Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Dragotta (“Month of Mourning”) and Mark Brooks (“Uncles”)
The touted “last issue” of Fantastic Four features what’s left of Marvel’s first family mourning their lost member in a melancholic and emotional send off to one of comic’s mainstay titles.
Johnny Storm is gone, but the Human Torch is not extinguished so easily. This epilogue issue to the climatic “Three” storyline is split with the main “Month of Mourning” story and the back up “Uncles” – both written by Jonathan Hickman.
The main “Month of Mourning” features an almost entirely dialog-less story. Starting from day one, when Johnny is lost, the story visits instances throughout the month to feature how the family is coping. Be it Susan’s withdrawal, Reed’s frustration, Ben’s anger at the world and himself or the children’s thirsting for vengeance, Hickman directs our characters through a convincing emotional expression of loss. While there are a couple of scenes where some dialog may have helped, that may fall a bit more on the artistic interpretation of artist Nick Dragotta.
Either way, the story takes a hard turn at the end with a surprise appearance. While this does show that while the “Fantastic Four” is over, the story must go on, but I’m not sure if it adds a distraction to the emotional impact of the scene leading into it or if it’s a needed end to get the family back to the ongoing story.
“Uncles” is an eight-page back up that takes place on day 14 in the “Month of Mourning” story. Everyone’s friendly neighborhood (and soon-to-be FF member) Spider-Man swings by and tries to help Franklin out with coping with the loss of his uncle Johnny. It’s just as much a poignant story as the main feature, and Spider-Man is the perfect addition to the tale. After all, who else can best talk about coping with the loss of a beloved uncle than a guy whose superhero career is based entirely around it.
Both stories are a great send off to the end of an era (however long it may last). Hickman manages to portray the emotion of this grief-stricken family movingly and believably.
With a silent issue, the artist must pick up double duty (while the letterist gets a small break). Artist Nick Dragotta does a decent job, with Kirby-esque designs with expressions of depression and frustration. This is obviously meant to visually connect the issue to the early Stan Lee/Jack Kirby issues and solidify it as a true “final issue” to what started back in 1961, and it works.
However, his scene depiction, panel sequence and even a couple of facial expressions leave a bit to be desired. This is obvious from as early as page two with an unintentionally comical panel showing the full might of the Avengers assaulting a bereaved Thing and the Richards children. Another example includes an awkward exchange between Thing, Donald Blake/Thor and Bruce Banner/Hulk. Dragotta also goes a bit overboard with the Kirby dots at times.
With Mark Brooks’ work on “Uncles,” the book gets a more contemporary look with Spidey and Franklin. It doesn’t quite have the visual impact of Dragotta’s work in the first part, but it also doesn’t have the errors and oddities either. It looks good, and the faces in the clouds in the last panel are especially well done.
This book is an emotional catharsis for the characters inside. The readers know Johnny will be back (I give it at least a year so FF can revert back to Fantastic Four just in time for issue #600, if not two years tops). Still, these characters believe they’ve lost not just a team member, but a brother, an uncle and a best friend, and those sentiments are conveyed excellently. The book ends with a send off from Hickman and a look ahead with art of the new FF book. Take what you will from it (including the questionable adding Spidey to the team, sans paper bag hat no less), but I’m looking forward to next month.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10