by Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Back when the Future Foundation rode off into the sunset at the end of Secret Wars, ready to recreate and explore the multiverse, many fans (myself included) saw it as the perfect farewell to the characters. This leaves Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli with the unenviable task of bringing this “ending” to an end, of justifying more adventures for characters who had already received their happily ever after. Interestingly, Slott and Pichelli do so by demonizing the very idea of “endings,” by making “the end” the very villain that brings the Fantastic Four back together.
Slott and Pichelli devote the first third or so of Fantastic Four 2 to exploring the Foundation’s life post-Secret Wars, and it’s everything readers could have imagined it to be. Their adventures drive home that this was, indeed, the perfect retirement for the Richards family.
The problem, of course, is that “happily ever after” really only exists in stories, as another way of saying “the end.” In real life, the stories and struggles of our lives continue on until our death, and the fact that the Richards family weren’t appearing in stories for close to three years was indeed a form of death for them.
Or, at least, that’s what Slott and Pichelli propose by introducing “The Griever at the End of All Things.”
The Griever is quite literally endings incarnate, and all she brings is death and destruction. Specifically, she destroys the universes Franklin has been creating, the stories he’s been spinning, because the only way for a story to truly die is for it to end, to no longer exist.
Even the visuals of Griever chasing the Future Foundation drive this point home.
As Griver pursues the Foundation, they move across the page from left-to-right. Since this is the direction we read in, that American comics progress in, she’s essentially chasing them further and further towards the end of the issue, where she’ll win.
Fortunately, the Future Foundation exists in one of the only mediums where stories needn’t end. Sure, series are rebooted, creative teams come and go, storylines stop and start, but in comics, icons like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and yes, the Fantastic Four, can live forever, their stories continuing on in perpetuity. The threat of the Griever is one they’ll never truly be in danger of as long as fans continue to read their stories, as long as creators continue to tell their stories, as long as Marvel continues to publish them. Entropy, destruction, and death can only be combatted by “more” — more life, more adventures, more stories. In that sense, by reuniting the Fantastic Four, Slott and Pichelli are rescuing them from an untimely demise by giving them the gift of more life.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
Damn, after the first issue of this was so good, this was disappointing. The first half was great, but the Griever is a really bad villain. The concept is great but in truth, she ends up being a generic doomsday villain and ideas around entropy or the bigger ideas of death aren’t there (the idea that she’s the griever, so she doesn’t just kill but also mourns, is a fantastic idea that is wasted). Instead, her major character trait is arrogance. Which feels off and doesn’t speak to the greater themes of anything. It is just an excuse to let her be tricked into the ending. An ending which, while a good idea, feels like something you save for your final Fantastic Four story, not your first. It feels like too much escalation. And honestly, this felt like it could easily have been two issues. The Griever’s attack is so rushed that instead of properly setting up stakes the stakes feel undefined.
A shame, as I really loved the first half. Slott is really successful with the family aspects of Fantastic Four in a way that I haven’t seen him be successful with… anything. Ageing up Valeria could have had the risk of making her more generic by losing all intelligent kid idea, but by making her old enough to create parent/child conflict that is more realistic than “I have a controversial plan to take out the Council of Reeds by working with Doom” is a great idea. I do love it when Valeria does things like that, but I think being to balance that with more realistic family drama will improve her as a character and speak better to Fantastic Four’s themes of family dynamics.
Hopefully, with this arc wrapping up next issue, probably, Slott can focus on the family dynamics he does so well and we can avoid issues like this. Otherwise, it will be another Slott book I bounce off