Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chronic Review: Fantastic Four # 577

Fantastic Four # 577
Marvel Comics

Script: Jonathan Hickman
Pencils: Dale Eaglesham

Friends of the show are very familiar with the fact that I fell in love with this title around issue 572, got engaged to it, and have scheduled the wedding for June. And now Jonathan Hickman knows, too!

I got to speak with Hickman live last Wednesday on Where Monsters Dwell, and he rolled with the whole thing and even "gave away the bride" and everything. "She's clearly pregnant." Awesome. So I now have the father's blessing, and all is well in Chronic Town.

If you want to know why I fell so hard for the book, look no further than Fantastic Four # 577. Eaglesham is back on pencils, and they look phenomenal as usual. Also as usual, the issue is a mix of telling character moments, galactic scale ideas, and now a re-shaping of the FF mythos.

Reed gets satellite photos of an odd craft/structure on the moon and calls a family meeting. The team scrambles to the moon, and are met by an inhuman liaison named Dal Damoc, who invites them into the structure, and calmly re-writes everything they know about the origins of the Inhumans.

As it turns out the Centurions, Badoon, Kymelians, Dire Wraiths, and Earth Inhumans were five successes in a grand feat of Kree evolutionary engineering. The goal? Each of these races is programmed genetically toward creating one king uniting four queens in a manifest destiny; the taking of the "holy land" New Hala.

And where exactly is New Hala? Two hints. It's a planet.... and you're living on it. For now. WOW.

It's implied that Black Bolt is the one king. He's off running errands right now, (kicking the crap out of the Kree, it sounds like) but he'll be back for us soon. So Dal Damoc reveals the plan and then invites the Fantastic Four to run along now and let everybody know that the King is coming. It's all very calm and creepy.

Pretty heady stuff. None of this comes with an event banner, by the way. Doesn't need it. This is how things are done in the regular Fantastic Four now. No fanfare, trumpets, or 17 spin-off books are necessary. This is now where big shit happens, so get used to it. I love that.

In the midst of the big shit is the character development, always. Johnny is first into the Moon compound, of course. While Reed needs his version of a tricorder to read energy signatures inside the mystery ship, Johnny can sense them and confirm with his powers.

Dal Damoc is using a "perpetual motion planar construct" to hover in the air. Sue can sense this innately and call him on it. She's not just eye candy in the Hickman run, that's for sure.

Hickman obviously has been given the keys to the kingdom, and that was a good idea for Marvel. This is fun.

The thing that most impressed me most was the sense of inevitable matter-of-factness that the Inhumans displayed in the story. There was no moustache twirling, no chest-thumping, no maniacal laughing. The Inhumans were making simple, religious declarations. "This is what we know, this is the way it's going to be, so get ready!"

The real world parallels are pretty obvious, and pretty disturbing. This is exactly how radical Islam works, and this is exactly how the American "freedom machine" operates as well. There is no "threat" to invade your home. It's God's Plan. It's the way things are, and they're ultimately for the good, don't you know?

This kind of allegory is not unprecedented, of course. Jurgens run on Thor a few years back did similar things quite deftly. But I'm very interested to see where Hickman is going with this now. The bottom line is that Fantastic Four is now a must read if you're interested in the Marvel universe at all. Or good stories. And if you don't like good stories or Marvel....there's always Fade to Black. Good luck with that....

- Ryan

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