It’s already clear that Jonathan Hickman is going to be big at Marvel, and with this Fantastic Four series, he now has a good chance to proved to everyone why that is. Hickman is, of course, taking over the main series following Millar and Hitch, so for all intents and purposes, this is his first arc on the title. The fact that it’s a Dark Reign tie-in is, apparently, something he’s not eager to let get in the way of that.
The issue opens with the team rebuilding their base following the events of Secret Invasion. Hickman quickly establishes the character dynamic, with some particularly memorable jokes for the deliberately frivolous Johnny. Is this is representative of the quality of Hickman’s usual characterisation and dialogue, Fantastic Four fans are in for a treat over the course of his run.
Dark Reign fans, however, might want to think twice before picking up the book. For this issue, at least, the event gets only the barest sliver of plot importance. It’s little more than background noise. Instead, things follow the classic Fantastic Four. The family squabbles with one another until Reed invents something, and things go awry. The tone isn’t an especially radical shift away from Millar’s, but something about Hickman’s interpretation of the characters feels slightly more natural.
Chen’s artwork is competent and dutiful, but few scenes truly pop like the artist is capable of. Whether he’s simply not that enthusiastic about the characters or struggling with a fairly subtle script remains to be see, but at no point does the artwork for this issue fall below enjoyable. The one hiccup is in his depiction of Franklin and Valeria, where the latter appears to be roughly the same age – if not older – than the former, when it should be the other way around.
Overall, the series looks like it’ll satisfy those fans who want a Fantastic Four story but don’t want to dip into the Millar and Hitch run, although event-completists can and should stay well away until further notice, because despite the prominence given to the crossover in the title, there’s barely a hint of it in the book itself – it’s little more than a marketing blemish on an otherwise decent comic.