Friday, May 27, 2016


Story and Pencils: Alan Davis | Inks: Mark Farmer
Color Art: John Kalisz | Letters: Dave Lanphear | Production: Anthony Dial
Assistant Editors: Molly Lazer & Aubrey Sitterson | Editor: Tom Brevoort
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley

At some point, Alan Davis somehow became linked with the Fantastic Four. In recent years he provided regular covers for the series. Back in 1998, he was to be the FF's ongoing artist following the "Heroes Reborn" event, before dropping out after the third issue of their relaunched title. Around that time, he was tapped to provide cover art for the first printings of ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR volumes 1 and 2, as well.

And in 2007, Davis was commissioned for an entry into Marvel's series of "The End" mini-series and one-shots, for a six-issue saga describing the final adventure of the Fantastic Four.

The story is set some decades in the future, after Earth was nearly destroyed in something called the "Mutant War". Reed Richards has developed a "Methuselah Treatment" which allows the members of humanity to live in their prime long past their natural lifespans. Earth has been restored as a utopia and the solar system has been terraformed.

But all is not well. Years earlier, Franklin and Valeria Richards, children of Reed and his wife Sue, were killed in the Fantastic Four's final battle with Doctor Doom. Reed now lives as a hermit aboard an asteroid lab, estranged from Sue, working on a mysterious matter transferral experiment, while Sue spends her days on an archaeological quest on Earth. Meanwhile, John Storm is now a lead member of the Avengers, who battle villains throughout known space, while Ben Grimm, his wife Alicia, and their children live on Mars among the Inhumans.

The four former teammates are slowly brought together when the Avengers and SHIELD detect a signal beamed toward Mars around the same time a group of villains attacks a quarantine field at the edge of the solar system. John recruits the Thing for help and the two soon head to Reed's asteroid to rescue him from the Super-Skull and Annihilus. On Earth, Sue finds an ancient orb beneath the planet's surface and brings it to Doctor Strange, who teleports her to the rest of the team. Sue reveals that the orb holds the secret to rescuing Franklin and Valeria at the precise instant they and Doom had apparently perished by pulling them forward in time. The FF accomplish this goal, bringing all three to their present, then trapping Doom in the Negative Zone for all time.

Along the way, there's some intrigue involving the Kree and Shi'ar manipulating Earth's villains to attack our solar system in an attempt to steal Reed's technology, but in the end this turns out be merely an inconsequential (and somewhat distracting) sub-plot.

I want to like this story. I've made my love of Alan Davis quite clear in previous posts. But he just doesn't quite pull it off here. All the ingredients for a great "last Fantastic Four story" are present: the FF, Doctor Doom, Annihilus, Mole Man, Super-Skull, the Mad Thinker, Diablo, the Inhumans -- even Namor, She-Hulk, Wyatt Wingfoot, the Watcher, Galactus, and the Silver Surfer all put in appearances of varying degrees of importance. Plus we have guest-spots from the Avengers, Daredevil, Spider-Man, and more.

Plus, Davis gets that the FF are a family, and their final adventure should focus on that, so we have the plot of Sue finding a way to bring the group back together and retrieve her believed-dead children from the past.

But it just doesn't work. For one thing, the entire plot about the Kree and Shi'ar proves to be, as noted above, an unnecessary complication to the main action. There's an entire sub-plot devoted to SHIELD and the Avengers figuring out the two alien empires' plan, but it never really dovetails with the FF's story. We're essentially following two unrelated storylines from end to end, and as this is a FANTASTIC FOUR branded comic, I fail to see the point of the Avengers' half of it.

And then there's Doctor Doom. Davis goes back to basics with the visuals on most of the characters. Even though we're decades in the future, he's restored most every character to their original or most iconic costumes, and he draws them all beautifully. (And in a nice little touch, he puts the FF in the "Heroes Return" uniforms that he designed himself back in 1998.) But for some reason he gives us a weird cyborg Doom with four robotic arms and a missing eye. Seeing this incongruous Doom alongside the otherwise classically illustrated cast is disconcerting and really just makes one wish we could've seen Davis's take on the traditional version of Doom.

If nothing else, I can say this about FANTASTIC FOUR: THE END: nobody dies in it. We're meant to infer that perhaps all the X-Men and other mutants perished in the "Mutant Wars", and we're told that Tony Stark's physical body is dead while his consciousness lives on in his various suits of armor, but that's it. Unlike many "The End" stories, this one isn't bleak or depressing. The FF don't go out in a blaze of glory. Not even the bad guys die! (Okay, the final page shows us that Doom has killed Annihilus and usurped his position in the Negative Zone, but other than him...)

So I give kudos to Davis for going in a more upbeat direction to close the book on the Fantastic Four -- and as always, I find his artwork breathtaking to look at. I just wish the story he chose to tell had been better conceived.

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