"Fantastic Four" #610 delivers a quick story within Jonathan Hickman's larger narrative, proving it's still possible to tell a complete story in a single issue of a comic book and make it even more interesting by including it in the long game. Hickman's work on this title has been extraordinary even when the story is a deceptively simple, seemingly by the numbers adventure.
Hickman and artist Ryan Stegman pit the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man against Advanced Idea Mechanics, who have allied with and chosen to harbor the Wizard. Sent by the President of the United States to diffuse the situation without staging an international incident, the Fantastic Four have a remarkably difficult fight for the one-time leader of the Frightful Four. Hickman plays upon the relationships between the members of the team and the Wizard. I was especially pleased to see him give Bentley Wittman and Sue Richards a moment to share their thoughts, since I've been re-reading Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier's work on "Fantastic Four," a run that had quite a bit of contentiousness between those two characters.
Ryan Stegman's art is fun and lively, abandoning panel frames in a move that makes the comic seem like it's alternating between taking deep healthy breaths of air and emitting sighs of relief. Sometimes it energizes the story, other times it just seems like too much space. Stegman's art within the panels is kinetic, but a little too sketchy in some areas. There are spots where the digital inks don't quite complete the assist and leave figures looking scratchy and rough, as though the art was hurried through the process if even a little bit. That's a minor flaw, mind you, as it fuels the artwork like the margin masterpieces high school doodlemasters commit to their spiral notebooks.
Additionally, there is a lovely range of expressions that Stegman puts on the visible faces of the primary participants in this conflict. At times reminiscent of Todd McFarlane alternating with Todd Nauck, Stegman empowers his figures to express themselves through body language, which energizes his rough-edged style to make this book visually exciting. "Fantastic Four" #610 is visually darker than most issues, but the spring Stegman inserts into the figures of the story works well with colorist Paul Mounts' wildly bright colors.
Hickman's time may winding down on this series, but he is still driving his story forward, further revealing the Fantastic Four's place and purpose. Through these wonderful stories, I find myself looking forward to the next issue after I close the cover each time, only to wrestle with the bittersweet thought that the next anticipated issue is closer to the end of a memorable run on the greatest comic family.