Some time back, the Future Foundation kids produced a serum that allows the Thing to revert to Ben Grimm for one week every year. Suspecting a certain side effect, Reed quietly has his father, Nathaniel, use his time-jumping tech to take the two of them to the New York of 3012, 4012, 5012 and 6012. And there they find not only Reed’s godlike son Franklin surviving, but Ben too – getting older, certainly, but always ready for ‘clobberin’ time as a member of future Fantastic Fours.
Sadly, as he gets older, Ben gets lonelier, especially once Franklin leaves ‘to run with the gods’. Yes, he keeps his game face on, but there’s no missing that his twinkle’s fading as his rocky beard grows.
Back in 2012, Reed doesn’t tell Ben what he’s seen. Instead, he joins him in watching sport on TV, and passes Ben a beer.
Yes, he passes Ben a beer. Obviously, Reed is giving Ben something to counteract the reversion therapy, to spare him a lonely ooooooooooooooooold age.
Or not. There’s no sign Reed does any such thing, the only real hint being Reed’s downward expression, towards the bottle. It’s not as if Reed has any right to take away Ben’s annual Ordinary Guy Week, or the promise of a future that likely contains a lot of joy before the sadness.
So maybe he did the deed. And maybe he didn’t. Perhaps Reed is planning to instigate a conversation. I rather like the uncertainty, preferring not to know whether or not Ben lives pretty much forever alongside Franklin and his naff little ponytail.
So nice one writer Jonathan Hickman for a done-in-one story that made me think. It’s not perfect – the future scenes themselves are pretty dull, full of jet sleds but scant wonder, and there’s this headscratcher of a comment from Nathaniel …
A hereditary epidemic?
Overall, though, this is a decent read. I’d be amazed were Hickman not to follow up on the implications of Reed’s new knowledge – he even has Nathaniel point out that such ‘can complicate relationships in unforseen ways’ – but if he doesn’t, I’m fine with the book as is.
The art by guest artist Ron Garney captures the story’s melancholy mood, and it’s well coloured by Jason Keith. I especially like the way they suggest the emotions of Reed and Nathaniel. I do wish, though, they’d been given something truly out there to draw … thousands of years in the future and New York simply looks like a shinier version of New York (there’s even a Baxter Building, though I can’t see how Reed recognises it, as it doesn’t reflect any version I can recall). And I’m not keen on their Thing, who looks like a Bendy Toy, devoid of definition.
See that cover? That’s Bendy Ben right there, snarling in a way he never does in the story. Such drama. I smiled at the nod to the FF’s debut on the gravestones, even though it makes no sense in Marvel Time.
There you go – a whole Fantastic Four review, and not one mention of the ugly new costumes … oops.