Fantastic Four #587

Fantastic Four #587

B

Well, there’s no doubt that this is the biggest issue to hit the stands this week, and there is certainly a lot to discuss, about the comic itself and how Marvel chose to handle this mini-event. Retailers around the country stocked up on this issue as Marvel has been heavily promoting this wrap-up to Jonathon Hickman’s “3″ storyline, which has been building from all the stories he’s told in his tenure as writer on this title. The hype has been building for months and word on the street is that a major character would die, so, how was it handled?

Well, on the marketing side, this went over like a lead balloon. Marvel has been promising for months that this issue would be sold in a black polybag—bringing back echoes of the 1990′s—so as to cut down on spoilers. Seems like a pretty reasonable idea to me. Then what do they do? They announce to retailers who receive Tuesday delivery of their shipments from Diamond that they’d be able to sell this issue in their stores a day early. Oh, and then they sent out a press release letting everyone know that a major comic book character for almost the last 50 years would die. Well, so much for keeping the spoilers under wraps. I knew who bit the dust before lunchtime on Tuesday thanks to the mainstream press who don’t seem to know the meaning of the words spoiler alert.

As angry as I was, the retailer I spoke to when buying this issue was even more peeved. Banking on the hype this store had significantly upped their order of Fantastic Four only to be let down by the actual increase in traffic. I can’t say I blame him for his anger. Casual comic book readers would probably have been much more likely to pick up this issue if there had been any air of mystery as to who would face their end, but Marvel decided instead to go for the gusto and the mainstream press. And why not? The retailers had already placed their orders, from here on out they’re the ones stuck trying to sell the extra comics. I thought everyone had learned the lessons of the 90′s comics book boom and subsequent bust, but I guess not… it appears Marvel is still hoping to capitalize on the kind of comics speculation that led to problems for the whole industry.

But getting back to the actual issue… just how was it? Truth be told, this wasn’t a bad issue. I’ve been following Hickman’s run casually since he took over for Mark Millar, and I got even more excited when it was announced that Steve Epting would be joining him for this latest run. Epting is a fantastic artist who’s work on Captain America and The Marvels Project was never less than stellar.

I think casual readers who did pick up this issue without having followed the Fantastic Four recently were probably a little confused, this issue drops you right into the action which Hickman has been building from a simmer to a boil over the last several months. Mr. Fantastic is trying to save the remaining residents of Nu-World from destruction by Galactus’ hand, Sue Storm and Namor are having a battle of wills under the sea as things come to a head between the Antlanteans and a newly revealed race of sub-sea dwellers, and the Thing—temporarily in a human form—and the Human Torch are trying to prevent an invasion from the Negative Zone with the help of Franklin and Valeria Richards as well as the think-tank of genius children that Reed Richards had assembled to help him solve the world’s problems.

So who dies? On the off-chance you haven’t heard yet I won’t be the one to ruin it for you here. I’ll just say that scene was handled exceptionally and really did have a strong emotional impact at the end of the issue. One thing I did notice though, do we ever actually see this character die? I have my doubts about this, and we all know comic book deaths should be treated with a grain of salt as it is. But my supposition is—and I admit I’m not really going out on a limb here—is that we haven’t seen the last of this character, not as Marvel and their marketing department would like us to believe.

With one issue of Fantastic Four left, hitting stores next month, the series will then be rebooted under the FF moniker with a new #1 issue. How transparent does this seem? The last issue, #588, would be 12 issues away from a #600 milestone issue… if anyone thinks that the new FF series won’t be reverting back to Fantastic Four in time for Marvel to capitalize on that, they’re fooling themselves. My guess is that our wayward team member will probably rejoining the land of the living around that time as well. So here we go, Marvel is having their cake and eating it too… I’ve enjoyed this series for the last few months, but can you blame me—and the retailers—for feeling jerked around?

tags: fantastic four, jonathon hickman, steve epting

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