Writer: Christos Gage
Penciler: Diego Olortegui
Inkers: Juan Vlasco, Cam Smith, Scott Hanna
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Covers: Josemaria Casanovas; Phil Noto
Release Date: December 4th, 2019
Marvel’s First Family are up to bat in ANNIHILATION – SCOURGE: FANTASTIC FOUR #1 by Christos Gage! What twisted terrors will the team face in the Negative Zone? Will Johnny get over his guilt of leaving? Will Reed ever spill the beans of why he feels responsible for the Scourge? And who’s gonna watch the kids??? Get ready for answers- it’s clobberin’ time!
Our story begins with Johnny reminiscing on all the horrible time he spent in the Negative Zone. Well, more like trying to forget it. This is as good a place as any to bring up Diego Olortegui’s wonderful art. The panel of Johnny being rebuilt by flesh-knitting worms is grotesque and beautiful at the same time. To steal a reviewer’s phrase, Olortegui may get a little “pencil heavy” with shading at times, but overall his art is a high mark of the book. Fans of Greg Capullo will really dig it.
Moving on, we get some fun play between Johnny and Ben, the former messing with the latter via a shaving cream beard while the Thing sleeps. Christos Gage excels in the little character moments and interactions between the team like this, making the Fantastic Four truly feel like a family. That being said, some of the Thing’s dialogue (“I’m gonna moiderize ya!”) gets a tad grating. It fits the character, but a little goes a long way.
The Human Torch/Thing dustup is interrupted by a distress signal from the Negative Zone, so Mr Fantastic opens a portal, through which spills a multitude of refugees. The team tend to the escapees, before we get some exposition via Reed’s “Memorium Device,” which lets wearers broadcast their memories visually. As cheesy as it is, it’s also a clever way to show what happened to these people instead of just having one of them talking, so bravo Mr Gage.
Through “Reed’s Cosmic Tiarra,” as Sue calls the device later, the team learns the plight of the Negative Zone, namely that the Cancerverse is encroaching and killing (undead-ing?) all in its path. Reed hints that he may be responsible but doesn’t say why, which is drug out for way too long. Simply put, Sentry got sick of his dark half and wanted it cut away, so Reed suggested he try the Cancerverse, which apparently infected him. Now he’s spreading the disease in the Negative Zone. Johnny’s on a guilt trip too because he feels he abandoned the people of the Negative Zone, even though they elected Annihilus as their leader over the Human Torch.
Whew, this review is getting long. Speed round time.
The FF head to the NZ and take out an infected Crystal. Then their infected doppelgängers, the “Ftaghn Four” show up. Is it supposed to be the “Fhtagn Four”, alluding to old gods and Cthulu and the like? Probably, but whatever. Olortegui crushes the art here, giving us an almost Red Skull Human Torch, Vampirella Invisible Woman, and Doomsday Thing— all tied together by Charles Manson Mr Fantastic. The two teams fight, and our FF gets an unearned win due to page count-itis. Apparently Johnny is now the leader again after an 80s sitcom “what we learned” speech from the rest of the team. The End.
ANNIHILATION – SCOURGE: FANTASTIC FOUR #1 is a pretty good event crossover book, and a decent FF story to boot. Christos Gage understands the familial dynamics of the team and tells a fun story, even if it ends a little conveniently. The big draw of the book however has to be Diego Olortegui’s amazing art, especially his creature and Cancerverse contaminated work. It’s not a perfect book by any stretch, but you could do a lot worse, and fans of Marvel’s First Family should check it out.