Anticipation! Dread! An overriding desire to just see it finally over and done! It’s not so much that the long-awaited conclusion to Marvel’s 2015 mega-event succeeds in pressing the obvious buttons (it does) but where it truly excels is in its Fantastic propensity for the inventively subtle and delightfully unexpected. Capital “F” for a reason.
At its core, “Beyond” is a glowing love letter to the immense legacy of the Fantastic Four. Having previously written the exploits of the extended Family Richards to critical acclaim, Jonathan Hickman effortlessly pares down the running “cast of thousands” to the central conflict of Reed Richards and Doctor Doom- a throughline as historical and symbolic as it is plot-driven. It’s been some time since the two have thrown down on the magnitude of the Lee/Kirby heyday but as the Alex Ross cover suggests, it is indeed something of a “hub” from which all else flows. In this, if nothing else, this chapter justifies Secret Wars’ entry as a worthy addition to one of comicdom’s most-celebrated fictitious rivalries.
Pacing also remains as drum-tight as the previous all-hands-on-deck battle segments but given that there’s admittedly now fewer peeps to pan ‘round the horn, the action of the book’s forward half barrels along with intensity of a deeper, more personal and emotionally-connective nature. True, you are kind of left to guess the Battleworld fates of some of the “ancillary” players (Captain Marvel, Star-Lord, the Spider-Men, et al) but as many of them are already making prominent appearances in the current “All-New, All-Different” status quo, these details don’t matter quite so much and are easily forgiven and/or overlooked.
That being said, considering the general bigness getting thrown around (omnipotent godhood and whatnot), the landscape is a veritable deus ex machina minefield. Therefore, it’s not all that hard not to set one off and as they unfurl, the shrapnel inadvertently takes the shape of second-glances at “undo/do-over” paradoxes. It’s probably best to not take these too much at face value and instead better to derive something positive from the spirit that is conveyed. Or in other words, consider it a one-time no-further-explanations-needed “get outta jail free card” … because, hey look- All-New, All-Different Marvel!
Before taking a break for the foreseeable future, the interior art team turns the thirty-plus pages into something of a victory lap. Artist Esad Ribic and color artist Ive Svorcina don’t exactly have the over-the-top visual spectacle that previous issues have afforded, per se (Galactus/Thing/Groot melee, looking at you) but what they do with what’s at hand does more to sell the charged palpability than anything else. While they have brief page-to-page stylistic offshoots, ranging from giant robots, to quasi-Ditko psychedelia, to a full page checkerboard nod to Kirby/Steranko Silver Age-era “op art”, the downright fist-pumpability sustains throughout. By the end, it’s absolutely infectious and, without spoilers, will go miles to assuage pensive readers entering this critical installment.
What else is there left to say about a comic event so big that it annihilates both initial issue allotments and shipping schedules? Probably that it’s been one helluva (protracted) rollercoaster but the “going out on a high note” crescendo really makes it one worth riding all over again. Someday, hopefully- but maybe not anytime soon.
And most definitely not “The End”…