When it comes to Fantastic Four #587, I believe Shakespeare said it best when he titled his play Much Ado About Nothing. For all the build up, for all the marketing and shock and awe that Marvel has tried to throw into the final stand of one of the oldest teams in comic books, this issue simply putters out.
This is the Fantastic Four, this is one of the greatest creations from comic book legend Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, this is one of the launching pads of what Marvel comics has become, and this is the best they could do? Some will write about the power of the drama and how the focus was on the characters. That has been in true with past issues, even with the arc leading up to this final stand. However the issue itself leaves something to be desired. DO NOT READ BELOW!! SPOILERS ALERT!!
Okay, so, Johnny Storm dies. There, mystery solved, question answered, let the tears for The Human Torch begin to run down. I realize that death in comic books is tantamount to losing your car keys in terms of finality, but still, this is just a ham fisted mess from the get go. Writer Jonathon Hickman should end this story with a bang, not a whimper. I’m sure in his mind he was showing how Johnny finally did something noble, how he sacrificed himself for his family and the greater good. I’m behind that, I get that, and I’m totally on board for it. What I’m not on board for is Johnny Storm’s last stand being a splash page of him being swarmed by bug creatures from The Negative Zone and Ben Grimm crying. I realize with a comic that’s much more cerebral, like the Fantastic Four, atypical action might not be what the doctor called for. That being said, this seemed to end short, as if there was something missing.
The next issue, issue 588, is touted as the last Fantastic Four issue (at least until Marvel launches FF) and to me that should’ve been the slower issue, the more dramatic and introspective issue. 587 should have been a monster, a real send off to a hero like Johnny Storm. Even the other two story lines here could have fueled a bit more excitement. Instead they just pile on to the boredom. Reed Richards is trying to rescue an entire planet doomed to destruction by Galactus. Instead of something powerful in that arc, suddenly this one being can lift the sentient identity of the entire planet in her brain. Well, problem solved, now Reed can go home. Sue Storm? After a lengthy back and forth, she just tosses out some strong words and Prince Namor completely caves. Um, does that sound like the Namor we know and love?
Finally we have Reed Richards’ kids trying to figure out how to close the door to The Negative Zone so a horde of menacing creatures won’t invade earth. Ben Grimm is there in human form along with The Human Torch, trying to stave off the attack. That could’ve been a cool throw down, even if Hickman switched between the kids trying to solve the science behind it while Ben and Johnny battled. Nope, we get panel after panel of “kids say the funniest things” coupled with a math contest. When Johnny does meet his end the feeling isn’t there, the power of his final fight rings very hollow.
The art by Steve Epting is decent enough, and he does a good job of trying to put movement into such a stagnant story. I’m not a huge fan of how he approaches the faces of his characters but I liked the rest of what he does. Epting has a good sense of scale, and a nice appreciation for how to move panels from one to the other with great fluidity. The art aside, Fantastic Four issue #587 just feels like a squandered opportunity for greatness. As though Marvel knew they were bringing Johnny back at some point (as they’ve hinted) so felt no need for making this issue anything special.