Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1–5 by Jonathan Hickman and Sean Chen
This trade was another bargain I picked up at the Fantastic Realm sale, and another great purchase. I picked up Hickman’s first issues of Fantastic Four around the same time I bought this, and it was good timing: this story is essentially the primer and build-up to Hickman’s first three-issue arc in the ongoing FF series about the multiple Reeds trying to save everything.
For a first storyline by Hickman, this is a great Fantastic Four adventure: it involves Reed Richards using his brain to create a bridge to view other realities, to investigate the possibilities of the problems caused by Civil War and Secret Invasion; Sue, Johnny and Ben get thrown about actual different realities due to HAMMER agents cutting power during Reed’s bridge initialisation; and Franklin and Valeria holding off Norman Osborn while all this is happening. That’s exactly the sort of inventive and exciting stuff the Fantastic Four should be about, and Hickman has perfect control of the story and each of the characters.
This has everything: Reed being clever, Sue being the strong one, Johnny and Ben being childish with each other, smart lines of dialogue, funny lines of dialogue, kids being kids, an intelligent approach to examining the idea of Civil War/Secret Invasion by Reed, alternate worlds (something I have a fondness for), and it has the other three members of the FF dressed as pirates and US GIs and cowboys, as well as fighting dinosaurs – awesome.
Chen provides a nice, clean line to the artwork, able to draw the adults and kids equally well, but also coping with the changes in time/universes and the different versions of multiple characters. It’s quite impressive, and he does a good job, his style perfect for the mix of human and imaginative that sums up the Fantastic Four. The art by Adi Granov in the rather slight Cabal story at the end of the trade is also very nice, in a different way, meaning the extra material in a trade collection is of equal high quality. This is a really, really good story and the sign of the good things to come from Hickman.