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The Fifth Color | The Value of One

by  in Comic News Comment
The Fifth Color | The Value of One

I hate polybags.

The very idea of selling a comic in thick, super-sealed plastic really bothers me. It’s hard to find a reason for them besides keeping you from reading the comic inside. If you want them to be protected, a bag and a board would do better. If you were preserving them for posterity or value, send them to the CGC. Even if you want something like a ‘slipcover’ for your book, something that would hide the actual cover to preserve the front-facing artwork, a stiff sort of outer cover would probably hold up a lot better.

That polybag is going to get ruined if all goes well. The first thing I did when I got the book is cut the darn thing open. OH NO THE VALUE HAS DROPPED! I actually lowered the value of my comic because I tried to read it; essentially, by getting to the value of the book (story, art, content) I ruined its value (collectability, condition). Weird, ain’t it?

So, is this book still valuable?

Well, as in the above, there are different kinds of value to different kinds of people. Not just collectability and content, there are even different levels to how readers approach a story that will calculate its essential worth as opposed to the collector, who will inevitably realize that Fantastic Four #587 will only be worth as much as other people invest into it. That’s the thing about collectibles: anyone can save something forever, it’s just when other people didn’t save that one thing and really want it later on in life that it gets seen on Auction Kings. Just because you saved eight long boxes of Deathmate Black doesn’t mean someone wants to pay you money for them.

There’s been media buzz, people who don’t normally talk about comics have talked about this comic in particular, it’s in a polybag, inside there’s a secret that everyone wants to know the answer to, tons of outside qualities to make Fantastic Four #587 memorable to the public. All of these things are externally tough, and it really takes taking a pair of collapsible knitting scissors to find the real gold in Jonathan Hickman’s web of comic book storytelling. Is this web impenetrable? Is it expertly woven? Is this an organic web or are they self-invented? Click below and find out!

(WARNING:   Guys, I can’t even say there are spoilers for this. Marvel themselves totally revealed who exactly it was who died online, so if you’re reading an online Marvel comics column, you probably know by now.  If it helps, I don’t say the name of who exactly it is or describe the Big Event, and this should help you explain what all this is to people who haven’t read it, so … I guess I’ll be talking about Fantastic Four #587. Be warned?)

Again, how much you put into reading this issue is exactly how much it will be worth to you. I’d imagine longtime fans of Marvel’s first family will be mixed on if Fantastic Four #587 is a success or not. This is mostly because longtime fans are mixed on anything; we didn’t all start reading comics at the same time, everyone has different tastes and reads comics for different reasons, so yeah. People are going to be debating (that’s the nice term) about the particular value of this major event for awhile. A lot of people are going to be angry because it’s a major blow to a long-running institution. You can’t kill one of the members of the Fantastic Four anymore than you could kill Spock in Star Trek. A lot of longtime readers are going to know how comics work and will know full well that this mysterious dead member isn’t going to stay dead and will brought back for the inevitable movie release. But despite the complaints, even longtime readers are still going to be invested in how this story ends. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference, and the death of a character is a hard thing to be indifferent to. The best analogy I can think of is longtime readers are going to feel like Lost fans — confused, maybe a little indignant and certainly not letting this go down as the last word on an imagination-capturing narrative.

Let’s say you only started picking up the Fantastic Four when Johnathan Hickman came on board. Maybe you only picked up the FF because Mark Millar was on the title awhile ago. Maybe you read it off and on as the storyline strikes you. Maybe you caught the hype early and bought the storyline just because there was a Monster at the End of This Book. The more casual or current readers are going to really like this issue because they know this story. Jonathan Hickman’s run is incredibly rewarding to people who are paying attention, and this issue fits perfectly into that web I was talking about before. Other, more fashionable websites have gone panel-by-panel through hints and secrets of the “Three” storyline (sidenote: the storyline is called Three and this issue is called “Three, Part Five.” Hee.).

When Hickman first started on the book, I had no idea where he was going on this. Something was missing until Steve Epting came on board and if I haven’t said it before, I’ll make sure and say this now: STEVE EPTING DESERVES A BACKRUB. Or, like, a pizza party. Maybe a cookie bouquet because his artwork has made the impending death all the more real. Fantastic Four stories are, at their best, high science-fiction, stories of the Fantastic. Because Epting’s art is so dynamic and so newspaper-like in lighting and execution, he is just as much as part of this as Hickman. It’s a fairly deep book, something you should go back and look over for clues and hints to what comes next. This issue alone creates and resolves plots in the same sweep of the pen; while there’s one more issue of the Fantastic Four as we know them left, this is by no means the penultimate issue you’d think it is. Hickman is great at getting you to chew on dialogue bubbles, the framing sequences of what we’re told that you nearly forget exactly what you’re reading. There are around five pages of children discussing tactical mathematics and the after-effects of nuclear weapons that is both exciting and a little terrifying. After all, these aren’t kids anymore, no matter how they look or how we know them, and they could easily turn friend or foe based on the world that shapes them. I can’t imagine anyone who has followed this story to its current plot twist not getting something from this and wanting to know more. I guess current or casual readers will be like the movie goers who really like the new version of True Grit. Yeah, John Wayne was in the original, and it won an Oscar and it’s a piece of western cinema history, but you really like what the Coen Brothers bring to the table, and Jeff Bridges has been doing really well for himself lately.

Now, there are plenty of people who’s ears perked up at a Death in the Family, to borrow a phrase. If you withhold information about characters that have some deep-seeded roots in pop culture, people are going to want to know. These are, in a way, their characters too so if someone’s going to die, they should be informed like any other member of the family. I can’t imagine, though, what they might think about Fantastic Four #587 on its own. It’s not exactly reader friendly and there is, indeed, around five pages of kids talking technobabble. Hickman works with the kids as major players within the FF more than anyone I’ve personally seen, so the idea of a little girl who’s super-smart and a boy with reality-warping powers might be a strange side-note when you just want to know which one of the guys you know is taking the exit. The other parts of the story actually resolve longer running plots than even what Hickman has written, going back to Millar’s Nu-World and D&A’s Annihilation Wave. At best, it should make you want to go read the other parts and get on the storyline superhighway. At worst, it won’t have any impact and the FF member who dies will be just info that you know when people ask. People who are jumping in right now are watching the highlight reel, catching the most exciting bits of a bigger game series.

Back to our original question: what’s it worth? Well, right now, it’s all over the map as far as individual tastes and needs. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and one reader’s sensationalist media hype is another reader’s intricate puzzle piece to a much bigger picture. When Captain America died, we were in a very similar state: people knew that this could just be a stunt and, since there was a movie hinted in the works, Steve Rogers couldn’t be taken off the game board completely. Anyone who had gotten into Brubakers’s style on the book knew there was more at work than a blatant assassination, no matter what stage of grief other heroes were facing. Another point these two deaths have is incredible depth and breadth of story from their writers. Jonathan Hickman has said that this death was part of his initial pitch from the beginning and, after this twist of story, there is a larger set of problems that will stem from this act. Hickman is ready for the long haul and will, as great comic book writers do, turn this around and create something larger than an issue, something that just can’t be contained in a polybag. If all goes well, we’ll be referencing this book for months or years to come, asking him questions during panels at conventions and making our own conjecture about what it all means to us and our heroes.

If all goes well, Fantastic Four #587, for readers and fans, should be invaluable later on. Maybe not in Overstreet, but as part of the ongoing adventures of Marvel’s first family.

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