When "Fantastic Four" came to a halt a little under a year ago, the writing was already on the wall that it would return fairly quickly. After all, issue #600 was just around the corner. And sure enough, the replacement title of "FF" is about to shift its main characters back into "Fantastic Four" next month, although "FF" will stick around as its own comic as well.
With all that in mind, you'd think that "FF" #11 would pull out all the stops for a huge lead-in to "Fantastic Four" #600, or at least wrap everything up for a clean break. Nope and nope. Part of me has to give props to Jonathan Hickman for ignoring any sort of numbering gimmick and just moving on his own way; it's just following up on the storyline that's run throughout all of "FF," and while one or two characters come to their own personal conclusions, you'd never get the impression that the main story was shifting back into its original, parent title.
The story itself isn't bad; it's starting to tie the Kree and Inhuman plots a bit better into the larger situation, and the conclusion to the invasion of the alternate universe Reed Richards is handled in a way that I suspect few readers will see coming. It's a clever but nasty little turn of events, and it's that sort of surprise that keeps me sticking around with Hickman's "Fantastic Four" and "FF."
But there's no denying that Hickman's comics range from zippy to jaw-droppingly-slow, and "FF" #11 is definitely on the slower part of that scale. We definitely get more talking about what characters are going to do than actually seeing them enact these plans, something I suspect most will find less than riveting. It's strange because sometimes Hickman's little character moments are methodical but enchanting (Franklin Richards and Leech's conversation this issue killed me, and it taking a page and a half is just fine) but the bulk of the issue just doesn’t quite click.
Barry Kitson's pencils are up to his usual, solid standards, although with five different inkers (including Kitson himself) there's a real lack of consistency. Look at the last panel on the second-to-last page, for example; everyone's faces look weathered and elongated, to the point that at a glance it looks nothing like Reed Richards or Spider-Man... or even something penciled by Kitson. Compare it to a few pages earlier when we get tight focuses on Reed's face as he addresses a conference room, which is vintage Kitson; much smoother and rounder features, and a clean finish to the pages. Add in a distinct lack of backgrounds on a lot of the pages, and while it's overall acceptable, the comic does have a bit of a rush job air about it.
"FF" #11 is a strange but not bad comic. It's hard to tell, save for the text piece at the back of the comic, that this is supposed to lead into "Fantastic Four" #600. There are some great moments here, but there are even more sections that fall into the sluggish category. Like most of Hickman's comics, this will definitely read better in a collected edition. As an individual comic, though, it's just all right.