The Fantastic Four are my absolute favorite comic book characters of all time. That is why it pains me that the Fantastic Four ongoing series is currently one of my least favorite titles to read each month. Maybe I’m overcritical because of my affection for the characters. The series seems to be getting generally positive reviews from other fans and critics. But from my point of view, writer Jonathan Hickman seems to be struggling and not really sure of where he wants this story to go. More importantly, I am getting an overwhelming sense that he does not have a proper understanding of the characters and their relationships with one another, or what this book is really about. Granted, he is the writer; the book is about whatever he chooses it to be about. Also, I’m not saying the series should have the same feel it did five, ten, or twenty years ago; comic book characters evolve and change as they are passed along through different teams of writers and artists. That is part of the beauty of the medium. But the direction Hickman is driving these characters is making them almost completely unrecognizable as the characters they were before.
Issue #603 is part 4 of the “Forever” story arc, and begins during a space battle between Galactus, The Celestials, the Annihilation Wave (under the control of the recently-returned Johnny Storm), The Inhumans, and The Kree. The Kree, a militaristic alien race, have been the major threat for the past few issues, but as soon as the cosmically powerful Celestials show up they flee the scene with the Inhumans on their tail, so I guess that clears that up. Galactus, the intergalactic devourer of worlds, does his best to defend against The Celestials, but becomes powerless when they combine into one giant super-Celestial. He is defeated and plummets to Earth. “Galactus Earthfall,” as Crave Online writer Andy Hunsaker calls it. This leaves the Fantastic Four (who are still wearing those terrible white and black Future Foundation costumes) to return to Earth and meet Reed’s father Nathaniel at The Hub, where they plan to stage their counter-attack against the Celestials.
The whole thing is just a mess. Everyone was freaking out for the past couple issues about how the Kree were destroying Earth, but when The Celestials show up completely out of no where, the Kree leave and are completely forgotten about. Now everyone is freaking out about The Celestials. It bugs me because this threat is completely unrelated: the Kree attack could have never happened and the Earth would still be in the same situation. It’s just one crazy thing after another crazy thing, without the first crazy thing ever contributing to the story or coming to a resolution. And, based on the last page of issue #603, it isn’t about to stop.
It is my hope that this insane battle will end soon, and give Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny, and the kids some downtime so they can decide where the team goes from here. The action has not slowed one bit, even when Johnny returned from the dead (Spider-Man still has his spot on the team). Despite the title of this series, the team is still technically the Future Foundation (as they started calling themselves after Johnny’s death, with ugly new costumes and an ugly new logo to match). They have not even been given the chance to talk about what they will call themselves now that Johnny is back. Basically, I want some semblance of the status quo restored. It’s time for them to kick Spidey out (not that I don’t enjoy what he brings to the table), put Johnny back as a full-time member, bring back the blue costumes with the proper “4” logo, and call themselves what they really are: the Fantastic Four.