While monster stories are all well and good, something that really sets the Fantastic Four apart from the likes of the Avengers and the X-Men is their heavy focus on science-fiction romps.
The weird and wacky experiments of Reed Richards often act as a catalyst for such stories, and today’s comic Solve Everything is no different. Alternate universes, celestials and family matters. This one has it all!
Published by: Marvel
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Dale Eaglesham
Collects: Fantastic Four #570 – 572
Real Name: Reed Richards
Affiliation: The Fantastic Four
First Appearance: The Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961)
Gifted with genius from a young age, Reed Richards had gained four degrees by his 18th birthday, and would one day come to be known as the smartest man on the planet.
But it was during his fifth degree that Reed met the various characters that would shape his future. While studying at State University, Reed began a rivalry with fellow genius Victor Von Doom and made firm friends with football star Benjamin Grimm. Through his landlord in Manhattan, he also met his future wife, Susan Storm – the landlord’s niece.
Some years later, Reed would take these new acquaintances, minus Doom, and with the addition of Sue’s younger brother, on a trip into space, where the four were bombarded by cosmic rays.
Crashing back down to Earth, Reed found he now had the power to stretch his limbs great distances, and mould his body into different shapes. Together with the other three members of his crew, Reed formed the Fantastic Four, becoming their leader. However, for all his power, Reed’s greatest asset remains his mind, which he uses to travel through time, space and alternate realities, dreaming up great inventions, and taking part in secret cabals that decide the fates of worlds.
PLOT: Years ago, during the Civil War, Reed Richards thought up a list of 100 ways to make the world a better place.
However, in truth, he had a 101st item on his list: solve everything.
To this end, he built ‘The Bridge’, a door to other worlds through which he could examine the multiverse. But what happens when a visitor comes through the door with the answers he seeks? What will Reed Richards sacrifice in order to ‘Solve Everything’?
REVIEW: Generally, I quite like Jonathan Hickman, although I probably seem like I waver on that fact in my writing.
This is in part because Hickman’s works are usually like a grand puzzle. The complete piece is a beautiful picture, and putting it together can be enjoyable. But it can also, at times, be frustrating and incomprehensible.
Take his Avengers run, which we’ve covered in-depth. There were two parts to it. The main Avengers title and the companion book, New Avengers. New Avengers was where Hickman thrived, writing characters in whom he actually had an interest. The story was captivating, each issue either exciting or informative. Contrast that with the main Avengers book, where he simply seemed to be moving various things into place for his grand finale – Secret Wars, and suddenly he became less impressive. There were fun moments. There were cool moments. But until it really found its stride, a lot of it was a tad dull, overly complex for the sake of being complex and occasionally even forgettable.
Avengers – the main Avengers title, was not one of Hickman’s strongest works (until Time Runs Out). It was an admirable run, but clearly, his heart is in writing titles about important men with grand ideas. Men like Charles Xavier. Tony Stark. T’Challa. Namor McKenzie. Reed Richards.
And so, it makes perfect sense that the first story in his Fantastic Four run is so focused on Reed Richards, and the results are… well, they’re fantastic.
Here, Hickman crafts a story that is emotional, intelligent and huge in scale, while being limited to a mere three issues. He tackles alternate universes and cosmic gods. He takes Reed Richards on a jaunt through reality, as he tells, what is, despite its grand trappings, a very human story.
Through exploring the various ways Reed Richards, and his fellow Reed Richards from across the multiverse, can save everything and contrasting that with the mundanity of everyday life, Hickman raises questions about whether or not the ‘family’ aspect of Fantastic Four is as important as the science-fiction aspect. He examines why the four heroes have remained such a close-knit bunch for all these years, what makes them tick, what makes them unique and what makes them such a great collection of characters.
While there may be some things that seem alien to newer readers (specifically if you consider the fact that the actual start of Hickman’s run was in the Dark Reign: Fantastic Four limited series), overall, this is a comic that perfectly captures what the essence of the Fantastic Four can be in a way that none of the movies has been able to pin down.
It helps that Hickman’s writing is paired with some top-notch art by Dale Eaglesham, who captures the majesty of the huge cosmic proceedings Reed jaunts through and the smaller, more intimate moments with ease. Everything seems so alive and fascinatingly detailed. Hickman and Eaglesham are definitely a winning duo.
There are other, more ‘fun’ takes on the FF of course, but if you’re looking for something more modern that gives you a deep dive into the Fantastic Four, and holds the potential to open up into quite an extensive catalogue of reading, then Solve Everything is a great place to start.
All-in-all, I give Fantastic Four: Solve Everything a…
Thanks for reading! What do you think of the Fantastic Four? What kind of stories do you think they’re best suited to? Let me know in the comments below!
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