This month of mourning for the lost “Fantastic Four” member delivers something comic deaths usually only wish they could achieve – impenetrable sadness. This issue is painfully and heart-wrenchingly barren of any shred of hope or happiness. This is the last moment before “FF” launches and so we dwell in the worst thoughts and actions of those affected by this death. If people came out of the woodwork to read about the death last month then I can only pray they stuck around for the funeral because this issue is remarkably better than what came before it.
Most of the script by Jonathan Hickman is silent and so the thoughts and pain need to come through the art, which then had to stem from a very specific script. On all counts, this issue works perfectly in documenting sorrow and remorse on every level. It’s the little things that count and Nick Dragotta nails each and every furrowed brow, red eye, or thousand yard stare. It might be a wordless book but it will take you longer to read it properly than any text-dense title on the shelves. You need to immerse yourself in each page to understand exactly what these characters are feeling.
Every character has their chance for a silent reaction. We get what they feel, but we also get where they are going and how they will use that feeling. There’s a level of mastery at play where this closes all that has come before and effectively opens us up for the relaunch coming very soon in all its glory. This month for the survivors is comprised of many classic moments you won’t soon forget. This is the issue a career, and eternal run, is built upon. This is the legacy and Hickman will have his work cut out for him topping this.
Death is played as seriously as it can be. No one is shrugging it off, be they fictional within the book or the real people behind the making of this book. If you have ever dealt with death before then you will see many home truths put into these panels. The only difference is that the scale and spectacle of these truths are illuminated on a stage befitting this family of science and exploration.
Dragotta unleashes on every page as if he were the deformed id of Jack Kirby. There’s a classic structure at play through a nasty sheen of tears clouded by the ever-present shadow of death and decay. If Dragotta isn’t placed onto a high profile, and expertly written, book by the end of this year then I’ll eat my hat. He can draw a multitude of characters, with an array of emotions, and layers a page like he’s crafting a Renaissance masterpiece by papal edict. He shows moments here of literal genius. It helps that Paul Mounts chooses not to overplay a single color in this issue so as to drum home the washed out and defeated tone of the characters.
This is, on many levels, the best “Fantastic Four” issue of Hickman’s run, and for a long time in general. Death touches the first family of comics and the results are terrible to see but they must be lived through to get to the other side. The only words in the comic, mostly in the back up feature with Brooks’ art, add something to the issue but should not be the focus. The haunting spectre of death is a fickle mistress and after she has gone you still don’t feel the same. A little slice of the soul of this book died and it was interesting to see that passing displayed in a comic that held your attention and actually made you feel something. An interactive book is a sheer delight, when done right, and here it is done so very right.