Best Shots Extra: FANTASTIC FOUR #600, SIXTH GUN #17

Best Shots Extra

Marvel Touts Return [SPOILERS]
Marvel Touts Return [SPOILERS]
 

Fantastic Four #600

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Steve Epting, Rick Magyar, Paul Mounts, Carmine di Giandomenico, Andy Troy, Ming Doyle, Jordie Bellaire, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Javier Tartaglia, Farel Dalrymple, and Jose Villarubia

Letters by Clayton Cowles and Farel Dalrymple

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 10/10

A lot of people will probably look at the $7.99 price tag on the cover of this issue and scoff, but I am here to tell you, it's worth every penny. Almost five issues worth of original story and art (no reprints!), at less than the price of two regular issues is a decent bargain, especially considering the level of quality involved. For those who have been following Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four, this issue will be one payoff after another, as all the plotlines of the last couple years coalesce into a giant maelstrom of inter-dimensional, and inter-galactic mayhem. I've been a fan of Hickman's run, and while it's had its ups and downs, this is the kind of story that will cement Hickman's place in the great pantheon of FF writers.

This issue sees the arrival of the Kree armada on Earth, after last issue's revival of Supremor at the hands of Ronan the Accuser (I love writing sentences like that!), along with the invasion of Annihilation Wave that's been building in the Negative Zone since the death of Johnny Storm. It's all the FF can do, even with the help of Earth's mightiest heroes, to keep these threats at bay. Action jumps quickly from place to place, focusing on each member of the team, even the children, as they deal with threats that find a way to have personal stakes even in this large a conflict. Steve Epting and Rick Magyar leave the pages swimming with depth and emotion, enhanced by colorist Paul Mounts' stellar sense of mood and dynamic. Epting's Thing stands out, in particular, as the work of Magyar and Mounts provides ol' Blue-Eyed Ben Grimm with the texture, weight, and emotion that so many artists fail to capture.

Epting's not the only artist on the book, though. The second chapter, also the next largest in terms of content, is skillfully rendered by Carmine di Giandomenico, whose take on the savage and alien Negative Zone is less Lovecraftian than it is reminiscent of Robert E. Howard's Conan. Andy Troy's warm colors enhance the mood, and make Johnny Storm's last stand against the forces of Annihilus even more powerful than it was before. And here's where spoilers really begin. Turns out, there's a reason Annihilus couldn't hand over Johnny's body to Reed, even when threatened by the Ultimate Nullifier. It's because Johnny, while he had in fact been killed, was brought back by the awful methods of the Annihilation Wave, themselves trapped in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. With the help of some of his fellow captives, Johnny manages to seize Annihilus's Cosmic Control Rod, taking control of the Annihilation Wave, and preventing the invasion. Many will consider Johnny's almost inevitable return another in a long line of deaths that are seemingly undone on a whim, but honestly, there's so much more weight and intent here than even with the death of characters like Thor, and unlike the death of Bucky, which felt like a bait and switch, there's been enough of a question as to the reality of his demise that this seems less like undoing a character's death, and more like the culmination of a plot line. Where it will lead, who knows? But reading Hickman's stellar take on the Human Torch just makes me excited to see what's next for the character.

The last few chapters are shorter, little more than brief interludes, but contain some of the best moments of the book. Ming Doyle's touching, and haunting rendition of the Inhumans is all too short, and it's always excellent to see Leinil Yu taking on a character like Galactus, but perhaps the most stand out of the last three chapters is Hickman and Farel Dalrymple's story of Franklin Richards and Leech, as they tear through a fictional universe of Franklin's creation. This is perhaps the most intriguing of the plotlines foreshadowed, but it's Dalrymple's terrific art that sells the story. He captures the childlike wonder, and somewhat sarcastic tone of Hickman's hilarious script without getting bogged down in juvenile or immature tropes. It's less like a comic, and more like a storybook, but that's exactly what the story needed.

In all, this book is absolutely worth the (admittedly steep) cover price, particularly for fans of Hickman's work so far. While this may not be the best jumping on point for new readers, there's enough explanation to get up to speed, and the variety of excellent artists are enough of a selling point to get almost anyone engaged in what's going on. Once again, Jonathan Hickman has confirmed that the FF franchise is not only in good hands, but is poised to be a major title for Marvel moving forward.

 

The Sixth Gun #17

Written by Cullen Bunn

Art by Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree

Lettering by Douglas E. Sherwood

Published by Oni Press

Review by Scott Cederlund

‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Wrapping up the "Bound" storyline, The Sixth Gun #17 gives Becky Montrief and Gord Mantrell visions of people in their lives that they've lost and decisions to make. Becky can go to find Drake Sinclair, who has been missing since the first half of this storyline, but she has to do it alone, with little protection. She has the power of her mystical gun but is she tough enough to face people willing to kill her for it? Gord has the chance to regain his dead wife and children, but at what coat to his own soul? Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt have taken the supernatural adventure that The Sixth Gun has been and slowed it down, forcing characters to make choices rather than getting yanked along in Drake Sinclair's adventures.

This issue is about characters facing their desires and figuring out how and if to act on those desires. They have both suffered loss but they've been given visions of everything they have lost. Bunn sets them down the path of these temptations, giving Gord and Becky every reason to fully embrace what is in front of them. Her father and his family are long dead but both have been given a chance to see and hold them again in this storyline. It is interesting to follow which of the two characters enthusiastically jumps for the temptation and which character thinks twice and loses everything. Bunn has slowly been building these characters up but everything Gord and Becky have done has revolved around Sinclair and the guns. Now the characters have been forced to act on their own and show a bit more of their true characters. At the least, we have been able to see them develop more as their actions are their own and not just following the lead of

Sinclair.

This arc also ends rather introspectively, as both characters have been faced with mysteries and questions. Both have lost family and yet they have both have had a chance to reach out to the dead for questions and comfort. They have both faced what they have lost even as they have to question what is important to them now. Bunn and Hurtt show us what both of these characters had in the past and what they have now. It's a vivid demonstration about the cost of the path the two are on due to the mystical guns. Freedom, family and friends are things of the past in The Sixth Gun #17.

Faced with their losses, this issue could be incredibly dark and overbearing but Hurtt and colorist Bill Crabtree create the emotional weight of this story through their expressive artwork and coloring. Hurtt's cartooning clearly shows what these characters are going through emotionally in an almost theatrical way, playing the majority of the issue's actions large and narratively simple. He keeps the story flowing and controls the pace just through his clean artwork. He knows when a tight bunch of panels are needed to rush the reader through the action and he knows when to slow the reader down and make them linger on a panel for a bit longer than they normally would.

With the conclusion of "Bound," Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt have shown us that this series is based on the decisions that the characters make and the outcomes that they will have to live through. This series is more than just a story about mystical guns and supernatural battles.

Bunn and Hurtt have made this a series that we care about because they are making characters that we care about. As we get to know the characters, we also learn more about the world that they live in, a world full of ghosts and danger. 

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