FF 16

ff 16

Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing FF 16, originally released January 22nd, 2013.

Ethan: With the arrival of FF 16 Scott Lang’s campaign to end Doom is itself at an end. Even though Doom was the cause of the crusade, it’s always been more about Scott — this finale is no different. As Scott confronts the mortal enemy of the Fantastic Four and the man who killed his daughter, there’s never going to be a better time to prove who or what the latest incarnation of Ant-Man has become. Unsurprisingly, Matt Fraction and Lee Allred do not disappoint.

The FF have disabled or destroyed all of Doctor Doom’s tools and tricks, and in turn, Doom has incapacitated all three of the Fantastic Four stand-ins except for Scott. Doom scoffs at Scott’s offer of mano-a-mano fisticuffsand unleashes an energy blast. Scott is unscathed, and in an unprecedented display of power proceeds use his bare hands to rip Doom’s metal armor right off of his body and smash Doom’s cosmic energy siphon. Their fight is interrupted by the appearance of the Living Tribunal, who condemns Doom for harming the Watcher Uatu. The Living Tribunal departs, leaving Doom alone again with Scott. Scott picks up where he left off, physically beating Doctor Doom in to submission, but leaving him alive. As Scott turns to go, Ravonna and Lockjaw teleport in with Franklin and Valeria Richards at the same moment that Doom fires a desperate blast at Scott’s back. Val is in the path of the blast, and appears to die after taking its full force; in fact, Franklin shielded his sister and Ravonna played some mind games to make Doom believe he had killed Val, leaving the dictator shattered with grief.

This issue could have been a lot of things. If the title had a more mainstream style, it could have been a straightforward beat ‘em up where Doom has the heroes on the ropes right up until the end when they turn the tables and win the day. If it had exclusively channeled the surrealist, crazy-train of whimsy that FF has exhibited from time to time, we could have seen a finale in which Doom has a picnic  with the kids — Artie sitting in his lap and the Moloids lopsidedly laying a daisy chain crown on his head. We did not get either of these things. Instead, we get a showdown that blends violence, psychoanalysis, deus ex machina, reversal of roles and so much more packed into the space of your average superhero brawl. And it is amazing.

The first way this fight departs from the norm is that the good guy has the upper hand from the start. We learn that Scott has discovered the ability to use Pym particles to selectively augment not just his size, but his strength and durability, which explains his ability to go toe-to-toe with Doom. If Scott only used this turn of events to beat the tar out Doom, it still wouldn’t be anything more than a gimmick. However, Scott has more in mind than a simple beating — he’s spent a lot of time thinking about Doom, and takes this opportunity to explain his thoughts to the man himself.

FF16_sociopath

This fight is not just revenge for Cassie, nor is it just a pre-emptive strike against a dangerous criminal. Scott wants to tell Victor that he sees past the arrogance and the façade of Doom as an honorable warrior. Scott wants to humble him and make him own up to the truth about himself — that he’s just a petty, damaged person who has failed to accept the fact that his selfish desires don’t give him the right to hurt the people around him. That said, we’re still talking about Doctor Doom here — he’s not going to turn over a new leaf without a bit of motivation, and Scott is more than happy to provide it.

FF16_motivation

I’ll admit that I haven’t quite made up my mind about this sequence. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense — Scott has admitted that he’s got a dark side, and he certainly has plenty of aggression and angst he wants to work out on Victor. I enjoyed the visceral catharsis of seeing Scott tapping into that darkness, and the visuals by Michael Allred realy nail this vibe. Every panel of Scott’s silhouette has beautiful, crisp composition — the stark contrast and the energy in his form show a man who is tired of trying to live up to a name, a man who is tired of being a slightly clueless, bumbling babysitter. He REALLY wants to get his hands dirty, and he’s definitely got some anger issues.

Then you have the confession? apology? from Doom. I don’t speak Romani, but I’m assuming he’s saying something to the effect of “you’re right, I’m sorry.” These statements would be a bit ridiculous coming from Doom — perhaps that’s why they’re obscured by a foreign language, to take the edge of incredulity off of them. There’s also the fact that he’s only saying it because he’s just been tortured and arguably close to being killed. Perhaps the idea is that Doom has to be made to feel powerless in order to speak honestly, but this can’t completely avoid having a tinge of that feeling you get when you look at Galileo’s shaky signature, penned after enduring the tender mercies of the Inquisition.

I’m similarly unsure about whether Doom’s cowardly potshot at Scott’s back means that Doom was just lying through his teeth to make Scott stop, or if it’s just the logical response of a narcissistic sociopath who’s just been humiliated. In either case, when his blast accidentally immolates Valeria Richards, it’s an undeniable coup de grâce made all the worse by the fact that it’s his own fault.

FF16_val

The visual echo behind Val confused me for a moment until I recognized it as Cassie Lang, confirmed by Scott’s stunned reaction: “Just like Cassie. Just. Like. Cassie.” Ravonna’s appearance with the Richards children is rather too convenient, but again it’s put to good use, as Val’s apparent death is a more potent lesson for Doom than any other that Scott could have managed. The fact that Val DOESN’T actually die cheapens it, but my desire for the happy ending does marginally outweigh my desire for Doom to have truly hoisted himself with his own petard.

Speaking of happy endings, I didn’t get the chance to talk about the backup-story by Lee Allred and Karl Kesel. Drew, I’m curious what you thought of both stories. Between the barbeque on the moon, the convenient revelations, and last-minute move by Ravonna, do you think this was too neat of an ending for this arc? Was the mission to cut Doom down to size worth it all? Also: why didn’t anyone invite The Living Tribunal to the after-party?

Drew: Honestly? He’s a little judgmental. Seriously, though: that picnic. It was easily my favorite part of the issue. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Scott’s victory — it was both rousing and disturbing — but gosh darn it if I don’t have a soft spot for seeing this cast having a good time in each other’s company.

Picnic time!

And what a cast! Each one of these characters stirs a kind of fond recognition — the kind most series can only hope to achieve with their central cast — recalling each and every issue of this run. Whether it’s Vil and Wu’s parents, Adolf and Luna’s budding friendship, or Cargo Manshark, this page is wall-to-wall knowing chuckles. The creative team even brings themselves back — only they’ve grown a bit since their last appearance: we’re now also treated to Joe Quinones’ versions of himself, Laura Allred, and, most notably, Fantastic Four creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. If this spread is about looking back on this remarkable run, it’s only appropriate that the men who made all of this possible should be featured, as well.

For me, that joy has always been what this series is about, which may be why I’m slower to embrace Scott’s solo victory. And I don’t just mean that it’s so dark: the emphasis on Scott vs. Doom here reframes one of my favorite ensemble comedies as a classic revenge story. I’ve always known those elements were there, but I tended to think of those as equal to Medusa’s mind-control issues or Tong’s gender identity. I have no problem giving Scott his closure, but the fact that it’s emphasized here at the conclusion makes this whole arc read like his story, relegating the rest of the cast to cooky window dressing.

Of course, we were treated to a great celebration of the cast in the previous issue, which I think made a fantastic case for the importance of their zaniness. I think the structure of battle and the emotional needs of Scott’s story dictated that these issues would brake down the way they did — and again, I don’t want to begrudge Scott his closure — which is why I’m so grateful for the epilogue. We get to spend a few more minutes with the kids, and even get to see how Scott’s emotional journey has affected Darla.

Scott and Darla, standing near a tree...

I’m curious to see what Marvel does with Darla now that her superhero responsibilities are over. Will she head back out on the road as a pop diva? Will she settle down with Scott at the Baxter Building (where he’ll presumably be doing his research on Pym particles)? Will she continue to be Ms. Thing?

Whatever small gripes I might have about not seeing enough of the kids, this was a fantastic issue, and a great capper to this series. It’s been such a regular source of joy for me over the past year, and I can’t wait to see where these characters (and creators) pop up next.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

9 comments on “FF 16

  1. So hey, does anybody know how the main Fantastic Four book got Reed and company back home to Earth? And what happened to Old John Storm? It felt like there were a lot of missing pieces to this issue. Fortunately, it was charming enough — especially that epilogue — to more than make up for it.

    • I haven’t read an issue of that series since we dropped it way back when. I kind of forgot about Old John Storm, but yeah, his existence seems like a weird time paradox right? I wonder what happened to him. Patrick? Ethan? You guys are the best bets around here for having read the concluding issues of Fantastic Four.

      • I did not make good on my guilt-induced threat to catch up on Fantastic Four. I’m 100% cool with there being an Old Man John Storm running around – that’s basically the same as the Original X-Men in the present. I am convinced that they’re here to stay. Paradox, Shmaradox.

        That said…. fuck, do I want to read those Fantastic Four issues?

        • I don’t know anyone that did read them. I’d skip it and let it be a mystery. That probably would be better than anything that happened.

          On the plus side, isn’t James Robinson taking over Fantastic Four? That should be exciting for you guys!

          (Honestly, Fantastic Four is one of the comics that I feel I should read and enjoy. I put it in the same category as Detective, Action, Justice League, and the Avengers. Classic stories about classic heroes. I’ve dropped every single one of those titles in the past 18 months and now read Rat Queens, Manhattan Projects, Jonah Hex traveling in time instead. . . I still want to try the new Fantastic Four because I like Reed Richards SO damn much, but completely hated Fraction’s version of the Fantastic Folks. I’m dropping some other stuff (Thor, X-Factor, East of West), so maybe I’ll try it.)

        • I admit, the adverts for Robinson’s Fantastic Four have got me pumped; I’ll probably check it out. The Fantastic Four was the first comic book I ever read regularly and they were my favorite Marvel heroes for years and years, so I’ve got a big soft spot for them anyway. That said, as much as I love pretty much every other book of his I’ve ever read, Fraction’s Fantastic Four did nothing for me.

          It’s one of those books where I really do want to know what happened in it, I just want to find out without having to actually read it.

          (If you’re looking for good Fantastic Four stories, Kaif, check out Mark Waid and Mike Weiringo’s run on the title. It’s one of the very best runs the book’s ever had, and Waid especially writers a great Reed, so I think you’d like it a lot, if you haven’t already read it)

        • (And while it’s interesting as shit, Morrison and Jae Lee’s Fantastic Four 1234 doesn’t feature much Reed Richards. It helped me get a handle on Sue — I had been struggling with how much of a put-upon wife she is until I read it — but if you’re looking for Reed, that ain’t the place for it.)

        • I found a bunch of Waid’s FF in the quarter bin at half priced books a while back and read them and I agree, they were really good and a good take on the team.

    • They did make it back just in time. So it all lined up nice and neat. I still can’t for the life of me understand why they had Fraction on these titles. I think his wife would have been perfect for FF. Also I agree that Robinson should hopefully be the best fit for Fant Four since Waid.

      This was a great issue. I loved the fight between Lang and Doom. Also I normally don’t like tights and flights to be violent for the heck of it. In this case it made utter sense to me. Doom killed his daughter and while he realizes that mentally killing doom does not fix this emotionally the pull to just physically get revenge for it to hurt doom is too strong for him to resist. The fact that he does not kill him makes him a true hero. The wrap up was done physically and emotionally in a way that gave some closure. That is is how wrap ups should be.

      I can’t wait for Silver Surfer and I am hoping that the Fant Four to follow has all the adventure that Fraction tried for but with humor, excitement and heart all wrapped into it.

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