For the past couple of years, Jonathan Hickman has been writing an amazing, long-form Fantastic Four story, and yet it wasn’t until he relaunched Fantastic Four as FF that it first became abundantly clear that everything was connected, and that seemingly disparate events were in fact part of a much grander, greater whole. This collection, FF volume 1, collects the first five issues of the relaunched FF title, as all of the pieces and strings connecting all of his prior story threads were finally revealed. His run on Fantastic Four was most definitely solid and entertaining, but the stories contained in this volume were what really put the entire thing together, and elevated the story to a whole new level.
The series picks up where Fantastic Four left off, with Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, having bravely sacrificed his life to save the lives of Ben Grimm, the kids of the Future Foundation and the rest of Earth, and his loss is keenly felt among his family/teammates. Within these pages, Spider-Man is inducted into the team, which is no longer the Fantastic Four, but instead now the Future Foundation, with a different worldview, different purpose, and snazzy new outfits. But not all is as it seems, as Valeria reveals a deal she has struck with Doctor Doom to fix his damaged mind. But that’s not the only secret kept by the youngest member of the Future Foundation, as it is revealed that after Reed rebuilt his Bridge in secret, alternate versions of himself escaped through it, and are now running loose in the world, and are also responsible for the coming War of the Four Cities, as prophesized earlier in Fantastic Four. The FF is narrowly able to stop some of the machinations of the alternate Reeds, when it is suddenly revealed that the fallen Inhuman monarch Black Bolt has returned to life, and has returned to Earth, angry.
This is a thrilling collection, which builds upon the seeds that Hickman planted during his Dark Reign: Fantastic Four mini-series, as well as his 19 issues of Fantastic Four. There’s no shortage of great moments here, not to mention excellent characterization. Hickman somehow manages to tell such great, sprawling stories, yet at the same time is able to zero in on a character, and flesh them out brilliantly and efficiently, with such ease. His take on the FF as a family is right up there with the best Fantastic Four writers, and he’s certainly earned his place among their ranks, as each issue he pens gets him higher up that ladder.
The artwork in this collection is handled by not one but two fantastic artists, Steve Epting and Barry Kitson. Although they do have very different styles, the shift from one to the other isn’t jarring at all, because they’re similar enough, and both such fantastic artists, that the transition is fairly seamless. Epting’s slightly darker take on the team is fitting for the first couple of issues, with Kitson’s lighter, yet more detailed style taking over for the last two issues. Given the mood in the story, with Johnny having recently passed away, the darker tone later giving way to a lighter, more detail-oriented tone makes sense in the confines of the story.
This is a fantastic collection, telling a very entertaining slice of Hickman’s story, not to mention one of the most crucial, because this is where everything really starts moving towards a gigantic climax. Up until this point, pieces were being set in motion, but not necessarily connected, especially as Hickman explored the four different cities in one-off issues, but from this point forwards everything comes together into a truly fantastic (pun intended) mosaic. This is when you first realized that Hickman’s run on this book and Fantastic Four was truly something different and something special. Highly Recommended!