Friday, 3 June 2011

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman Volumes 1, 2 & 3

Between them, these three trade paperbacks collect Fantastic Four issues 570 to 582, written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Dale Eaglesham (issues 570 to 572 and 575 to 578) and Neil Edwards (issues 573 to 574 and 579 to 582).  That’s just thirteen issues spread over three trade paperbacks – five issues in volume one and four each in volumes two and three – and that is my biggest complaint about these books.  Any trade paperback collecting just four issues of an ongoing series feels rather unnecessary to me, and had I bought these in hardcover format – believe it or not, Marvel do release hardcover books that only collect four comics these days – I would have felt like a fool, particularly as none of these books tell a complete story.  All three books combined don’t even tell a complete story, as they are merely the first three chapters in Hickman’s larger plan for the FF.  Luckily, though, I didn’t pay too much for these and they were decent books, so I don’t feel ripped-off, but I probably would have been better off waiting for the inevitable FF by Jonathan Hickman Omnibus, as these comics will no doubt read better in one big collection and I’m pretty sure I will need to read them all again when the softcover edition of the next volume comes out to remind myself what happened.  Not that I understood everything that happened in these volumes.
Like Grant Morrison before him, Hickman writes comics that are full of big ideas and aren’t necessarily that reader-friendly, but thankfully Hickman’s comics are a bit more accessible than Morrison’s, which I have only recently started to appreciate.  In volume one, the best of these three books, Reed Richards joins a council of Reed Richards from alternate Earths and attempts to solve everything, Johnny and Ben take a break on Nu-World (which has gotten more interesting since it first appeared in Mark Millar’s ultimately-poor run on the FF), and Franklin and Valeria Richards are visited by a future version of Franklin, who arrives with a warning which kicks off Hickman’s larger storyline.  Part of Franklin’s warning is: ‘There will be a war between the four cities’, and in volume 2, we are introduced to the four cities – one city in each of the four issues reprinted in the book.  At the very end of volume two, the war between the cities kicks off, and then in volume three things get really confusing, when Reed Richards' dad fights an alternate version of himself with the help of college-age versions of Reed Richards, Ben Grimm and Victor Von Doom.  And that is one of the least confusing parts of the book, because I barely understood what was going on with Nu-World at all, or with the future versions of Franklin and Valeria in the final issue reprinted here.

These were pretty good comics but I didn’t enjoy them quite as much as I thought I would – I read the first three issues reprinted in volume one when they first came out and was really impressed but they were probably still my favourite issues – mainly because I have a low tolerance for this sort of thing – i.e. non-linear stories full of big sci-fi ideas.  While I have recently begun to appreciate some of Grant Morrison’s comics, I don’t always understand them and I only occasionally enjoy reading them, and I recently stopped watching Doctor Who because I was finding most episodes a bit tedious and confusing.  In short, I like my fiction a bit more down to Earth – even if that fiction is about people with super-powers – but I must say that this sort of storytelling suits the FF and it’s great to see Hickman doing something different with them and implementing some big changes, rather than telling the same old stories over and over again.  I think Stan and Jack would approve, I will almost certainly buy the next volume (which will hopefully reprint more than four comics), and it would have been worth buying these books just to see the Dragon Man wearing reading glasses, which was the highlight for me.  Oh, and the art was pretty good, too.

Cost: These books have a combined recommended retail price of £34.97, which isn’t exactly a bargain price for thirteen comics, but I bought them from the Book Depository during their recent 10%-off sale – which has been extended until June 5th – for a more reasonable £19.19 (using money I got selling off comics I no longer wanted on eBay, which is where most of the money I spend on new comics comes from).         

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