Jonathan Hickman started his run on "Fantastic Four" with a great arc centered on Reed Richards and it gave the series something it definitely needed: heart. It was a bolting beginning but things have slowed down lately and that's because of a lack of heart. The plot mechanics are there but it doesn't truly mean as much as you want it to because it's too clinical and cold. This issue sees a resurgence of emotion as previously disparate plots are mingled together like cataclysmic chemicals in a crucible of universal scale. Finally, this comic is truly feeling fantastic.
Galactus is aware of his own corpse buried within the Earth. It is strange to watch him so calmly deal with this situation in an intellectual and measured manner. He is an eater of worlds but also someone who can be reasoned with. And also someone who can feel fear. It's an intergalactic subplot and while it feels like it will have immense importance, it still isn't the most amazing aspect of this entire storyline.
Hickman is providing many callbacks to aspects of his own run in this arc. He's bringing everything together and also working hard to propel the story forward. Moments that felt throwaway issues ago now come into the light and have meaning. I just wish Hickman's initial introductions of these aspects had meant more at the time rather than serving as a retroactive bookmark for something awesome coming down the line.
The denizens of Nu-Earth, the Future Foundation in the Baxter Building, and the Anti-Priest and the followers of Annihilus are all been interesting seeds to see planted and having fruit finally come to bear is an exciting moment. Watching them all thrown together into the same jam is going to be a recipe of which I'm a little uncertain. It's a whole lot of flavor and making it taste great together will be difficult but Hickman is at least trying to make it look like he can do it.
However, even though dozens of characters fill these pages, it is Namor who shines through the strongest. Hickman really seems to have a handle on this cocky leader of the sea and his actions are very well written and make for brilliant drama. Without Namor's final scene this comic would not be as strong a draw to return for the next month.
Steve Epting is an artist who is bringing his entire palette of mood to this comic; it's making for something that really feels special. What a shame then that all I can look back at is the Johnny Storm panel where he looks like the love child of Matt Damon and a five year old. Without context, you would never guess which character this is. A shame because otherwise Epting brings great emotion to the Silver Surfer and might to Namor.
If "Fantastic Four" can stick the very tricky landing on this impressive maneuver of story and scope then it might come off as smarter than we thought it would. It's an ambitious attempt, and to be respected for the effort, but eventually it can't rest on its few laurels of the past. This comic feels good, and great once Namor shows why he's everyone's favorite arrogant ruler, but it isn't consistently as pleasing as we might want to give it credit for. It's counting down to a death but I don't see any stand out candidates so far, though my outside money is on Reed.