Fantastic Four #587
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Steve Epting
So this is it, the big conclusion to the team changing storyline known as Three. Promises were kept, and this issue does feature the apparent death of one of the original members of the team, and while the spoiler has been put up all over the internet (I had to go in a self imposed exile until I got the issue to keep myself from being spoiled), this wasn’t really a worry in anyones mind. Despite that many have been claiming that they could foresee the ending, and even if I guessed it wrong not too long ago, the biggest thing I would like to see about the writing of this arc is that Hickman did a masterful job of leaving all of the characters in places throughout the arc where they could face their certain doom. From the perspective of people just reading the single issues there was suspense for everyone, from Johnny and Ben against the new Annihilation Wave, to Sue and the Atlanteans, and Reed trying to save a world before Galactus can destroy it.
That’s saying a lot about the writer, as while it’s not uncommon for someone to put up killer threats in a story and talk about the magnitude, or to even kill a character in a spot like that, it is difficult to really put the fear of death for a bunch of characters for separate reasons. It would be easy to lead the story in a direction where having nothing more than the issues at hand still leads you to the right answer, as opposed to just looking at the team as a fan and figuring out who is most likely to go. Anyone could have died in this issue, from a story telling perspective. Each and every member of the team found themselves in near death situations, to the point where I felt for a short period of time that the internet was wrong. That’s purely to the credit of the writer, as Hickman gave this book his A game.
Three is going to be remembered longer for what it did to the team itself then what actually occurred in the arc. The downside to a story promoted for character death as the eventual outcome, the death will always overtake the story itself. In a few years far more people will remember the name of the story and who fell then will remember the exact specifics of how, or how the other characters came close themselves.
Before I jump into spoiler territory, I’d like to point out how much I love Franklin and Val in this book, especially in this issue. Both have very strong showings and get as much showcase as any of our favorite foursome. Hickman does a great job with the kids, and I just felt it was worth noting.
Spoilers from here on out, be warned.
The first real giveaway in this issue that Johnny Storm dies in this issue is how much of the issue is divided up for him and Ben Grimm, along with Franklin and Val and the Future Foundation and their fight against the New Annihilation Wave. You can argue that with two of the main characters being in the same story that it would obviously get more focus rather than short change their pages, or that Franklin and Val deserve the pages as well. I won’t argue that. What I will argue is that if Sue or Reed had died, there would have been no immediate heart breaking reaction by any other characters. Reed spent the issue trying to save Nu-Earth from Galactus, had he fallen there was no way for anyone to even find out. Sue was deep under the seas with Namor and the Elder Atlanteans, and she could have been a sacrifice, though only Namor would have been there.
Johnny and Ben were with the kids, if either died you got immediate reaction from the other and the kids who would have just lost an uncle. I hate to say that their placement made them obvious, but it did; from a story telling perspective, nobody made more sense. Then given that Ben was without powers, it would have just been too easy to let him be the one to go down for the count, being the big hero as he stood in a fight he could never win. He has always been the hero of the quartet, but Johnny has always been the reliable one. He’s not the kind of man to watch his friend die when he can’t put up a fight, and he threw Ben back home to the other side and locked him out. He took the job staying in the Negative Zone because it was the right thing to do, and because he loved his friend and his family. Johnny saved the world, and he seemingly died in the process, but there’s one thing that I will remember far more than that.
Ben Grimm transforming back into The Thing just as it becomes too late, watching his friend die right before his eyes and being helpless to save him. It’s a ridiculously powerful moment that completely ripped my heart out. In this day and age where nobody stays dead and everyone is aware of it it’s not so much about whether or not a character dies as it is how they do. There is a difference between the death of someone like Hawkeye or the Wasp, who were both done as just moments in a grander story and what occurs here, where the entire story built to the moment of death and the moment had to live up to that hype. I feel that it does, not in being a spectacular fight scene with the hero falling at the end, but in being the reactions of Ben Grimm as he watches unable to do anything.
Steve Epting is a character killer. First he killed Captain America, and now he kills the Human Torch, and he perfectly captures the moment in both. The art in this book is as fantastic as the title, perfectly capturing the mood regardless of the situation. From the politics going on with Sue and Namor, to the over the top Nu-World as Reed tries to evacuate the final few people before Galactus can destroy the world, and finally with the Annihilation Wave and the Negative Zone, and the last stand itself. Epting adapted well to multiple tones and moods without ever letting the tense feel out of the book. The transformation of Ben Grimm, the final few pages of the book, are some of the best pages I’ve probably ever seen from the artist.
It’s the end of an era as the Human Torch falls victim to the Annihilation Wave, saving the world in the process. Things will never be the same again, at least that’s what they tell us. The stakes were high in this issue, and status quos change. Sue is now the Queen of the Elder Atlanteans, and is not taking any crap from Namor. Johnny is gone. We’ve been told how a new Fantastic Four will rise, but what are the odds that the surviving three are all on the team? There are plenty of questions arising out of this issue, but the answer everyone was looking for is on the page. We know who died, and we know they went out in a well written and in character manner.
Let’s hear it for Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. I figure we’ll see you again at #600.
Tags: Fantastic Four, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Jonathan Hickman, Mr. Fantastic, Reviews, steve epting, The Thing