Sunday, March 13, 2011

How 'Fixing Everything' Will Break the Universe: Parallel Realities, Probability Engines
& Family Values in Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four

Having found at the Emerald City ComiCon the last remaining issues of Jonathan Hickman's Jack Kirby-loving, time hopping, multiple-universe, science/ethics/society/family? tale that is his run on Fantastic Four I finally got to do the last of the reading. And boy-golly, what we have here is a piece of fiction that not only pays homage to the traditions withing comic/pulp writing, but knows it's contemporary literature and cinema enough to inherit their best qualities and discard the soul-less sensationalism and bombast of our times. Somehow, he's crafted a 'family' tale that crosses generations, worlds, eras, realities, time, potentiality, and the cosmos ...ha, what comes to mind for me is Terrance Malick. Yeah, really. This thing may very well end up being the "Tree of Life" for the Marvel Universe. For me, as a guy who's not given a damn about most anything published by Marvel since Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men of some years ago, this imagining by Hickman of Marvel's 'World's Greatest Comics Magazine' seriously comes as a nice surprise.

Link to Marvel Comics Jonathan Hickman "Fantastic Four" - Vol.1

Link to Marvel Comics Jonathan Hickman "Fantastic Four" - Vol.2

Link to Marvel Comics Jonathan Hickman "Fantastic Four" - Vol.3

Link to Marvel Comics Jonathan Hickman "Fantastic Four" - Vol.4

Jonathan Hickman, who went straight from political indie comics like "Nightly News" is now writing a lengthy, multilayered, cross-time tale that begins with a probability engine called The Bridge created by Reed Richards that samples from various parallel universes, outcomes different from our own, designing at getting at compiling a 'ideal' reality (read; imminent disaster). ...after which, it then goes all cosmic. The only real criticism here is that the book was far from needing the gimmick that Marvel chose to conclude the first chapter of the many-year tale with. For such an inventive, sincere adventurous penning of a long standing comic book franchise, to end the chapter with the most-cliche-of-the-cliche, was confounding. I'm holding out hope that Hickman's going to go all pseudo-meta on us with this and reveal later some reversal of the expected that's a smart wink-wink/nudge-nudge as the traditions of this storytelling cliche and resolve it in ways totally unread/seen for the form. The book is that good, and deserves as much. Don't give a damn about comics? Unfortunate, because you're missing out on the rare exceptional storytelling reinvention of the pulp form like this and some of the better explorations of 'high concepts' to be had in all of sci-fi.