Fantastic Four: The End by Alan Davis (inks by Mark Farmer)
The future: long after the Mutant War (don’t know what it is but it sounds cool). A deranged Dr Doom attacks the Fantastic Four; Franklin and Valeria Richards join in to help but die with Doom due to an energy reaction between Doom and Franklin …
Reed is relating this to Jennifer Walters, his designated therapist, as part of the Observation Protocol, a result of his creation of the Methuselah Treatment, which helped the Earth into a new age after the Mutant War with his technology and his negotiation of a truce with the Galactic Parliament as humanity becomes part of the galactic community. However, the grief leads to his alienation from Sue, Johnny and Ben.
Meanwhile, in Pluto space, the Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Silver Surfer), under the lead of John Storm, are fighting villains. On Mars, Ben – now able to transform from human to Thing – is playing with his kids (Daniel, Jacob and Yancy) with Alicia (who is there helping with the terraforming), and hanging out with the Inhumans. On Earth, Sue is looking at the archaeology in the Atlantic Ocean, where Namor finds her. Also, Dr Strange is talking to the new Dr Strange – his daughter.
Start of issue 2, Davis shows his love of old-school Marvel characters: Peter Parker, Hank Pym, Bruce Banner, T’Challa, Steve Rogers all together (albeit in different costumes) are all present, chatting about the future. [Is there a Saturn Girl in the background?] One of the reasons Davis is so good is his faces: they are so expressive and warm, making you care about the characters.
Keeping the plot going, the High Evolutionary is on the Pluto moon of Charon, being attacked by hundreds of Ultrons, so the Avengers come to help. Meanwhile, Sue discovers Kree symbols in Atlantis. The Parliament for Galactic Unity, discussing Earth and the problems, has Impossible Men, Warlocks, the lizard from the Starjammers (is there an annotations for this series?), showing off Davis’s great abilities with showing different many alien species. Anarchists blow up the Quarantine Satellite, showing that something organised is going on. So complex, Uatu is watching and has to be told not to interfere (again; some things never change).
Issue 3 starts with a lovely page design as the two Dr Stranges talk about a challenge that needs to be met, going across different dimensions. The sleek, lithe work of Davis’ characters is matched by his storytelling talents, designing beautiful artwork that keeps the narrative going. His heroes move like poetry in motion: Namor fighting the attack of Attuma and his hordes being a perfect example.
Norrin and Johnny meet Ben on Mars (a nice joke about Ben getting his own payback on John for all the practical jokes) – ClanDestine showed that Davis understands families well. Back at the plot, the galaxy-wide shockwave is emanating from Earth is causing problems and questions. John has come to Mars to talk to the Inhumans but a crisis comes up they need to deal with. Uatu visits Galactus at the Galactic Core for a talk. Reed is talking with T’Challa about his experiments, but the comms go down as She-Hulk is about to join T’Challa to talk to Reed – the scene cuts back to Reed wondering why comms have gone down and She-Hulk is with him: what is going on? Sue finds Kree ruins the same as in Agatha Harkness’ book, while Ben, John and the Inhumans are attacked by the Kree Sentry.
Issue 4 sees the fight against the Kree Sentry, and it’s great to see John acting as a leader, having grown up from being the eternal teenager. Reed is knocked out by ‘She-Hulk’. At the fight, the Kree polarity beam, which is forming a wormhole, is allowing something through, even though Black Bolt destroys the Kree and the tower.
The Mad Thinker and Diablo, classic FF foes, are shown as being part of the scheme. Below Atlantis, Sue comes across Mole Man, another classic FF foe. John, Ben and the Inhumans travel to Earth, while the ‘She-Hulk’ is revealed as the Super Skrull, another classic FF foe. He had been posing as an HRB for quite some time. He throws Reed into the dimensional gate, only for Reed to drag him through with him, both ending up into the Negative Zone, something that is witnessed by John and Ben via hyperwave television thingummy. Their ship arrives at the FF asteroid, to find it full of Kree (Ronan and his troops) and Shi’ar Imperial Guard. In the Negative Zone, Reed is punched out by Annhilus (another classic FF foe), who claims that all this is his plan.
Issue 5 starts with Sue beneath the surface of the Earth with a mad Mole Man. She escapes him by going after a mysterious orb because it is something she is seeking as it has something to do with the death of her children. On the FF asteroid, the old-school characters arrive to fight: Captain America, She-Hulk, Spider-Man, Hulk, Black Panther, Power Man, Daredevil, Giant Man in their original costumes – a little old-fashioned but they still look cool. An unusual group to have, but fun to see them fighting a huge group of enemies.
Meanwhile, John and Ben use Lockjaw to get to the Negative Zone gate to get Reed using a homing device. The Avengers take down the Thinker and Diablo using Vision craftiness. In Tibet, Sue arrives at Stranges’ place with the orb. In the Negative Zone, Annhilus tells Reed that it was he who destroyed the probes for Reed’s experiment transits, but he is rescued by Ben and John, allowing a lovely moment between Reed and Ben.
On the FF asteroid, reinforcements arrive in the form of Norrin and the Inhumans. Reed, John and Ben return only for Sue (with the Stranges) to capture them. In Pluto space, on the SHIELD Ark, Nick Fury and the Avengers see the compromised area of the quarantine shield breached by the entire Kree and Shi’ar invasion fleets.
The final issue starts with Sue telling us: ‘Franklin and Valeria didn’t die here!’, because they were rescued in the future, i.e. now. Valeria told her by drawing the symbol of the orb in the air just before being captured, the orb Sue has now found, which has the ability to manipulate time. Sue convinces the rest of the team to try this (allowing for a classic FF image: the four hands on top of each other.)
Meanwhile, the fight is on two fronts: on the asteroid and in space with the fleet. Stephen Strange does the magic to manipulate time back to the moment when the children died with Doom. Only, this time, they are saved but Doom is not happy.
Then Galactus arrives to tell the fleet to fuck off. I understand why this is thematically arrived at: Galactus is part of FF lore, he in turn was stopped by a Deus Ex Machina, and he has been helped by Reed so is returning the favour. However, it is a weak ending to the fight, as it takes the victory away from the heroes, negating their effort. This is a shame. It is not emotionally resonant with the rest of the story.
So, for the real ending for the story – which is all about the family of the Fantastic Four – we see an angry Doom fighting the FF, before he goes into the Negative Zone, not realising the gate is on self-destruct, meaning he is left trapped their forever. This allows for the family reunion of Marvel’s first family, tears and happiness and positivity for the future.
The wonderful art of Davis, with Farmer on inks, is a joy to behold as always. His plotting is dense and logical, allowing for all the characters to have arcs and moments and realisations of personality in the middle of a multi-layered story. He also has a great handle on the characters, and it is not all grim’n’gritty, meaning that there is a light (yet not insignificant) feeling to the enterprise. Not breaking the boundaries of the medium, but highly enjoyable.