Overall, I'm a fan of Jonathan Hickman's run on "Fantastic Four"/"FF." I've enjoyed his inventive stories and concepts, and some of the setups have been (no pun intended) fantastic. But every now and then, an issue rolls around that ultimately highlights the weakness of the series, and "FF" #3 is one of those issues.
The first half of the issue isn't bad, if a little slow. There's something hysterically funny about Doctor Doom hosting a symposium on how to defeat Reed Richards (complete with an academically flowery title), and inviting numerous enemies of the Fantastic Four to please attend. But as the invitations keep coming, though, the pace begins to slow down, and practically grind to a halt. And then? Hello, exposition dump.
The second half shows what the four alternate-universe Reed Richards unleashed on the world courtesy Valeria are now up to. And it's not a bad story in its own right, but it feels like a swerve away from the first half of the comic. Gone is the symposium, and instead we're getting a lead-in to the long-promised war between the four cities. Now, ever since those four cities were first introduced and a war between them was promised, I've been looking forward to it. And it's nice to see what's going to finally spark said war. But this issue feels slow, and it's that slowness that is the previously-mentioned weakness of Hickman's run on the titles. Every time the comic figuratively just stops to unload a setup, it's the low point of the story. This is, after all, a comic that has done absolutely nothing with its main characters. (And has Spider-Man contributed anything at all since joining the cast?)
Steve Epting's pencils this month are overall good, but with three different inkers (Rick Magyar, Butch Guice, and Epting himself) it's a bit variable in places. His pencils still look strong, though; he's always been one to draw characters that look like actual people, while keeping the fantastical still out-of-this-world. His depictions of the various ancient cities look good too, with things as simple as backgrounds of snowy mountains or massive energy factories helping set the scenes. Inking inconsistencies aside, this is a strong-looking issue.
"FF" #3 is the kind of issue that's going to read much better in a collected format, but as a single issue it's a bit of a drag. At this point I think anyone reading Hickman's stories has learned that this sort of thing just crops up on occasion. Hopefully now that he's gotten this massive information dump over with, the pace will start picking back up again. With war on the horizon, it looks promising for us readers.