A lot of readers seemed a little surprised with “FF” #6-7, and rightfully so. After five issues of “FF” building up the story about the alternate-universe Reed Richards and the War of the Four Cities finally erupting, a two-issue sideline about the Inhumans (and no sign of any members of the Future Foundation, fantastic or otherwise) is perhaps not what people were expecting.
Reading “FF” #8, though, the previous two issues did more than just surprise readers. Unfortunately, it appears to have knocked all the momentum out of the series. So when Attilan hovers over the Forever City, the excitement just isn’t there. That’s a shame, because where we’d left off with “FF” #5 was surprisingly fun and energetic.
It probably doesn’t help matters that Hickman chooses this time to have some side trips along the way, like Reed and Spider-Man comparing painful experiences, or Sue having a terse conversation with Nathaniel Richards. The sad thing is that both of those scenes are well-written and have some great dialogue gems (“There’s a gang of super villains in the next room cleaning out my refrigerator. How about we start there?”), but they’re coming at precisely the wrong time. “FF” (and “Fantastic Four” before it, both under Jonathan Hickman) occasionally chafes at the serial comic format, and this is another time where Hickman appears to be banging his head against its limitations, rather than playing to its strengths.
The bits he does get right when it comes to pacing are good, though. The cliffhanger is the strongest one we’ve had in three issues, and the idea of the war is still interesting. But once again, we’re just finally getting moving again and we’ve halted. Now more than ever before I find myself wishing that “FF” had just been told as a massive graphic novel than as a serial comic, because it would let us appreciate Hickman’s dialogue zings and larger-than-life ideas all together instead of piecemeal.
Steve Epting is back on art, and overall he’s good as always. The lineup of Inhumans when they first arrive is a great portrait, even though it’s just a fraction of a page, and the drawings of Sue Richards sitting in a chair with her legs crossed and doling out a death look is one of the most intimidating moments in comics. And when it comes to the larger than life moments, like Medusa’s hair swooping and curling everywhere, well, it looks great.
There is no doubt in my mind that when read as a whole, “FF” is going to be a strong and thoroughly enjoyable story. But like before, when it comes to an individual chapter in a serialized story, “FF” #8 has some pacing flaws that are hard to ignore. It’s good, but it’s a shame it wasn’t better.