Well, it took quite some time setting up the chessboard and getting his pieces into position, but writer Jonathan Hickman is finally making some serious moves on Fantastic Four.
In Part One of "Three" (not part one of three), Hickman starts to weave the seemingly unconnected plot threads -- a Council of various Reed Richardses from multiple universes, a brain-damaged Doctor Doom, the time meddling from future versions of Franklin and Valeria Richards -- together into an intricate tapestry of storytelling that could end up becoming a disaster or absolutely mindblowing. Thankfully, he's now joined by none other than Steve Epting as the new series artist and as someone who has followed Epting since his run way back on The Avengers, I couldn't be more thrilled to see him back on a major title.
Once again, young Valeria steals the spotlight away from the FF as we see her fire up her father's interdimensional Bridge machine and learning about the Council of Reeds and their plan to Solve Everything. Some of the dialogue is deliberately omitted, presumably for a later plot payoff down the road, but at least there seems to be a plan. Hopefully. Apparently, though, Val has more on her "To Do" list because she soon teleports herself to Latervia for a chat with her Uncle Doom. (Not too shabby of a day for a three-year old.) There, she quickly observes that Doctor Doom has suffered brain damage as a result of his imprisonment by the Intelligencia and makes a deal with him with potential repercussions. But hey, it's only Doctor Doom, so why worry about repercussions, right?
It's this plotline that intrigues me the most, because Hickman is actually developing Doctor Doom as a character by having this self-important egomaniac cope with his reality that he's not as intelligent as he used to be. So many writers tend to write Doom as a one-note, prototype Darth Vader villain that they overlook his potential and I'm glad that Hickman isn't one of them. He's also managed to make Mr. Fantastic more fantastic than he's been in years and if he can keep from using Valeria as his go-to character, I'd love to see him make that kind of an effort with Sue, Ben and Johnny. Epting, meanwhile, gives this series the punch it needed under previous pencillers Dale Eaglesham and Neil Edwards, with sharp, striking visuals that refine the overall storytelling instead of convoluting it even further.
We have another four issues to go of "Three," so here's hoping the rest are as engaging and effective as this issue...