Friday, 2 December 2011

The Mane Event - Fantastic Four #600

In November 1961 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created their first superhero team, the Fantastic Four. This month we are celebrating the 50th anniversary with a bumper 100 page issue #600. Bumper is also not a word to be used lightly, especially as there are only six or seven pages that are set aside for adverts and letters. The rest is filled with Jonathan Hickman’s new stories and a variety of artwork by different artists. Unlike other landmark Marvel issues, this isn't filled with reprint material which makes a nice change.

It is also worth mentioning now that this is an issue that both follows on from and creates a divergence in the storyline of the relatively new Future Foundation comics. It’s fair to say that FF has been building to something big with the numerous Reeds, the return of Blackbolt and the Inhumans, The Other Side of Zero or an impending Kree invasion (all of which would merit a storyline of their own) and so it’s understandable that not all of these are addressed deeply within the issue.

However, there is one central point which things revolve around and it’s a good one. The return of the Human Torch.

For those who were not aware, Johnny “died” in the Negative Zone just before the Future Foundation title began, meaning it was an emotional and fraught beginning.

Now if I’m honest I don’t think that anyone was prepared to believe that Johnny was gone forever and his return creates the backbone of the issue, beginning with a trademark quip.

What follows next is a fantastic little retrospective of what happened after the door was closed. It’s vibrant, colourful and engaging. Most of all, it’s all new! It also has enough depth in it that I was left with questions and an unconvinced outlook that everything will just be fine or normal as a result. Given that this could have gone anywhere and potentially created a spin off miniseries on its own, Hickman has done a great job in succinctly covering it all in such a small space of time.

Now with this being the bulk of the issue it would be easy to get overwhelmed by the main story. But Hickman just keeps going. Following on from this major bombshell you still have three more smaller stories. Each of them follows a slightly different aspect and even expands on who Galactus is.

Most intriguingly is the final almost childlike story which looks at Reed's rather gifted son and a mystery character who has taken to guiding him.

When all of the elements come together you are left with a strange mix of satisfaction, from the return, and questions which leads you to want to know more. Knowing that FF is going to continue as a title in its own right with Doom and the kids, whilst Fantastic Four is renewed and recreated leaves you with a dilemma. Is there room for both titles on my pull list? And if not which do I choose?

Personally I am also wondering if they’ll keep the new updated uniforms and what is really going on with Johnny so depending on the calibre of FF stories I could be swayed away and back to the original line up. But whichever the reader chooses there is definitely a huge wealth of stories and action that can, and no doubt will, be called upon.

In a title that isn’t one of my main or favourites it is very easy to say that there are some very exciting and interesting times ahead. Even if you’re not an avid fan I would encourage you to read this issue and it will change your mind too.

Very well worth a read!

Matt Puddy suspects Johnny Storm is in for a rough ride.

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