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Fantastic Four #644 is the penultimate issue of James Robinson’s run and the penultimate issue of what Marvel says will be the Fantastic Four as a whole. It’s a claim that’s rather hard to take in anyway seriously due to having about 4 different final issues in as many years. Regardless, a finale should feel like a finale, an opinion I espoused with last month’s issue.
Fantastic Four #644 was, in parts, actually a step backwards when it comes to this – even though #643 wasn’t exactly perfect either. The previous issue at least managed to create some tone of confluences and a general gathering together. When you can feel plot threads start to intertwine and lead into a climax, that’s the sweet spot. #643 was able to roll with it decently enough.
This month’s installment, in comparison, doesn’t really move forward the plot as much as it probably should. By the final page we’ve not moved horizontally as much as slightly vertical. That isn’t to say that there isn’t any progression at all. Quite the opposite, in fact, as with the previous issue there is a bunch more emphasis put on the character work. Ben, Bentley, and Reed all get some nicely slow moments to themselves.
It is, however, not a good sign when an issue has so very little to offer in way of dissection. Given that we finally see Sleepwalker appear in all of his glory, both #643 and #644 would have been improved had they been one issue combined. Apart they stand as just really flaccid installments that edge toward, but fall short of, something with real impact. There are some humorous bits but, again, it needs to be more than just another issue.
I would hope that any of these problems would have been mitigated by a strong antagonistic force – but that is not something that rears its head. The Quiet Man is still an incredibly bland villain and his only highlights come courtesy of his interactions with Reed. The Heroes Reborn Avengers are still just mindless brutes. The only thing that comes as any sort of rather good villain moment features at the very end.
We’ll just have to see whether or not that moment actually leads to anything interesting in the finale itself. Other highlights have to be more explanations regarding the Quiet Man’s role in the whole run and the art from Kirk is again still decent enough to pass. Although there is one panel where Val is incredibly weirdly proportioned. But that’s just a symptom of them needing to age her up already. Will the last issue be able to make a landing? Let’s just hope so.