Fantastic Four #600 - Forever
THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD
After a year of the new title FF, Marvel is bringing back the main titles Fantastic Four, while also keeping FF alongside it (let's be honest, I'm a little surprised that they only have two First Family titles. Marvel is pretty quick to launch spin-offs from every title that sells well). Starting Fantastic Four at issue 600 (where it would be, had it continued and not under the FF title) is a perfect reason to charge readers $7.99 for the issue.
And it's worth every penny.
Not only is it 96 pages of all new story from Jonathan Hickman but it's also a culmination of many threads he's been plotting for a few years now. When FF 11 ended, we had the resurrection of the Supreme Intelligence and the Kree armies invading Earth to stop the prophesy of his and the Kree's death. Enter #600.
As the FF and the Avengers begin to try and handle the invasion, we cut back and forth from a number of other plots. With the invasion, Annihilus' Anti-Priest is worried that it could ruin their opportunity to bring Annihilus back from the Negative Zone (which was sealed off completely after Johnny's death), forcing them to start their plan of reopening the gate. Doctor Doom, Nathaniel Richards and Evil Reed all ask Doom's son (now ruler of Latveria) to help them with their plans (a thread that is very small, but just enough to set it further). Ronan and Crystal are opened to the Supreme Intelligence's mind and the visions he has. Blah blah blah. Actually pretty cool but not what matters most. As some bugs begin to attack the FF Kids in the Baxter building, Val and Bentley set of their "trasnslocator" and 'port them and the top half of the building out. Which leaves nobody to stop the gate from being open. As Reed and Pete both see this in the distance, Reed stays behind so that Pete can swing in and make sure nobody was left behind. As he sees the bugs trying to open the gate, he fights them off as best he can but it's just not enough. As he stares into the now opening gate, he is astonished at what he sees.
Johnny Storm. Flaming, holding Annihilus on a chain like the animal he is and the cosmic rod strapped to his arm.
"Pete... What the heck are you wearing?"
(That sound you hear is your mind blowing itself to a moment you knew was coming and yet had no idea it would be this cool)
In story number two, we get Johnny's tale in the Negative Zone. Turns out he met up with the Light Brigade of the Universal Inhumans (more plot threads laid out issues ago) and they are the entertainment for Annihilus. They enter arena fights, are killed and are brought back to life. So it turns out Johnny died after all. He just got better. A few times. All of them joined forces to stage a rising, knowing that the Cosmic Rod in Annihilus' spear is the one thing that could free them. As the Brigade fights the drones, Johnny takes on the big guy. Blow for blow, it turns into a race for the spear. Each one reaching out, trying to get it first. As the picture than goes black, we fade back in, finding Johnny with the Light Brigade behind him.
"Open the gate."
Then we have an Inhuman story-thread, a Galactus needs us thread and a Franklin and Leech are doing something they probably shouldn't thread. All good stories but not the ones you will remember the most. Comic fans everywhere knew Johnny would return. Not only do comic deaths never stick but you never even saw Johnny die. No body=no death. Comic math. It doesn't matter. His return was almost as cool as his demise. In the larger scale of things, I almost hope Johnny doesn't rejoin the team. Hickman has made the Four into a team and title absolutely worth reading and this is no exception. Spidey joining the team is a bit gimmicky but I've come to like his placement and kinda don't want Johnny messing that up. Let his breath a little. That cosmic rod could do a lot in stories for him and I would love to see him be his own for a while.
Either way, this issue was amazing. Every story was great and even though the price was a bit high, you get a good four issues worth of story for the price of two and that's a great deal. With all do respect to Straczynski and Waid and Millar, Hickman has put most stories in the last couple of decades to shame. Do yourself a good solid and read this.