Monday, December 24, 2018

"The End" Week: Fantastic Four!

We've got some twenty "The End" posts lined up already, yet I forgot to set up one to start things out! Since the Fantastic Four has returned to the land of publication, maybe we should start with their last issue. In fact, why not their last two last issues? From 2014, Fantastic Four #16, "Doomed: Four to the Fourth Power!" Written by Matt Fraction and Karl Kesel, script by Karl Kesel, art by Raffaele Ienco, color art by Paul Mounts; with a backup story by Lee Allred and Karl Kesel, scripted by Karl Kesel, pencils by Joe Quinones, inks by Michael Allred, colors by Laura Allred; and from 2015, Fantastic Four #645, "...the Fantastic Four!" Written by James Robinson, pencils by Leonard Kirk, inks by Karl Kesel and Scott Hanna.

Since we checked out the Fraction/Kesel issue with Skrull Ben Franklin a couple months ago, I had wanted to check out the end of this series, and things have gone off the rails by this conclusion of a four-parter: the FF's bodies had been breaking down, because an alternate-universe Fantastic Four had shot their powers into the multiverse in order to keep their alt-Dr. Doom from stealing them. With those powers returned, everything should be fine, except alt-Doom has gone and stolen the powers of (alt-)Annihilus and (alt-)Kang! (Does Kang really have powers, technically?) So it's two FF's and Marvel Girl versus a giant Doom; I don't know if that was an alt-Marvel Girl either, but Doom sends her back to her own time pretty quickly. Alt-Reed tries to pass our Four off as clones, but Doom knows they're from another universe, and checking in on the 616, he finds...Ant-Man vs. Dr. Doom? The hell? Well, whatever. He can conquer that one next.

Reed doesn't have to go deep for the plan on this one, although there are some timey-wimey shenanigans with the Torch and his alternate. The FF use Doom's power siphon to take the alt-Four's powers, then maneuver Doom into getting scattered across time and space. They are then killed giving the extra powers back, but revived quickly enough. Alt-Reed does warn them that the "Doom the Annihilating Conqueror" was a universal constant, that would always occur eventually in any reality, and always defeated by two universes' Fantastic Fours teaming-up; but having doubled up on the powers our FF wouldn't be able to call for help when it happened there. Again, whatever, Reed'll figure something out. The FF return to their own universe and Baxter Building, and after the alt-Torch leaves to sacrifice himself; it's time for a barbeque on the moon! With a ton of guests, and one great line from Valeria: "Wondering where kids run away to if they already live in a circus."

The better part of a year later, would come the conclusion of James Robinson's run, which we saw an issue of some time back. Among other things (so to speak!) the Thing had been framed for the murder of the Puppet Master, the Human Torch had lost his powers, and the Quiet Man and Psycho-Man had turned Franklin Richard's Counter-Earth (from Heroes Reborn) into slaves and monsters. Still, Reed knows both that Psycho-Man would betray the creepy, shape-changing Quiet Man; and that his family is at their strongest when things are worst.

With the help of a bunch of guest-stars, including Sleepwalker, Jim Hammond, and the Scarlet Witch (Robinson seemed to use those last two a bit) Franklin's fake earth is destroyed (again? I swear it had been dealt with before) and Psycho-Man is defeated. The Torch gets his powers back, and Ben is freed when the real Puppet Master is found.

The back-up stories in this one are pretty good, particularly Johnny's meeting with an old girlfriend, and Reed and Valeria's day out. I don't think this gave any indication that half the team was going to be gone for three years, but it feels like the Marvel Universe has been missing them longer than that.

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