“Prime Elements 1: The Abandoned City of The High Evolutionary”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Dale Eaglesham
Color Artist: Paul Mounts
Letterer & Production: VC’s Rus Wooton
Should I ever have the chance- and who knows, maybe just putting it out there on the Internet like this will give me that chance- I’d be sorely tempted to ask Jonathan Hickman, in all sincerity and curiosity, “…what’s with the monkeys, anyway?” Admittedly, I was primarily introduced to his writing via Transhuman, which I like rather a lot, but if you’ve read it, well. Monkeys.
I won’t tell you what that has to do with issue 575 of Fantastic Four, because it’s a thing best left unspoiled. Hickman’s run on FF continues to barrel along as a rollicking example of what intelligent pulp sci-fi ought to be. Breakfast at The Baxter Building is interrupted by a trio of Moloids (one of which has been reduced to a disembodied head by an unfortunate encounter with a truck) which leads the the appearance of the Mole Man. Turns out he’s actually come seeking assistance for once; there’s trouble in Subterranea and he thinks Reed and company are the only people who can help. There’s trip in a flying submarine, strange underground lands, and Ben being amusingly wary of the entire Mole Man gestalt.
It’s here that I have to admit that, before issue 570, I was a Fantastic Four virgin. I’ve not even seen the movies. Of course, I’ve had enough exposure to know who they all are and what their powers are. I knew enough to make the “Well, there’s all the Fantastic Four movie we’ll ever need!” joke after seeing The Incredibles. As I mentioned in my bio, though, I came up with little to no Marvel exposure, and by the time I did start getting into it, the title was in enough of a state that Janice had long since sworn it off for greener pastures.
We both liked Hickman’s work at Image, however, so when we heard he was coming to this title, we were hopeful, and so far it’s paid off. I’m getting a great introduction to that part of the Marvel Universe, and she’s happy to be getting into the characters again.
Dale Eaglesham’s art matches the flow of action well, and it all fits squarely in my mind as what this kind of comic should look like; lots of fine detail that doesn’t overwhelm the sense of action or discovery that’s integral to this introductory issue of the arc. The coloring, too, pops, especially when the FF traverse the different areas of the Underworld. The entire production team is on the ball here, and it’s fun to see the end result. I’m especially fond of the cover, which is only tangentially related to the story, but still manages to have that classic SF feeling.
The issue ends not only with more questions than we started with, but with an entirely new set of dilemmas as well. A mild false ending instead of a cliffhanger, it still sets a pretty strong hook for the arc, and leaves the reader wondering what fantastic things we’ll see next month. I’d vote for a return of Mr. Head, myself, if I had a choice, but I think I’ll enjoy whatever comes next.