Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fantastic Four: The End

"The End" mini-series of Marvel books take a look at a protracted final adventure of a hero or group. Not to be confused with "The Last [Marvel Character] Story," tho. They can never really be canon, since the Marvel licenses themselves are eternal and will evolve over time as the company sees fit. But these stories do allow favored creators to give it their all for a fictional extrapolation of what may be.

With Fantastic Four's "End," I can't imagine anyone doing a better job than Alan Davis. And he is in good company, as the aforementioned The Last Fantastic Four Story was drawn by Romita Jr. and written by Stan Lee himself. But Davis both writes and draws his End tale, and it is because of his focused vision that the outcome is so great.

The book reads wonderfully as a collected trade, replete with science fiction surrounding a bevy of Marvel's best characters. Davis has been writing as long as he's been drawing, and it's hard to choose which to favor. He especially excels with established characters in slightly of kilter realities. That was the foundation of what made his Excalibur issue so great, and helped deliver the awesome Nail books for DC. ClanDestine can be considered Davis' own in many ways but it's still with characters like the Fantastic Four and their supporting cast that something really special comes into play.

FF's End jumps ahead years into an almost utopian future, the the Fantastic Four themselves have gone on to lead separate lives. Ben Grim lives a happy family life with Alicia and their children among the Inhumans, Johnny Storm is a member of the Avengers. Reed and Sue are estranged since the group parted, resulting from a tragic last battle with Doctor Doom whose casualties included the Richards' children. Reed, consumed with work, chooses denial to deal with his pain while Sue searches for newer adventures to stave off the grief. The Marvel U is now a galactic one, and of course something's afoot that steadily builds to bring the heroes back together for that final resolution and ever-needed closure.

And it's all in Davis' unmistakable polished style. Kids, this is what great comics look like. Aside from some of the best representations of Marvel characters your likely to see, there are fantastic futuristic settings and worlds with characters who have aged both gracefully and heroically. Pages are packed with armadas of spaceships, high tech labs, operatic settings, and fist throwing, ray-blasting heroes and bad guys. The whole book is gorgeous, with the resplendently paired inks of Mark farmer and great colors of John Kalisz. I'll also mention lettering veteran Dave Lanphear not because I have to, but because his tight and non-intrusive balloons in a dialog heavy story really brings it home as a finished package.

Having no ties to continuity, it reads great if you're not a die-hard Marvel reader. It just plain good sci-fi that happens to be in the Marvel setting. As a reader myself, it reminds of the best that Marvel was when it meant the most to me, it calls to that era that seems so long gone in comparison to todays books.

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