So, the amazing epic three years in the making had its climax in Fantastic Four #604, and FF #16 gives us the epilogue. As both of these Jonathan Hickman titles have run alongside each other, the former has had the marquee superhero action while the latter has focused on the harder sci-fi of behind-the-scenes machinations and the kids of the Future Foundation. This one is no different, as we see the aftermath from the aloof young Valeria's perspective, but we get a sudden swerve at the ending that actually made me exclaim 'holy shit' in a high pitched giddy girl voice.
Be warned! Here There Be Spoylers!
But first things first. After skulking around with her grandfather Nathaniel and manipulating events to provide enough time for the adult version of Franklin Richards to come to town and kick all sorts of Celestial ass, Valeria is now grousing a bit because she didn't actually get to do anything in the big fight, and thus has to listen to her older brother jump around excitedly and yell about how awesome his future self is. For her part, she doesn't like the look of her future self, and her future self gives her the stink-eye, too. Then, young Valeria moans to herself about the extremely limited upside to being a superhero as she has to help everybody clean up the mess of New York and watch her father magically rebuild the Baxter Building with the push of a button She plans to kiss the jerky Bentley boy when she gets old enough, and she has to deal with a big family 'talking-to' on account of her having to lie a lot during all the temporal machinations she had to try and pull off. A whole heck of a lot of ominous foreshadowing of some sort of villain turn for her - which her family is worried about, considering her unique bond with her father's oldest nemesis.
It's funny. It shows us Val as a kid as well as a super-egghead, and that kid side has been missing lately, so it's nice to see it back in force here. However, as I was just saying in the #604 review, I really like the notion that the Richards kids are good guys in the future and neither one of them seems to have gone the trite supervillain route, so I hope that's not what Hickman's hinting at here. However, is she going to have a rebellious supervillainesque flirtation with the dark side? That could be cool to see - this girl is going to be one hell of a handful as a teenager, considering how at her current tender age, she can lie to her parents' faces about not having any more secrets, and then we immediately see a rather pertinent secret that's a real corker.
Because it involves Dr. Doom.
There was a moment, a few issues back, where the notoriously self-centered Victor Von Doom appeared to sacrifice himself to the Mad Celestials to buy Valeria and the others time enough to forestall the end of the world. But now, we see Doom awaken, with Valeria's whispered words in his ear fresh on his mind.
Then we find out he's awakened in the destroyed Council of Reeds headquarters, with charred alternate Reed Richards carcasses scattered around him.
Then we see Doom don a complete Infinity Gauntlet.
And then a second complete Infinity Gauntlet.
Then a horde of alternate Dooms that the alternate Reeds had subjugated and enslaved come pouring out of the woodwork chanting his name.
And he sits down with the worshipful refrain of his name echoing all around him, and he says "Here, I can build." Echoing Reed's earlier remarks that there's no better feeling in the world than building something.
THE PARLIAMENT OF DOOM.
All this time, we've seen Dr. Doom wearing Future Foundation white and being collared by the more ruthless alternate Reeds, and it's gone against the grain to see the greatest supervillain in history cowed like that. Now, it seems that Hickman put him through that to make this moment that much more stirring. He'll be leaving the books towards the end of the year, and what better way to end your time with the Fantastic Four than with a larger-than-life Doom story. Perhaps Doom is the type of bad guy Valeria may come to be - that perfect villain whose goals are benevolent but whose means are nefarious. That could be highly compelling.
Oh, and by the by, we also see Adult Franklin - dubbed "Mister Franklin" by his younger self - have a bonding chat with Galactus, who seems to be utterly relieved that he will apparently not be alone at the end of the universe, but Franklin will be right with him - meaning the guy's eternal, meaning - if you want to read this much into it - that there's a reason he never seems to age. Also, Johnny Storm is going to move into Peter Parker's apartment. THAT'S going to be a mess - but you know Dan Slott's going to have plenty of fun with that over in Amazing Spider-Man.
But really. DOOM is the story here. The art from Nick Dragotta and Steve Epting is solid, emotive and fun for the most part. But DOOM is what makes FF #16 a stunner.