Clocking in at around 100 pages, with no less than five stories (two of which are full-size comics), Fantastic Four #600 may have struck you as a hefty dent to your wallet. Let me be not the first to say that every page is worth it, with perhaps seven or eight pages being amongst the best pages seen in any comic this year. That’s right, people – Fantastic Four #600 is a worthy addition to the team’s legacy.
The five stories – all written by Hickman – follow on from one another despite jumping around locations and timeframe. So let’s touch on them as they occur in the comic.
The first story continues the main thread from FF, which is that an alien armada of Kree warships is converging on Earth, hoping to destroy it or something. To this extent, they are sending in ground-troops instead of simply firing a big laser at it. Which just goes to show that the Kree still haven’t learned their lesson, even after decades of failing repeatedly to invade the Earth, because of their bizarre inability to build giant lasers. Steve Epting draws the issue, and manages to get across the scale of the invasion rather successfully – which is to say that he keeps things on a ground level, detached from the details of the attack. We instead keep tight on the four members of the FF as they attempt to deal with the invasion pragmatically. And, as Reed Richards remains one of these four characters, that means things get very very pragmatic indeed. Also, The Thing teams up with Red Hulk and She-Hulk to punch a giant robot into three pieces. Then takes on the remaining four by himself. THAT is why he’s everybody’s favourite blue-eyed thing, ladies and gentlemen. Hickman knows what you want.
The ending is obviously the biggest deal here, but let’s not go into that. Needless to say, it is the only way Hickman could possibly have ended the book, and the best thing is that once he’s finished, there’s another 22-page comic immediately afterwards! He sets people up for an agonising wait, but then tempers it with a flick of the page. Story two, drawn by the amazing Carmien Di Giandomenico, follows on by rewinding the story and showing you how things all join up. Hickman’s story here is simple enough, but the dialogue is the spectacular part of the tale. He immediately makes it clear why the story is important, by giving us some of the best character-work I’ve ever seen in a comic-book. His handling of the characters is simply fantastic, and quickly promotes to the very top of Marvel’s roster.
Ming Doyle jumps in for the shorter third story, which centres on Medusa and Black Bolt. This story provides a much-needed insight into the minds of these two characters, even if it does seem to present a version of Medusa who is far more subdued than normal. Medusa stands by her husband no matter what, but given the events of the past few months? It would be nice to see a little more fury in her. But still. Doyle’s artwork seems simple at first, but quickly segues into a beautifully-drawn mindscape world where the characters can talk without, y’know, Black Bolt blowing up the Moon.
Part four skips around through time once more, to introduce what will likely by an upcoming story point. Reed and Susan travel to meet Galactus, who wants to have a quick chat with them about something. That this something just ‘happens’ to tie-in perfectly to Matt Fraction’s run on Thor suggests that the FF are soon going to become far more tied-in to the core of the Marvel Universe next year.
And part five features the most fun art of the book, as Farel Dalrymple handles duties as artist and letterer. This story acts much like the second one, in that it rewinds to show how one random utterance in the first story is actually a reference to something much deeper and far more troubling than readers could have imagined.
You may fret when you see the price, and remember that sometimes Hickman likes to write an issue made up solely of set-up and plot-placing. But Fantastic Four #600 is a payoff issue. Things really start to race with this comic, and the future looks exciting. Jonathan Hickman proves to us all that eh really is one of the best plotters in comics – he ties up so many plots and sets up so many more in this issue, you’d be amazed. The issue is massively rewarding for long-time readers, and enjoyable even for those just jumping-on to the series. Earth invasions, talking bugs, existentialism and clobbering: the book’s got ‘em all.