Fantastic Voyage Trade Post: Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Volume 3

Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman Volume 3 (Marvel)
Written by Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Neil Edwards
Collects Fantastic Four #579-582

As I said at the end of my review for the second volume of Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read the third volume without having the fourth because that trade seemed to be leading up to this big huge war. I decided to go ahead and take it with me on a trip to New Hampshire last weekend and I was pleased because it’s a great continuiation of the story, but it also didn’t do what I expected it to. The war has been put off, but the magic of Hickman’s FF run is that you almost don’t even realize it. Instead of moving in the direction I expected, it takes a different angle, by picking up a thread first sewn in back in the first volume.

There are several stories being told here while also sticking with the overarching story, but there are some really interesting bits here. You’ve got Franklin Richards and Johnny Storm running up against Arcade with the Impossible Man making an appearance as well as Reed, Ben and Victor Von Doom traveling back in time to their college days with Reed’s dad to battle an alternate reality version of his dad. That lead into a larger part of the story that references the oncoming war and, I’ll be honest, I don’t think I quite picked up everything Hickman was laying down because there’s some pocket universe stuff going on as well as some tampering with time, but I’m excited to see what happens in the next volume and how it continues on into FF. I don’t have those volumes yet, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a good deal.

I spent a lot of time praising Dale Eaglesham in my previous posts and wasn’t as much of a fan of Neil Edwards on his fill-in issues, but I think he definitely stepped his game up as he took over the regular art chores. He’s still no Eaglesham, but he’s a lot more solid and tight this time around. He’s kind of in the same vein as Bryan Hitch, an artist I think is alright but not as awesome as seemingly everyone else in the world. Anyway, his storytelling and action are both up to par with Hickman’s words, so it’s a nice synthesis.

The interesting thing I just realized about this book is that, I believe you could give just this volume to someone and it would be a fun ride. You’ve got Mr. Fantastic starting the Future Foundation, some classic elements being toyed with like the problem of the Thing’s rock form and some other fun vignettes along with overall storytelling blocks. There might be a few questionable moments or references, but overall, I think that a basic knowledge of the FF would allow you to enjoy even this third volume in a series on its own.

Fantastic Voyage Trade Post: Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Volume 1

Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman Volume 1 (Marvel)
Written by Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Dale Eaglesham & Neil Edwards
Collects Fantastic Four #570-574

Fantastic Four is one of those concepts that has limitless potential that doesn’t always get reached. I’ve only gotten a few issues into the series’ original run in my Fantastic Voyage posts, but I do have some on-again-off-again experience with the book. I started reading with Heroes Reborn and then moved over to the Heroes Return Chris Claremont stuff which I could only stand for about five issues or so. It wouldn’t be until I got my hands on Mark Waid’s run of the book until I really experienced how good this team could be. That is one of my favorite Marvel runs of all time and I hope to get back to it in the relative future. For me, the key to good FF stories is emphasizing both the fantastic elements while also dealing with the family drama at the same time.

And that’s exactly what Hickman does in his first volume of Fantastic Four stories. I read most, if not all, of these issues while I was still working at Wizard, so this was more of a revisiting, but I had just as good of a time the second time around as I did the first.

So, what does the book contain? Three stories, actually, which is impressive considering the collection only contains five comics. First and foremost, we see Reed join a pan-dimensional group of Reeds who have banned together to help change all of the universes. The question he’s posed with–and one that’s central to our version of Reed–is whether he’s willing to risk his humanity (read: family) and fully embrace his world-changing brilliance. After that, Johnny and Ben (with tagalongs Franklin and Valeria) head to their own alternate world and help save the day. I believe this was the location featured in Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s run on the book which I could not bring myself to read after about half the first issue. Finally, we end with Franklin’s birthday party which is a fun family and friend moment followed by a mysterious traveler essentially laying out the next year or so of Hickman’s story (cryptically, of course).

As I said, Hickman does a great job balancing the family and fantastic elements, but he also balances one of the other difficult things about the FF: continuity. These guys have been around consistently for 50 years. That’s a helluva lot of stories for writers to borrow from or base their own stories off of. Sometimes–as in the case of the Claremont issues–the continuity is just too deep and confusing. Other times, writers go on and do their own thing. Again, Hickman balances these elements very well. The history and continuity are there, but they’re not primary to the story. As long as you know the basics of the FF–and maybe not even that, I’d absolutely hand this book to someone who knows nothing about the team–you’re good to go.

Dale Eaglesham matches Hickman perfectly on this book. He’s been one of my all-time favorites for years because his figures always look big and iconic, even when they’re doing something small, like talking to a loved one. He’s the perfect match for this book and you can feel when he’s not drawing the issues. They’re still good, but not as good as you know they could have been. It’s a small complaint, but I want me more Eaglesham!