FF #16

"FF" #16 might be waved off dismissively by some as a padded epilogue further drawing out a story that Jonathan Hickman has been telling for the past three years or so, but this issue is much more about the family aspect of "FF." Hickman puts inner monologue from Valeria overtop the story proper, but leaves plenty of room for wonderful character moments like chatter between Human Torch and Spider-Man as well as the conversation Franklin Richards has with his future self. Those moments help remind readers that at the core of this title (and "Fantastic Four"), family comes before adventures against Celestials, Doombots and world-devouring menaces. This is a nice breather following all the past events of both "FF" and "Fantastic Four." All the same, virtually every character has a chance to stretch his or her legs, vocal chords or cosmic powers.

From Mike Choi's imagination-powered cover expertly capturing a young girl unimpressed by her show-off older brother to the final image of this issue, there is just so much to visually absorb. Nick Dragotta does a great job animating the clean-up process that serves as the first two-thirds of this comic book. His style is loose and animated and his characters have a wide array of expressions to match their personal attitudes. The FF costume, coupled with Dragotta's art, speaks volumes of the relationship between Spider-Man and Human Torch over the course of three simple panels.

Steve Epting delivers the opening salvo to the next threat, which includes some splendid, dark artwork with at least two gasp-worthy scenes -- in the span of five pages. Balancing Kirbyesque magnificence with real-world detail, nine wordless panels in that scene say far more about the impending doom coming for the Future Foundation than full pages of narrative possibly could. Epting and colorist Paul Mounts offer up a tutorial in emotional and environmental storytelling. This final scene is chilling in the drama depicting herein, but also in the setting. Undoubtedly other characters would be shivering or at least uncomfortable. Here, it all comes together to unsettle the book and the future for "FF."

You might think "FF" is a nice companion piece for readers looking for more Fantastic Four action from Jonathan Hickman, but this issue proves that it has the capability to stand all on its own. A nice interlude between bigscreen adventures that also openly welcomes readers into the fantastic worlds these imaginauts traverse, "FF" is a book with big ideas and fun adventures.

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