“The universal constant is constant no longer. What happens next is…unknown.”
“The universal constant is constant no longer. What happens next is…unknown.”

Fantastic Four has been a series in need of resuscitation since the departure of original writer Matt Fraction back on issue #12 and while this final issue is better than the series has been lately, one can only hope the next adventure that the Fantastic Four take is not nearly as rocky as this one has been. Fraction leaving the book left a serious void in the overarching narrative he was attempting to convey from the get-go, and although Karl Kesel hopped on board to finish out Fraction’s planned script, something got muddied along the way. Fantastic Four #16 tries to rectify all the confusion the series has been picking up in its last few issues, including the existence of a Doomed Universe and our universe and two sets of Fantastic Four teams, but so much is left unexplained and rushed through that the issue feels more like a race to the finish line.

There is a severe lack of excitement throughout the issue as the two teams of Fantastic Four members—one from an alternate timeline and one from our own—attempt to take down the Doctor Doom from the alternate timeline who has transformed himself into Doom the Annihilating Conqueror. Reed Richards’ plan, which involves using the same device that caused the Fantastic Four’s powers to malfunction in the first place, is met with apprehension from his doppelganger but then immediate certainty, and it’s just a ridiculous conversation meant solely to move the plot along. There’s never a sense that the plan won’t work and lo and behold, the Fantastic Four stand tall, even at the cost of their lives. Yes, the team dies and sure that might be a spoiler but it’s a dumb spoiler. Their death is used entirely for shock value and the forced tension is undercut in the very next panel. Devoid of an explanation, the team is miraculously alive by the end of it all. We’ve got a new series launch to get to, you know.

Raffaele Ienco provides the art for the main crux of Fantastic Four #16, and it’s mostly a success even when the script isn’t. His rendering of Doom the Annihilating Conqueror as a purple-and-green armored giant that towers over his opposition is a great spin on the familiar villain and the battle between him and the two teams of Fantastic Four is well-paced and kinetic. There are some close-up shots of some of the other characters that looked a little too rushed—with unfinished lines and rough facial features—but his big action moments deliver beautifully throughout. Joe Quinones, Michael Allred, and Laura Allred provide the pencils, ink, and colors respectively for the backup story involving the FF reuniting with the Fantastic Four; it’s a demonstration as to how much more lively the FF series is and why I’ll miss it so much more when it comes to an end this month as well.

If you’ve been reading Fantastic Four up to this point and hoping for a stellar ending, Fantastic Four #16 provides one that’s a considerable upswing in quality over the last few issues. Any other readers can just wait until the series starts over anew next month and hop on board with an all-new creative team. 

GNN Comics Grade: FAIR (5.5/10)

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