Still The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine? Andy Burns On Hickman and Eaglesham’s Fantastic Four

If you’re looking for an economical and space saving way to read your comic books, I highly recommend utilizing the Marvel and DC apps for your iPad or iPhone. It’s a very solid way of experimenting with titles you may not normally pick up and the comics look great on the screen (especially the iPad).

Recently Marvel’s taken to having 99 cent sales on their App on Mondays; over the holidays leading into the new year they actually upped the ante and did sales three or four days in a row. This first set of issues they offered up and which I didnt think twice about grabbing was the first nine issues of the recent Jonathan Hickman/Dale Eaglesham run on Fantastic Four, picking up right after the completed series of stories that Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch crafted (I wrote about thosehere).

The nine issues (570-579) are divided up into a 3 issue arc, 2 relative standalone issues (one of which features a birthday party for Franklin Richards, complete with a Spider-Man guest appearance), and then a final four part arc that sets up a series of new challenges that the FF will have to face in the future. This makes for some very user friendly and fun reading, which keeps in tone with what Millar and Hitch had achieved previously on their run. The family dynamic between Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and The Thing is always strong, as is a sense of awe about the grandiose adventures they undertake (trips to alternate universes, below the cities, under the oceans and even to the moon). That’s always been one of the key things that have made the Fantastic Four the legendary characters they are – at the heart of it all, the FF aren’t simply superheroes fighting to save the world; they’re explorers, seeking out new life forms and new civilizations, boldly going…well, you get it. In Hickman and Eaglesham’s run, new cultures and kingdoms are key to the stories.

As I mentioned, family is also a key component to Fantastic Four, and the Richards kids, 7 year-old Franklin and 3 year-old Valeria both play strong parts throughout the stories in question. These kids aren’t shoehorned into the title at all; in fact, they’re playing essential roles in plot development. Of particular note is just how frighteningly intelligent Valeria is painted to be; I’d be surprised if this isn’t foreshadowing of some grand character plans for the future. And I bet they won’t all be good.

Jonathan Hickman, one of the brightest voices working in the Marvel Universe the last few years, has a firm grasp on what makes the FF work and his writing is a lot of fun. I have to admit that some of the sci-fi/techno-speak did get a little longwinded a few times (Issue 578, the third part of the Prime Elements, to be more specific), but that’s really a rare criticism in an overall entertaining run of stories. Meanwhile, Dale Eaglesham’s art is one of the best reasons to check out these stories. While his style doesn’t ape or emulate the great Jack Kirby’s defining work on the series, Eaglesham has a simpler style of drawing these characters that does recall the best of King Kirby. While I’m no art critic, there’s a sense of fun throughout the run that draws you in and makes reading the Fantastic Four effortless.

With appearances by The Inhumans, The Celestials, The Mole Man (and even a brief Galactus cameo), Hickman and Eaglesham have a strong connection to the Fantastic Four of the past, but they also manage to do some great, new storytelling. If you’ve ever loved the FF or are interested in giving the title a shot, there’s probably no better place to start than here. You can grab Issues 570-579 either in two trade paperbacks or via the Marvel App today.

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