Fantastic Four #570
Jonathan Hickman writes the sort of stories that one might expect to be written by an extremely intelligent and inquisitive child. If that sounds like I'm knocking the guy, it isn't supposed to. Books like Pax Romana and Red Mass for Mars are full of the stuff of a smart kid's daydreams: war, mythology, conspiracies, technology, space aliens; sometimes to the point where a reader becomes so dazedly overstimulated that the question of what the book is about becomes sorta nebulous. Again, that might sound bad, but really, it isn't. Hickman seems to have accomplished something significant with the first issue of his much anticipated run on Fantastic Four in that he seems to have delivered an FF story that is true to the pedigree of this old war-horse of a comic--the superhero team battling the evildoers of the world and still making it home in time to tuck in the kiddies--without sacrificing any of the things that make him a unique storyteller.
"Solve Everything." Reed Richards's 101st idea to change the world immediately evokes the innocence of the mid-20th century, when scientists credulously claimed that the ends to such quaint ills as hunger, infectious disease and metered electricity were in sight. Fifty-odd years and countless pitiful lives and ignoble deaths have tempered humans' confidence in the technological panacea and yet the notion that scientific advancement is the best counter to the threats that we face is still very much alive. Hickman realizes that the line that separates altruism from narcissism is very fine indeed and Mr. Fantastic's quest to solve all the world's problems may have as much to do with his own boundless fascination with himself as it does with a legitimate desire to help his fellow man.
Of course Hickman makes no secret of this, but what's interesting about Reed's encounter with his alternate selves is that it is marked by the same ambiguous grandiosity as his long-running mini-series Red Mass for Mars. As the hero of our earth gawks at the room full of alternate Reeds, each in the guise of other Marvel heroes, he cannot seem to wipe that shit-eating grin off his face. It is as though he's thinking, "I don't know what the hell is going on here, but at least I can count on some intelligent conversation for once."
Any ambiguity about the wisdom of gathering a quorum of Reeds to fend off threats to any of the various permutations of earth is duly eradicated on the last page of the book. The image of three Infinity Gauntlet-wearing Reeds calling upon the Richards from our earth to join them and reach his full potential portends an epic battle with hubris of the sort that Hickman is so skilled at drawing and, one hopes, a glorious return of the epic space comic. It is also a key example of the deft balancing act performed by Dale Eaglesham's superb pencils, which pay respect to the great legacy of artists such as Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin, without being reduced to simple homage, while also creating a comic, indeed, a Fantastic Four comic that is entirely new.