What They Say:
FOREVER PART 4 It’s Galactus versus the Celestials! Plus, the return of the Future Foundation!
It all began with the most human of desires: for somebody to talk to. However, when you’re arguably the world’s most intelligent person, who do you turn to when you need to voice your doubts or brainstorm new ideas? For Reed Richards, that person turned out to be himself. Or rather a version of him from an alternate universe. Reed—otherwise known as Mister Fantastic—built a portal to a place outside of normal space-time. There he met versions of himself from countless alternate dimensions. At first he was overjoyed at the intellectual possibilities of conversing with people of similar intelligence and goals, but the more he learned about these Reeds, the more he learned to distrust them. Their respective universes may have been orderly, but they were also authoritarian, devoid of free-will and compassion, and the price paid to achieve these “utopias” was the abandonment of family: the one act our Mister Fantastic could never do. He left the Reeds as they were fighting against the nigh-omnipotent cosmic entities, The Celestials, and thought he was done. Unbeknownst to him, two of the Reeds managed to escape through his portal, and they will do anything, including sacrificing the Earth, to return to their homes.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. After that encounter the Human Torch seemingly died in the Negative Zone at the hands of a reborn Annihilus. The Invisible Woman became queen of a lost tribe of ancient Atlantians. Spider-Man joined to round out the roster and the team changed its name to The Future Foundation (for a brief time) to reflect a more optimistic, future-oriented course. All the while they’ve had to prepare for a future war prophesied by Reed’s time-traveling father, Nathaniel, and adult version of Reed and Sue’s children Valeria and Nathan. It’s a war that encompasses both time and space, incited by the alternative Reeds, and no matter how prepared the Fantastic Four may think they are, even their combined power may not be enough.
All of these events came to a head in this issue. Reed sums up this issue (and perhaps the series’ storyline) best when he says: “It…It’s all…It’s…Too Big. We have to get clear of this.” This is the day that the Fantastic Four have been dreading for almost two years. The day when everything they love and everything they believe in is put to the test. And yet, for all the immensity of the threats they face, this comic feels strangely lackluster.
Taken in pieces there’s nothing particularly wrong with this comic. It was certainly enjoyable enough to read and it progressed the story, but it didn’t wow me. Fantastic Four has always been a comic about crazy, larger-than-the-universe science fiction adventures, and while that’s certainly going on here, there’s almost too much occurring at once. You have the Annihilation Wave under the command of Johnny Storm (just recently back from the Neutral Zone and who now has the Cosmic Control Rod and a pint-sized Annihilus collared like a dog), the Inhuman’s city of Attilan now mobile and armed to the teeth, the entire Kree fleet lead by the newly-resurrected Supreme Intelligence, Galactus, The Fantastic Four, and three Celestials all duking it out in near orbit around the Earth. The Earth’s only hope lies in the doomsday weapon created by the remaining Alternative Reed Richards.
It’s all just a little too much, but I will say that it’s a tribute to Hickman’s writing and Kitson’s pencils that we’re never lost in all of the plot points. It runs together like a well-oiled machine, but it might just be too compressed. There was a time when Galactus by himself was enough to throw the world into panic, just as there was a time when a fraction of the Kree armada was enough to conquer the Earth. The same goes for the Celestials. These are all huge, cosmic players but there isn’t a proper scale to illustrate just how major a threat these are. Couple this with the fact that Hickman has been building to this point for some time now it just doesn’t quite live up to the ominous threats we’ve been reading.
I may have just built this up too much in my mind to the point where nothing I read could match the Armageddon I had envisioned. Or it could be that Hickman’s compressed style doesn’t lend itself well to the kind of end-of-the-world feeling I was expecting. Everything happens so quickly that (once again) there’s a lack of proper scale. For example, the fight between Galactus and the three Celestials takes up four pages—not an unhealthy chunk considering the comic is only twenty-two pages long, but this should be huge. Each time the point of view shifts, the comic helpfully labels the change with either a brief description of the setting, such as “Atillan” or “The Fist of Hala”; however, when it shifts to the fight, it’s labeled “Heaven Weeps.” It’s a great transitional device and it highlights the enormity of the situation, but that sense just doesn’t quite translate to the rest of the page. It’s not that this is a poorly written comic—far from it. The characterization is spot on and everybody has a heroic moment. Sue in particular stands out as the rock that holds the family together, facing down the Celestials when the rest of the family is down with such determination that even though we know she can’t win it’s not hard to imagine her taking one of them down with her.
This isn’t a bad comic by any means, but it just doesn’t have the sense of scale and doom that I was expecting from this point in the story arc. I still enjoyed it and I’m still on board to see where this all goes, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a bit disappointed at how smoothly everything goes in a story where the heroes should be brought to their lowest.
Readers Rating: [ratings]