Jonathan Hickman and Ron Garney’s comic in “Fantastic Four” #606 is in many ways the essence of safe. It’s a story we’ve all seen before (although I’ll not spoil the “secret” for you), and when most readers figure it out at the 1/3 mark, they’ll start looking at the rest of the elements of the comic a little more closely.
Hickman’s telling of the Fantastic Four’s voyage to a strange place could have been incredible, but instead it’s just average. While Hickman’s dialogue tries to crank up the tension and make this trip sound great, the reality is that it’s rather slow from start to finish. It’s a lot of walking and “oh no, now we’re in trouble” language, but the actual way in which encounters play out never feels like the team is in even the most minute amount of danger.
It’s intercut with flashback scenes, constructed with language designed to slowly dole out what’s going on and not reveal the big surprise. This ends up meaning that Reed and company use phrases and convoluted word choices that don’t feel entirely natural. I get that it’s to keep that reveal from being leaked early, but considering that all but the youngest of readers will have figured it out long in advance, it ends up feeling a bit awkward. Once you know what’s going on, those seams are hard to miss.
Garney’s art is nice enough, although it does little to increase the supposed tension that’s in place. Scenes like the hull of the ship cracking are more matter-of-fact than scary, and the one fight in the issue is a little comical even as it also gives away what’s going on. (There’s also a frustrating disconnect between script and art on the last pages where we see Sue hold up the object of their quest, and its size doesn’t match the very specific problem involving its size that we’d just been told about three pages earlier.) But I do like Garney’s depiction of the cast; if nothing else Garney makes people look real and adult, something that so many comic artists don’t seem to be able to handle. I’ve missed reading comics with his slightly rough-hewn style, coupled with a good sense of body language.
I appreciate that “Fantastic Four” #606 is going for a slightly sentimental, heart-felt story as Hickman begins to prepare for the end of his run on the title. There’s certainly a nice warm fuzzy feeling on the final page, and it helps make up for the predictable nature of the rest of the issue. But I hope we’ve got a bit more in store for us with Hickman’s remaining issues. After an overall strong run, it would be sad to see his final issues end up as a series of slightly weaker notes. It’s not bad, but this is hardly memorable.