It's like Jonathan Hickman has spent his time on the "Fantastic Four" slowly building a tapestry. It's not so much that he's finishing it off, he's just adding another border that will show us more. This issue is the first issue in the new story arc titled 'Three,' which apparently will see the end for one of the eponymous four.
There are many story seeds that Hickman has planted (if you can follow me down another metaphor) and here they all start to converge and interact. If you can keep up with it all, there's the start of a very epic tale here. The FF are battling at the newly risen city of the High Evolutionary. Valeria Richards is chasing up on some hints she's been given. Reeds across the many universes continue to play a part. And Galactus is dead. Hickman is playing with every corner of the FF universe and by making it a large irregular polyhedral there are certainly plenty of corners to play in.
Valeria Richards continues to make a play for becoming the main character of the series and there are many layers to this little girl. Which makes me wonder, how little is Valeria supposed to be? I thought she was only four, or something, at least younger than Franklin, but here she comes across as much older in actions and words. I'm all for character growth but suddenly Val seems like she's the next superspy for the Marvel U. However, while it makes for a good story I will not complain.
One of the strongest aspects that Hickman has brought, or at least brought back, to the FF is Science! It's nice to see a smart guy write the book about the smart guy and there's one throwaway moment here that made me smile. Reed needs to bring down an entire city, and quickly, and he gets his wife and brother-in-law to quickly knock them all out using a simple method. It's a moment that excites and reminds me why comics are cool. If this trick has been played before then I apologize, but I thought it was just the thing that proves comics are a very effective medium for what they do.
Doom plays a part in this issue but it's mostly set up. It seems like he's been invited into another situation that he will love to manipulate, but I would not discount Valeria as his opponent. She'll have something up her sleeve eventually. Doom certainly can't know all of the pieces in the game so far and they look like they'll all play a part before this collusion wraps up.
Steve Epting is just perfect for this comic. There is no other way to put it. The man knows how to make the characters act and he knows how to frame a page. Mostly, it's the vibe and texture he brings to the page. Doom feels like a real person not just some nut in a supervillain outfit. Finally, this title has found its successor to Dale Eaglesham.
While this comic sets up plenty and gives us enough to feel worth the money it still just doesn't feel great. I like that Hickman does not decompress his ideas in this title, when he easily could, but this issue feels like it gives far too much without explaining or earning it. I'm certain the pay off for it will come throughout the arc but in the end it makes this comic, as a standalone experience, good but not great.