While the Fantastic Four clean up a disturbance in the Neutral Zone between U.S. territory and the Forever City of the High Evolutionary, Valeria Richards does what all kids do when their parents are away – she starts snooping through their drawers. Of course, in this case their “drawers” happen to be a top-secret laboratory containing all sorts of secret experiments, including a bridge to other dimensions.
Discovering the Council (a group of Reed Richards’ from alternate realities dedicated to planning for all contingencies and creating a perfect world) and her father’s reluctance to join the group, Valeria pays a visit to Dr. Doom in order to strike a bargain. Guided by her brother’s counterpart from the future, Valeria knows that Doom must help her father face an upcoming threat. In return, she will help him regain his lost intelligence.
You know all that awesome stuff Jonathan Hickman’s been doing with the Fantastic Four since he took over? Restoring the sense of importance to the book and portraying the FF as a group of superpowered futurists, treating the team as a true family without overdoing it (a trap many writers fall into), expanding on ideas and concepts established by previous writers while creating new threats and new allies? Yeah, all that stuff… well, it looks like all of those plot threads and all of the groundwork Hickman has been laying down is finally coming to fruition in the form of Dr. Doom. And to top it off, there’s a little epilogue at the end of the issue featuring some pretty ominous foreshadowing reflected off a very shiny, silvery surface, if you catch my drift.
How many times can I say “Hickman has done it again”? He does it again and again with every issue of Fantastic Four and with this one has me as giddy as a schoolgirl at a Justin Bieber concert.
The FF take a backseat to the story of Valeria and Doom and I couldn’t be more pleased with their portrayals. We get a side of Doom not often seen, one that is humbled and willing to seek help from the most unlikely of places. His dour mood is conveyed perfectly by the ever-able pencils of Steve Epting who, I’m happy to say, is absolutely the right choice as artist for this title, giving every event a real sense of weight and power. There’s no doubt that everything that happens in this book is a HUGE deal with universe-altering ramifications.
Now Valeria Richards… what a kid. It often seems challenging for writers to write young kids in comics, especially when those children are geniuses. Most of the time, they just come off as short adults but Hickman manages to give Valeria, and all of the children currently taking up residence at the Baxter Building, a sense of childish wonder and youthful attitude while still showcasing the fact that they’ve seen a lot in their short lives. In a nutshell: there’s no doubt she’s a kid, but there’s no doubt that she can very likely build a time machine and probably do more quickly than her dad can.
The only problem with this book? It hurts. My stomach is knotted up in anticipation of the next issue and I’m left with a sense of physical pain waiting for a month to go by. That’s fantastic.