FF #16

Matt Fraction, Lee Allred, Karl Kesel, Michael Allred and Joe Quinones combine their forces to create "FF's" sixteenth and final issue, which finds Scott Lang and Doctor Doom facing off in a bid for ultimate power. A self-proclaimed book for all ages, "FF" #16 veers towards convolution with complex equations concerning superpowers and obscure references. The issue peters out with more confusing high concept ramblings than heartfelt fun, a true tragedy for a series that started out so personal, warm, and creative. Even so, Michael Allred and Joe Quinones provide some truly gorgeous, expressive artwork with Allred's heavy-lined and unique style.

The children's genuine, distinct voices were, by far, one of the best parts of "FF" as a series; although Bentley's individual voice peeks through occasionally, this issue lacks the personality that prior arcs conveyed so well. Their voices get lost in the bid to explain the newfound -- if complex and confusing -- properties of Pym particles. This reveal feels rushed; a lot of information gets crammed into two pages that are packed with dialogue. The kids' explanation, though implied to be more comprehensive, is no easier to understand than the Watcher's dense description. Slogging through it felt a chore for a payoff that took all of one panel to show. Add to that Ravonna's botched history and questionable identity and the issue fails to lay out its conclusion in an enjoyable, comprehensive manner.

What's more, Doom's big punishment feels incredibly anticlimactic, if only because nothing changes. As the omnipotent beings We Who Are descend to dish out Doom's penalty for attacking the Watcher, they do nothing more than restore the status quo; that is -- spoiler warning -- permanently re-scarring Doom's face for everyone one of his misdeeds. With Doom's popularity and status as a main Marvel villain, it was clear that nothing too game-changing would happen to his character, but this came across like a cop-out in that it reverses something trivial that Doom salvaged for only a few moments. As satisfying as it was for Lang to beat Doom into a pulp, the use of We Who Are built up the stakes for an inevitably weak resolution.

Although the issue has its fair share of failings, the last half of the story did have its moments, from the Moloid's plans for She-Hulk and the Thing to Lang and Darla Deering's tender conversation. The cookout really gets back to the original fun spirit of the series; roping in all of the Fantastic Four's extended family was an especially nice touch. Several subplots wrap up neatly, resulting in an overall solid conclusion.

If you pick up the issue for any reason, Michael Allred and Joe Quinones should be it. Allred's style is distinct and interesting for all its heavily inked lines. Allred really has a knack for humor, which radiates through the kids' extremely expressive facial expressions and posturing. Each character's personality shone through their own distinct designs, an impressive feat considering the wide and diverse range of figures. Laura Allred breathes life into the issue with colors that pop, using bold hues to make the book charming and bright. Together, Quinones and the Allreds are the highlight of the issue.

Unfortunately, "FF" felt as though it went downhill after Fraction's departure as scriptwriter and this issue is no exception to that. Although it has a few touching moments and wraps up loose ends, the main plot overshadows everything else with its heavier implications and confusing, rambling explanation of Pym particles. Nevertheless, Michael Allred and Joe Quinones used Allred's recognizable style to the best of their ability to create a genuinely beautiful book populated with fascinating characters.

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