Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting
Release Date: January 25th, 2011
The big day has finally arrived, and to answer your question - was it worth it? Yes. Yes, it was.
As my local comic shop only received a third of their order for this issue, and I left my copy for the unfortunate regulars that won't receive a copy to read, I have to go from memory - as I don't have the book in front of me. So forgive me if I leave out a detail or two.
Getting right to it, this issue was better than I thought. The spoilers were "leaked" online late last night and upon finding out just who died, I'll admit I was slightly disappointed. Obviously, that wasn't my pick; I thought Sue Storm to be the one to make the great sacrifice. However, Hickman more than comes through in Fantastic Four #587, which comes as no surprise to those of us who have been following his run from Fantastic Four #570.
The reason being I thought this particular character was not going to be the one, was I thought this character not to be as important as the other three. As Hickman showed us with this issue, I couldn't have been more wrong.
What I appreciate most about Jonathan Hickman is his handling of the characters. He has such a grasp on not only the main characters of the book, the members of the Fantastic Four, but his supporting characters as well - particularly in the case of the Galactus, Silver Surfer and Namor. Reed is offworld fending off a Galactus threat, once again. However, Galactus doesn't want to consume the "new" world responsible for his death - he wants to wipe it out of existence and utterly destroy it. This is how Galactus should be portrayed - a force beyond nature with the Surfer at his aside with no qualms as to his master's wishes.
Last issue saw the King of the Sea, Namor, assassinate his rival. Here, Sue Storm becomes Queen of the Sea - and not as you might imagine. This, I wasn't too keen on, to be honest. While Sue did step up making the save, and in the process did step right up to Namor, this is not my favorite ongoing plot in this title. I am interested to see where it goes - but hopefully it gets resolved quickly.
This brings us to what everybody has been waiting for.
Ben, Johnny and the children are under siege by the forces of the Negative Zone. An Annihilation Wave is set to hit earth - their point of entry being the Negative Zone portal in Reed's lab. The Annihilation Wave was last scene in the 2006 Marvel Cosmic Event Annihilation that saw the wave annihilate billions. Fantastic Four foe, Annihilus, was responsible, but was squashed by the man called Nova. As the "new" wave makes it's way to earth, Franklin Richards activates his powers. That was awesome. However, the wave is just too big.
Even though I knew of the spoilers, Hickman wrote this in such a way that I didn't feel cheated. It was very emotional, especially seeing the two best friends, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm, nearing the end. The tension was greatly heightened with the added presence of the Fantastic Four children, especially in regards to Franklin - as you just weren't sure what was going to happen with his situation (ok, we did know, but the drama unfolding was incredible).
Ben Grimm is no stranger to death, and himself a test pilot, he immediately makes the attempt at self-sacrifice. Johnny would have none of that. His best friend recently took a "break" from his powers - as The Thing took an elixir that de-powered him for a week. As Johnny saves his friends and family by throwing them out of the Negative Zone, it is sealed - and Ben transforms to The Thing. However, it is too late. What a scene we witness as Ben and Johnny realize -- this is it. As the Human Torch is over run by the sheer numbers of the wave, and on looks Ben, a familiar old foe makes his presence known. Annihilus has returned.
As this is Marvel Comics, dead doesn't mean "dead" - and the ending of the issue does give way for Johnny Storm to come back. That doesn't take anything away from this, as in the coming months we will see quite the story unfold as to how the Fantastic Four - and Marvel U. - go about their lives without that all too familiar shout of "Flame on!" Certainly, the level of guilt that Ben Grimm must feel is unimaginable. As Sue and Reed return and realize not only were the lives of the children threatened, but that their brother has paid the ultimate price during their absence, their guilt and emotion will run just as deep.
We do get one more "fantastic" issue before the series is relaunched this March, in "FF" #1. Twelve or so issues later will be "Fantastic Four" #600 and I look forward to seeing Johnny again.
You fought the good fight, my friend. Hats off to you.