this series, this one took me the longest to read.

And then BAM, I was right back into it with the amazing Lizard story which also circles back around to Morbius. It just so happens that I read and wrote about Morbius’ first appearance for Marvel.com last Halloween, so I knew the background on this particularly strange relationship. This added some depth to what I was reading and also gave me the slightest insight into how much fun this book must be for longtime, diehard Spidey fans.

amazing spider-man 700Speaking of the fans, I’m sure they were pretty distraught when they read what happens to Peter Parker at the end of ASM #700. As someone who covers comics, I knew about the big reveal (which I won’t spoil here, but will in the next paragraph) so reading this whole run was kind of like watching Usual Suspects for the second time. I knew where it was going (to some extent) and could keep an eye out for the seeds Slott planted throughout.

Okay, SPOILER time. How amazing were those last few issues where Peter is just desperately trying to save himself, not because of ego, but because he’s worried that Doc Ock (now inhabiting Spidey’s body) will surely do some evil stuff with it? The way Slott figured out how to keep that from happening was great. I didn’t know about that specific bit, so it was a wonderful surprise that makes me incredibly excited about diving into Superior Spider-Man which is not something I thought I’d say after enjoying a character for over 50 issues and losing him.

I can easily say after reading this run on Amazing Spider-Man that it is one of my all-time favorite runs of comics and that Slott is a ridiculous talent when it comes to crafting these kinds of stories. Now on to the next nine-or-so trades!

Ed Brubaker Trade Post: Daredevil Ultimate Collection Volume 1, X-Men: Deadly Genesis & The Books Of Doom

daredevil brubaker ultimate collection vol 1 Daredevil By Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark Ultimate Collection – Book 1 (Marvel)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano & David Aja
Collects Daredevil #82-93

About a month or so back I decided to give Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run a full read-through. While I’ve been enjoying that experience, there have been a few gaps which I decided to fill with more Brubaker comics from the library.

Up first is this collection of his first 12 issues of Daredevil. If you’re not familiar, Bru picked right up where Brian Michael Bendis left off which involved a story element that saw Matt Murdock being outed as the vigilante and a case being built against him. That of course meant he had to go to jail, but how would that work?

Brubaker’s first arc deals with Matt’s slow descent into madness in a place where such things are common. Believing his best friend has been killed because of him, Matt plunges headlong into prison fights and unlikely team-ups with Kingpin and Punisher. After using a prison riot to mask his escape, our hero then heads out of the country to find out who had his friend murdered. Continue reading Ed Brubaker Trade Post: Daredevil Ultimate Collection Volume 1, X-Men: Deadly Genesis & The Books Of Doom

Trade Post: Exiles Ultimate Collection Book 1 (Marvel)

exiles ultimate collection vol 1 Exiles Ultimate Collection Book 1 (Marvel)
Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Mike McKone & Jim Calafiore
Collects Exiles #1-19

Sometimes a book comes along and just fits so perfectly in your wheelhouse that you wonder why you haven’t already mainlined the whole thing already. Exiles is that book for me. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the X-Men, but didn’t feel up to the challenge of diving into that incredibly dense continuity. I also love alternate world stories, so when Judd Winick — a writer I love — came along and combined the two in Exiles, I was on board. Well, not really because I didn’t read the book as it started coming out because I was graduating high school and heading into college at that point, but I was intrigued and kept it on my trade-watch radar. At this year’s New York Comic Con I scored the first, second, third and fifth volumes of the Exiles Ultimate Collection books for $5 each which was huge for me. I’m pretty excited about getting my hands on the two I’m missing, though maybe not the very last one which is all Chris Claremont. Still, I’ll have fun with the volumes I have (I hope) and see if I want to keep reading the rest.

The idea here is that a group of X-Men have been plucked from their alternate dimensions to work for an entity called the Time Broker who sends them on missions in other dimensions to help get the time stream back on track. If they fail, their own realities will suffer great changes that threaten their own lives. The great thing about this book is that it’s so completely in and of itself while also playing off of many of the themes and ideas presented in the main X-books as well as the Marvel Universe as a whole. Since Winick is working with a team of characters who “don’t matter” in the grand scheme of things at Marvel, he can do a lot more with them than you might expect. These first 19 issues are packed with character deaths, pregnancies, jokes, budding relationships, ridiculously difficult decisions, honest conversations and heaping helpings of ass kickery and explosions.

While building his own team, Winick also does a great job of building an interesting world within a world that explores all kinds of other worlds. There’s clearly a system at play with the Time Broker, but as the series progresses, we learn that the Exiles aren’t the only team of displaced heroes popping around dimensions. It’s one of the intriguing overarching elements that makes me want to keep reading all six volumes of the Ultimate Collection except for maybe that Claremont stuff.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that Winick didn’t work in the typical six issue arc format. If a story needed one issue, he gave it one issue. If it needed three, it got three. This not only keeps the book moving at a good clip — something that’s much appreciated when reading nearly 20 issues of a comic in one collection — but also gives artists Mike McKone and Jim Calafiore the opportunity to do their own things with their own stories before trading off with one another. While McKone’s style is a lot smoother than Calafiore’s more angular one, they both excel at balancing the action scenes with the comedy gags Winick throws in via Morph, so they still feel like they’re working on the same coherent series.

This kind of book does something that not many Corporate Comics can: play with all the pieces of an existing universe and really have fun with it. By going the alternate universe route Winick was able to build his own team, while also creating a myriad of worlds worth their own miniseries’ in many cases. Since those worlds and these characters weren’t connected the main Marvel U, the stakes were much higher. Is Morph going to die in this issue? Are they going to actually save the world from Galactus? These are questions that not only get raised, but worried about because Winick didn’t have to play it safe. You feel pretty safe assuming those bad things won’t happen in a regular universe book, but pretty much anything can happen here.

Trade Post: Marvels, Atlas Volume 1 & Gotham By Gaslight

marvels Marvels (Marvel)
Written by Kurt Busiek, painted by Alex Ross
Collects Marvels #0-4

Going into last weekend, I pulled out a random sampling of mostly one-off trades that I wanted to make my way through this weekend. Some I had experience with, others were brand new to me. I’m splitting the experience between two posts, but here’s how the first three went over.

When I was a kid in the early-to-mid 90s Alex Ross blew everyone’s mind in comics. He might not have been the first guy to paint comic books, but he seemed like it to me at the time. His figures were so iconic and classical looking that you just couldn’t help but pour over his pages. The fact that he and the writers he worked with liked hiding pop culture easter eggs throughout the panels also helped. Kingdom Come was the first book of his I read and it blew me away. I even picked up his next work, Uncle Sam, which I didn’t understand at the time, but definitely want to dig out of my longboxes when I have access to them. I did eventually pick up the four issues of Marvels at a garage sale where a woman was selling off her son’s collection for a buck a book.

I don’t actually remember much about that original reading experience, but I can imagine it was pretty revelatory to me. I was a hardcore DC guy growing up, so my main exposure to the Marvel U was through trading cards, action figure bios, pieces in Wizard and cartoons. At the time, I was a novice when it came to Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age history which we see through the literal lens of photographer Phil Sheldon. He’s there from the beginning, when the original android Human Torch first gets shown off to a suspicious crowd and, as a NYC journalist, sees the beginnings of the superhero world and the way people react to what he labeled Marvels.

Unfortunately, the story wasn’t nearly as fresh this time around. I’ve read a ton of Marvel comics in the meantime and even a few books about the company, so the big action scenes are pretty well-worn for me even if they were presented by Ross in his heyday. I know that’s not what the book is ABOUT, but it is what drives things forward. I appreciate the man-on-the-street perspective that Busiek uses with Sheldon, especially the way his opinions of the “mutant menace” evolves, but I felt like he did all this much better in Astro City (a complaint I realized I also had when reading Busiek’s Web of Spider-Man #81). It’s interesting to see how the writer has wanted to work with specific themes throughout his career, tried them out with Marvel books, but, in my opinion at least, was really able to nail them down in his creator-owned book.

I can’t move on without talking about Ross’s art in this book. It’s as big and bold as you’d expect, though far less pastel than you might expect if you’re more of a recent fan. You can also tell, though, that this is the guy who will evolve into the Kingdom Come painter. The characters here seem a bit lighter and less dense than they do in KC, which is still one of my all time favorites and I’ve got the itch to read it again, so look for that review soon.

atlas return of the three dimensional man Atlas: Return Of The Three Dimensional Man (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Gabriel Hardman, Giancarlo Caracuzzo, Ramon Rosanas & Parker
Collects Assault On New Olympus Prologue, Incredible Hercules (back-ups) #138-141, Enter The Heroic Age & Atlas #1-5

In writing about Agents Of Atlas: Dark Reign, AoA: Turf War and pretty much every other Jeff Parker comic I’ve reviewed here on the site, I’ve talked about how much I enjoy his ability to play within the Marvel sandbox while still adding something new to the characters. It’s a skill set that I’m always impressed by, especially in the days when it seems like creators at the big two don’t have as much freedom thanks to huge events and/or other external circumstances that have nothing to do with creating. Of course, it helps when you’re dealing with characters that are only really cool because you made them that way.

Parker launched AoA as a miniseries back in 2006 based off of an old issue of What If?! that posited a team of characters created back in the Atlas days of Marvel’s history actually became the Avengers. Forgotten by most, Parker dusted these characters off, gave them unique voices and personalities and, in the course of telling thrilling stories, hooked me forever. Since that first outing, the team has appeared in a few failed ongoings (I always said I’d like them to simply take the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. series-of-minis approach, but that wasn’t in the cards), minis and back-ups. This trade collects the team’s back-up features in Incredible Hercules which were going on at the same time as the Assault On Mount Olympus story. The team then got another shot at an ongoing simply titled Atlas, but it only made it the five issues collected in this volume.

Anyway, this volume continues all the elements about Parker’s team that I enjoy while always moving the individuals and the team itself forward. The thrust of the main story revolves around Triathalon and the gang figuring out why beings are trying to kill the original 3D Man and his brother (who was a part of that What If?! issue but no subsequent iterations). The book ends with the team searching for and finding a resolution that actually winds up helping everyone involved instead of going the easy route, which is a nice touch. At this point, I believe this is the last AoA book around. I still haven’t gotten my hands on the Gorilla Man or Marvel Boy minis, but I’m hoping somewhere down the line Parker gets to bring these guys back again and show the world why they’re rad.

gotham by gaslightGotham By Gaslight (DC)
Written by Brian Augustyn, drawn by Mike Mignola

Gotham By Gaslight is the kind of book I’ve heard about for years. Though not labeled as such on the cover of this original GN version, this was the first of the Elseworlds tales, stories taking iconic DC characters and putting them in different settings throughout time, space and, oftentimes, literature. Back in 1994 when I was 11, DC gave every ongoing book the Elseworlds treatment in that year’s annuals. It was a lot of fun, spawned one of my all time favorite stories and also sparked my imagination in a general way. So, as a fan of Elseworlds and artist Mike Mignola, Gotham By Gaslight was easily on my to-get list.

After working out a Sequential Swap, I wound up with a copy in hand and while I’m not sure if it deserved so much anticipation, it’s still a pretty good story. The idea here is that Bruce Wayne became Batman back in 1889. As it happens, he comes back to Gotham just in time to take on Jack the Ripper who has also relocated after committing his infamous crimes in London.

I think this book sounds cooler than it actually is. Batman versus Jack the Ripper drawn by Mike Mignola? That was a much different animal back in 1989 than it is today. The book isn’t bad by any means and dodges many of the elements that made some of those Elseworlds books annoying — like every single DCU supporting character coming into play in these alternate universes — but also doesn’t do a great job of creating a compelling mystery. The looming question over the story is, “Who is Jack the Ripper?” {If you want to completely avoid SPOILERS, skip the rest of this paragraph.} We’re offered a few potential suspects, but the actual culprit is really the only person it could have been, right? We’re thrown some red herrings like the creepy British people on the boat and this world’s version of the Joker, but neither of them come up ever again. Had those characters recurred more throughout the story, I would have questioned my original guess at who the killer was, but as it was, I had it pegged from that character’s first appearance in the comic.

Still, I enjoyed the comic and would be interested in checking out the follow-up which features art by Eduardo Barreto called Master Of The Future. While the main character of Bruce Wayne and Batman is basically the same as you’d expect as even a casual Batman fan, it’s cool to see how that character interacts with a world that reminds me a lot of the one seen in Sandman Mystery Theatre. Plus, that costume is just rad!

Fantastic Voyage: FF By Jonathan Hickman Vol. 1 & 2

ff vol 1 FF By Jonathan Hickman Volume 1 (Marvel)
Written by Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Steve Epting & Barry Kitson
Collects FF #1-5

Right off that bat, I’ve got to throw out a minor complaint about FF. I know it stands for Future Foundation and is an obvious visual and phonic connection to the the Fantastic Four name, but it kind of drives me crazy. This book replaced Fantastic Four for a bit and then both were going at the same time — and I believe still are — but not being able to shorten the title Fantastic Four to FF without causing confusion with this newer title is kind of annoying.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what’s actually in this comic instead of what’s on the cover. If you didn’t read Jonathan Hickman’s fourth volume of Fantastic Four and don’t want anything spoiled, you might want to stop reading here. If you did read it, or just know about comics in general, you’ll remember that Johnny Storm seemingly died protecting his family in order to close the portal to the Negative Zone from the other side, thus stopping a huge invading horde. The idea behind the rebranding of this book is that they’re going by the Future Foundation to not only go along with the ideas Reed has been preaching to the world, but also as a way to deal with the passing of a friend, brother and hero.

As the story unfolds it becomes very clear that, even though this book has a different name than its predecessor, it’s very much a continuation of Hickman’s Fantastic Four story. All kinds of previous threads are picked up and spun together in ways I didn’t see coming. For instance, back in the fourth volume of Fantastic Four, Val went through the portal that lead to the place where some of  the interdimesnional Reeds still survived. What we didn’t see at that point was that four of them made their way to the main Marvel Universe and have since been using aspects of the four cities that have played such important parts in the series to this point as a way to supposedly get back to their interdimensional hangout. As a way to figure out the best way to stop these Reeds, our Reed and Val have agreed to bring in a bunch of villains including Dr. Doom, The Mad Thinker, Diablo, The Wizard and The Hight Evolutionary to figure out the best way to deal with their mutual enemies. This doesn’t sit well with Sue and Ben as you might expect.

Unlike the previous Hickman-penned trades I’ve read to this point, this one definitely felt like more of one story told over several issues. That’s not a dig by any means, just something I noticed. Previous volumes felt like they could be given to someone without much FF knowledge and they’d be fine and that might be the case with this one, but Hickman’s kicking his story into high gear and surging towards whatever the conclusion will be. The only real thing that separates the issues aside from the obvious breaks and interstitial pages is the shift from Steve Epting to Barry Kitson on art. Epting definitely retains the dark, gritty style that made a lot of sense in the previous volume and still makes sense here. Then, Kitson takes over and it’s a little alarming just because it’s so big and old and bright. Again, this isn’t a complaint about Kitson’s art, I think it’s fantastic (puns!), just a bit of a jarring transition.

ff vol 2 FF By Jonathan Hickman Volume 2 (Marvel)
Written by Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Greg Tocchini, Steve Epting & Barry Kitson
Collects FF #6-11

You might expect from the  paragraph I wrote above that this second volume of Hickman’s FF picks up directly where the last one left off and it does after a fashion, but also spends two issues explaining what’s been up with Black Bolt, the Inhumans and a few other characters who got their start in Fantastic Four, but played big parts in the cosmic books since Annihilation (like Ronan and Crystal and a few others). Specifically, they pick up where War of Kings left off and establish a reason for the Inhumans to return to Earth which makes sense and made for enjoyable stories even though I didn’t read most of WOK. My only complaint about those two issues is that Tocchini’s art is super loose and not very appealing. He gets better by the second issue, but that first one was pretty rough. Oh, one more quick complaint, we’re not all Inhumans experts, so it would have been nice to see a few floating boxes introducing them, just saying. It worked when Geoff Johns wrote the Legion Of Super Heroes in Action Comics, I think it would have worked here too.

After all that, we’re back with the alterna-Reeds, a Future Foundation packed with villains and an impending war between, well, everyone. In this case, the Inhumans arrive just in time to square off against the remaining three bad Reeds who are attacking the Atlanteans while using the High Evolutionary’s machine. As you might expect, many of the villains find their way out of the Future Foundation in this battle thanks to betrayal, capture or both. Reed reunites with Black Bolt for a brief time, he doesn’t learn a whole lot about their plans, but while he, Spider-Man and Nathan Richards are inside, the Inhumans capture two of the bad Reeds and the third makes off with an intellectually castrated Dr. Doom. Essentially, this is but one battle in a much larger war.

And that’s what I love about this whole series. It’s not just a point A to point B and then C story. It takes place in a universe of characters who all have varying levels of history together and each have their own trajectories. Events aren’t simple, they are complicated and even when they seem to end, they don’t. The last arc ensconced in this trade is post-battle, but still does all kinds of heavy lifting for the much larger story at work here. Ronan sneaks into the Inhumans’ stronghold, kidnaps their two Reeds and uses them to rebirth the Supreme Intelligence (I love how the Reeds are considered such intergalactic hot commodities). Meanwhile, Nathan finds himself with the last alterna-Reed and his pet Dr. Doom for unknown reasons. Back at the Baxter Building, Val and the crew are working on what she says will be a giant escape plan for all the people living there. If that’s not a gun waiting to be fired (and better explained) I don’t know what is. And lastly, Spider-Man returned to the house with not only The Thing — who was absent for a few issues — but also a whole crew of Avengers who are offering their services in taking care of this Inhumans problem.

My friends who are more active in the industry and read comics on a far more regular basis make fun of me because I’m so behind in books, but I’m cool with it. I get to mainline whole arcs of quality comics like this while knowing that there are still four more volumes out there for me to devour (two more FFs and two more Fantastic Fours all of which I need to get my hands on). That’s perfect for me. I’ve avoided all talk of what happens in this book and am completely on board for the ride. Knowing that there’s an end to that ride actually makes it better for me because I’m looking forward to seeing how Hickman brings everything to a close. Now I just need those last few comics to find their way to Sequential Swap or become significantly discounted on Amazon because, yes, I am very cheap.

Fantastic Voyage: Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Vol. 4

hickman fantastic four volume 4 Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman Volume 4 (Marvel)
Written by Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Steve Epting with Nick Dragotta & Mark Brooks
Collects Fantastic Four #583-588

After having written about volumes one, two and three of Jonathan Hickman’s run of Fantastic Four, I was surprised to discover that I hadn’t actually written about the fourth which I read towards the end of last year I believe. I planned to write about the first two volumes of FF this week (and I will, look for that post on Friday), but wanted to complete the series, so I went back and re-read the fourth volume.

In all my previous reviews, I’ve noted how well Hickman balances the variety of different elements inherent in the Fantastic Four concept. You’ve got action and family. Drama of all kinds. Bleeding edge science and galactic heralds. Spider-Man and Mole Man. Basically, there’s a lot of toys in the FF toy box and Hickman’s great at creating stories that use all the best parts in all the best ways.

Take this collection for example, in one issue we actually get to see the ball-busting-yet-truly-affectionate Johnny/Ben relationship which warms the cockles and then a page later Hickman introduces a new version of the Yancy Street Gang made up of white collar dudes who lost their jobs in the economic decline. Humanity, humor and drama seamlessly woven together in seven pages. That’s good stuff.

At the same time, some really heavy, over-arcing elements are at play. Valeria makes a deal with Dr. Doom. The four cities are behaving erratically. Namor makes a play against the Atlanteans. Reed has to explain why there’s a Galactus corpse in the middle of the Earth…to Galactus. A new Annihilation Wave is trying to invade our dimension. And, of course, a team member dies. If you don’t want to hear who it was — even though it was a fairly poorly kept secret — don’t read the next paragraph. In other words SPOILERS AHOY!

Alright, so as you probably know, the Human Torch supposedly bought it in the second-to-last issue of this collection, though we’re never shown a body. On one hand, it’s a comic book death so you know it’s not going to stick (and has probably already come unstuck). On the other hand, Hickman handles the death in such a way that you actually feel it. The whole last issue is silent and drawn by Nick Dragotta who looks like a combination of John Paul Leon and Tim Sale which is an interesting combo. It’s a pretty moving issue capped off by a Max Brooks-drawn conversation between Spider-Man and Franklin Richards about what the death of an uncle can mean to a kid. Basically, Hickman knew that many readers would be dubious of the whole thing, so he went the heartfelt route and it really worked, in part because he never dipped into melodrama too much. Death in comics is kind of a joke, but that’s because most of them seem to be used to show how badass a villain is or let you know that a big event is in the offing. In this case, a hero seemingly sacrificed his life to save, to some extent, the world, but to a larger one, his family. That’s the heart of the moment and it’s an earned one.

Okay, out of spoiler territory. I mentioned Brooks and Dragotta above, but Steve Epting handled most of the art in these issues. I love Epting from his run on Captain America with Ed Brubaker. When I first opened the book I thought, “Ooh, his art worked in Cap because it’s something of a street-based espionage story;. Will that fit in the sweeping cosmic setting of FF?” And the answer was, “Of course.” He’s got the chops to draw everything Hickman throws at him, but there’s also a darker feel to this arc that lends itself well to Epting’s style. My only problem? Johnny looks a little more square than he probably should. I noticed how old he seemed in one scene and it didn’t completely jive with my idea of the character. I realized that he’s often shown with short cropped hair, but, in general, he’s a young, cool, hip guy and should look that way. But hey, that’s an incredibly minor quibble, the kind of thing you only notice when everything else is so spot on.

From what I can tell, there’s two more volumes of Fantastic Four by Hickman and then a total of four FF volumes (I’ve got the first two). As much as I enjoy this run, I’m actually glad that it has an end point and that all or most of the pieces are out there for me to grab and read. For what it’s worth, I’m also pretty thankful that Marvel numbered these trades in a very simple way. Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman Vol. 1-6 is super easy to remember. As much as I love Brubaker’s run on Captain America, there’s no way for me to remember which books I have and which ones I need. It doesn’t help that after a read-through of the entire run, I put those books in a box that’s under at least two other boxes. Simple numbering, you guys, it’s important!