Fantastic Four: The End

March 9th, 2007 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(Images have been added to the post! Scroll all the way down.)

Have you ever had something take you utterly by surprise that, in hindsight, is completely obvious?

That happened to me with Annihilation. I had no idea that Annihilus was the villain of Annihilation until the end of the Annihilation Special. No duh, right? I’m usually pretty good with picking out plot twists. I bet watching tv shows or movies with me sucks, since sometimes I just can’t help going “That guy’s the traitor, his wife is the hero in disguise, and that little one-liner about being good with explosives means he’s going to fake his death.”

But, I’ll still miss some completely obvious things.

So, pull up a chair and check this out. I’m probably going to spoil the ending of Fantastic Four: The End for you in the process. That’s still a few paragraphs down, though.

Just for clarity’s sake– FF: The End is the first of two (!) FF: The End projects. The upcoming one is being done by the team of Stan Lee and John Romita Jr. The one I’m talking about here, though, is the recently concluded FF: The End by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. As usual, Farmer inks while Davis pencils and writes.

The last project I remember Davis and Farmer collaborating on is JLA: The Nail and JLA: Another Nail. They were Elseworlds tales about Superman being raised by Amish farmers, rather than the Kents, and the differences that brought out in the world. They weren’t perfect stories, as I seem to remember Jimmy Olsen somehow getting superpowers or something a little ridiculous like that, but they were great fun. JLA: Another Nail actually had the best Green Lantern ever. A deceased Mister Miracle escaped from death on Apokolips and into a GL ring which was worn by Big Barda.

A husband-and-wife Green Lantern. Awesome.

Davis has a lot of strengths. Costume design, for one. Another Nail is full of pretty sweet redesigns, and FF: The End is no different. He is kind of overly fond of raised collars, but he comes up with a cool in-story explanation for why so many Inhumans wear masks, so it evens out. Another is that he’s the original Bryan Hitch. Hitch used to be a Davis imitator, and his inker Paul Neary is well known for working with Alan Davis. Both of them have a great eye for detail and realism, which means that disaster scenes and low-key scenes both hit with appropriate impacts.

What I’m trying to say is that Alan Davis is an awesome artist. With FF: The End, he becomes a good writer, too.

FF: The End is set after the Mutant Wars, and after Reed Richards has finally put his mind toward improving the Earth to its fullest potential. He’s extended the lives of everyone on the planet exponentially. Lives are measured in the centuries now, which also provides a convenient reason for all your favorite heroes to show up still youthful, though Doc Strange missed out on the treatment. Crime is essentially gone, and there are heroes all over the solar system. The solar system itself has been quarantined, shut off from the Kree, Shi’ar, Skrulls, and most other Marvel space aliens. Marvel is finally a utopia.

That’s not to say that it’s been a bloodless advancement. The prologue shows that Franklin and Valeria Richards died in the FF’s final battle with Doctor Doom. We fast forward to twenty years after that, and the FF didn’t manage to stay together. Ben Grimm retired to Mars with Alicia Masters, his longtime girlfriend, and they have a handful of kids. Ben can turn from monster to man and back again, as well. Johnny Storm goes by John now, and he’s a bigshot hero in his own right. He’s extremely well-respected, to the point where he’s the top dog in the Avengers. His is the only new costume that I’m not really digging, but he thankfully gets some FF duds part-way through the series. Either way, the hothead has grown up into a true hero. Sue has buried herself in archaeological research and is hunting for various esoteric objects all over the Earth. She’s also sporting a boyish haircut that is pulled off amazingly well, and speaks to Davis’s sense for character design. Reed? Reed is alone on a satellite, cut off from human contact nine times out of ten, tinkering with his inventions and looking to keep pushing forward. Marvel’s First Family aren’t much of one any longer.

The main story for the first five issues, or at least the one that seemed the most important, was about an alliance between the Kree and Shi’ar and their attempts to gain access to, and subsequently wreck, the solar system. They’ve enlisted the aid of supervillains and other classic baddies in their quest.

The Four have their own stories going on, too. John Storm and the Avengers are tackling the still mysterious incursions into the solar system. Ben is having fun on Mars with his kids (Daniel and Jacob, twin boys, and Yancy, a daughter), but is only respected and treated as a man by the locals when he’s in his rocky form. The more things change, right? Ben and Johnny’s stories converge as the series goes on, however. Sue is underwater, searching still, which makes for a cool Namor appearance. Reed is tinkering around on his lab, alone except for She-Hulk. He’s still looking for more advancements, but you can tell that he’s been broken emotionally. He’s gone without significant human contact for months at the least, and hasn’t seen his wife in a year.

Now, you’d think that the book would be all about the FF finally coming back together, becoming a team again, and helping the Avengers turn back the alien threat. I know that I did, and I figured that that would be the crux of the book. The team has to get back together in the end and beat the big bad, right?

That’s what I thought, at least, and I missed the handful of subtle clues telling me I was wrong.

It’s been run into the ground, but the FF are a family, right? What’s the most important thing to a family? Each other. What is the most important thing to parents? Their children.

My expectations were pretty much completely subverted. FF: The End isn’t about a space battle. It’s about Susan Richards having the drive to get her children back, with a time travel twist. It’s about Reed being forced to look beyond his logic and science and trust his wife. It’s about Ben and John reconciling with each other and their team.

It’s really kind of deftly done. I always had a sense of “What is Sue doing screwing around underwater when the solar system is under attack?” but couldn’t figure it out. A few pages into issue six (and yes, after she explains her plan), it all clicked and the clues made sense. It was a nice surprise and a wonderful plot twist. The FF actually miss out on that big final battle and have one last, though likely not final, battle with Doom. At the end of it, Franklin and Valeria are back and the Fantastic Four are the First Family once again.

The space battle features some awesome fight spreads, but is pretty much solved by Galactus showing up and telling everyone involved that Earth is off-limits, or else. It is not quite an anticlimax, as there is a definite and very good reason for it. If it were the ending to the A-story, it might suck, but it works here. I think that Davis knows that, too, because Thor remarks that it’s “baffling strange” that the Big G decided to help out the Earth. Nick Fury responds that it doesn’t matter, because now they’ve got a second chance.

And that’s it. That’s your layered dialogue for the evening. Earth has a second chance, but more importantly, the FF have a second chance. They can do things right this time and maintain those family ties.

Good stuff!

There’s a lot of other good fannish touches, too. Peter Parker (with goatee!) and Mary Jane’s kid has joined up with Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne (or is it Pym?)’s kids to become Spider-Kid! Beetle Boy! The Wasp! The Bug Squad! Pretty much everyone shows up in the Marvel U, save for the X-Men. Medusa is rocking the masked look again, Black Bolt gets to speak, and every cool FF villain ever appears. Not to mention Nick Fury and Contessa riding around in space on jetpacks with laser pistols. Annihlus gets his in the end, too. Cripes, Herbie shows up, Iron Man’s armor apparently has teeth (which makes him look sinister), and Spidey, Luke Cage, and DD get into a fight on an asteroid with the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. What more do you want?!

FF: The End is easily the best of the The End books Marvel has put out. It’s clear, concise, and has a happy ending. Davis’s dialogue is pretty sharp and, with Farmer on inks, the art is top notch. It’s kind of cool to read a Marvel story with a happy ending these days. It’s very much a NuMarvel tale (can we still say NuMarvel?), but with old school sensibilities.

Now if we could just do something about those flared collars…

And hey, other people liked it, too! Most notably Dave Campbell of Dave’s Long Box! He beat me to this post by a couple days, too. Even the homey Bahlactus is getting into it!

Here are those promised images. I put them here, out of context and probably out of order, so that they don’t completely ruin the story for you. They sure are pretty, man. Davis and Farmer and Kalisz on colors is a great combo.

avenge.jpg avenge02.jpg bugsquad.jpg devastating.jpg doom.jpg
foodfight.jpg namor.jpg spread.jpg strange.jpg fury.jpg

And, finally, let me end on the creepiest Iron Man picture ever. Sweet dreams!

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6 comments to “Fantastic Four: The End”

  1. I loved this mini from beginning to end, having enjoyed anything Davis touched in the past. Beyond the astoundingly good artwork, the optimistic ending was an absolute triumph over (1) the depressing precedent set by previous “End” stories and (2) the dank and dreary current Marvel universe.

    In addition to that, it was wonderful to realize that Davis (as the writer) is an honest-to-goodness fanboy extraordinaire, after pulling out characters from every nook and cranny of F.F. history and presenting them here in the context of a giant “family reunion” if you will. However, like he did in the “Nail” books, Davis pulled the whole thing together with a compelling story that elevated it beyond the “continuity travelogue” this kind of thing can easily become (Loeb and Lee’s “Hush” comes to mind as an example).

    The final pages were pure joy, as the reunited Four mingle with…well…pretty much the entire Marvel universe of characters, simultaneously recalling the closing minutes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and It’s a Wonderful Life. And that doesn’t happen often in a comic book, let me tell you.

    With stuff this good, I didn’t blink an eye at the cover price. Here’s hoping Marvel gets Davis onto something else…quickly! He truly is one of the treasures of the comics biz.


    PS: That last shot of Galactus? Pure gold

  2. Oh, I just realized why there aren’t any X-Men in FF: The End. They’re all dead? There’s an offhand remark in FFTE 02 about “the demise of the mutant breed.”

    But yeah, Davis is a thinking man fan. I loved seeing Dum Dum and Contessa, Silver Surfer lounging on his board, and Sue telling Namor that she’s married. The Namor/Sue/Reed triangle has been sour for me ever since those two got hitched. There’s just so many little character bits, even in body language. Medusa putting a lock of hair around Black Bolt, rather than an arm, for example.

    I think Davis’s next gig is the return of Clandestine, which I must admit I’ve never read. After this, though, I’m all over it.

  3. Alan’s been a good writer for longer than he’s been a good artist. He originally looked for work in comics as a writer because he didn’t consider his art up to par. Most of the stuff he does now is both writing and pencilling.

    You’re in for a real treat with ClanDestine. That’s all his baby.

  4. It was a really fun trip. Alan Davis can do no wrong in my eyes. It was a cool story that was masterfully drawn and was by no means cynical or depressing. I like to see my heroes get everything they deserve once in a while.

  5. Right now I’m halfway through Earth X and I took a break to finish off this miniseries. The contrast makes a huge difference. You compare the Reed Richards stuff, Dr. Strange/Clea stuff, Hulk/Banner stuff, etc. and it’s like day and night.

    Plus, after all those What If issues I forced myself through, I’ve sort of grown attached to the Watcher. It’s nice to see him go from “Shut the fuck up, X-51. You’re out of your element,” to, “Galactus, what’s a matta wit you?”

    Really. Try to imagine him saying that while doing the Italian hand gesture.

    That last page is seriously great. Not only do we see a little conflict from two characters I would love to see become rivals in normal continuity, but it suggests a rather sweet team-up I would also enjoy.

  6. […] big on family in comics. This should be old hat by this point, honestly. I love seeing it done well and have an irrational hatred of it being done poorly. I have straight […]