Based on a story begun by Matt Fraction, “Fantastic Four” #16, written by Karl Kesel with art by Raffaele Ienco, wraps up the current run of Marvel’s first family and closes out the lengthy stint on their adventures served by editor Tom Brevoort. This series doesn’t remove the Fantastic Four from the Marvel landscape; it simply concludes one story to make room for another.
Kesel essentially divides the thirty pages of “Fantastic Four” #16 into two stories: twenty to the lead, wrapping up the adventures launched under the Marvel NOW! debut, and ten to the backup, which serves as an epilogue and day in the life study. Kesel’s Fantastic Four — both the 616 Universe version and the quartet from the “Doomed Universe” — are enjoyably recognizable and celebrate the essences of the characters. Some readers may be up in arms that Doomed Universe Four is not a direct parallel or that the comic book science is more comic booky than science, but Kesel remembers that the Fantastic Four is supposed to be fantastic. He also celebrates the familial structure of the team and the grand and glorious universe where their adventures take place. As satisfying as the lead story is in its conclusion, the quieter moments of the backup tale, touching the lives of the Fantastic Four, give readers a lot to celebrate and enjoy.
The art in back half of the issue is by Joe Quinones, with inks from Mike Allred and colors from Laura Allred. That combination makes beautiful comic book pages, and does a marvelous job of giving every character an opportunity to sparkle. With homages through cameos of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Tom Brevoort, Mike and Laura Allred, Matt Fraction and Joe Quinones to the inclusion of the Future Foundation, the Inhumans and even Uatu and Ulana, these ten pages really make “Fantastic Four” #16 worth the price tag. Raffaele Ienco’s work in the lead story is good as well, but the light-hearted playfulness of Quinones’ art adeptly matches the story and gives this issue a fine sendoff, welcoming readers back anytime. Ienco’s work seems rushed in some spots, but is detailed when it needs to be and holds the line nicely when set in context to artists who have worked on this title before him.
Fraction’s departure from the title could have easily spelled doom for this series, but Kesel saw fit to bring Doom to the forefront and amplify the character’s threat. In the end, “Fantastic Four” #16 is another issue from Kesel that was delivered in a relief effort to continue the adventures of the premiere family of the Marvel Universe. Kesel does a nice job tying up the loose ends, teasing out some new threads and giving readers a chance to celebrate the Fantastic Four with the Fantastic Four. James Robinson and Leonard Kirk are up next, and my calendar is already marked for the debut of their All-New Marvel NOW! take on the Fantastic Four, but for now, I’m more than happy to soak up the fun of this issue.