Fantastic Four #416 (DeFalco/Pacheco/Comicraft with numerous inkers & colorists) – The final issue of the original series, as it is relaunched by Jim Lee a few months later. DeFalco continues to wrap up the dangling plot threads from his run, while using the Onslaught storyline to provide villains for the team to fight. One of the subplots, a “real world issues” storyline involving Cassie Lang discovering that her friend is being abused, is resolved in just a few lines of dialogue. DeFalco knows his time is up, so he dedicates the majority of the double-sized issue to a giant fight scene with various FF villains. The setup is that Franklin Richards is sending a mental call for help to the team, and Onslaught is twisting his message and using it to create psionic projections of various villains. Some of the FF’s allies, including Namor and the Inhumans, show up to help. Dr. Doom even arrives, and agrees to join the fight against Onslaught. It’s a reasonable way to end a long-running series that has to dedicate its final issues to an outside crossover. There’s no way this could actually please dedicated FF fans, who didn’t want the continuity rebooted by Jim Lee and certainly didn’t want the last issue of this series to be a part of an X-crossover, but DeFalco does what he can. And it is nice to see Carlos Pacheco’s interpretation of the Fantastic Four’s entire rogues gallery.
Iron Man #332 (Kavanagh/Bennett/Dzon & McKenna/Felix/Kalisz) – And here’s the final issue of Iron Man’s first volume. While Fantastic Four’s final issue at least made some effort to acknowledge the title’s history, Iron Man is content to fight Sentinels with the Avengers for the entire issue. The nominal plot has Iron Man making his way to the Wakandan Consulate so that he can gain access to the Black Panther’s vibranium supply, which he’ll use to finish the anti-Onslaught psi-armor. This is the teenage version of Tony Stark, who replaced his older, adult self a few issues earlier. This was a last ditch effort on Marvel’s part to revive interest in the title, which backfired to the point of becoming an industry joke for years (Kurt Busiek didn’t even seem that interested in explaining how exactly Stark returned to normal when he eventually took over the title).
It’s amusing that Kavanagh is still trying to sell the storyline, even though he had to have known this was the last issue of the series. Teen Tony behaves like a stereotypical teenage comic character, hiding his insecurities behind a cocky attitude while saving the day. If only there was room to introduce a few love interests, so he could agonize over which one to take to the prom. Or maybe one of his friends could develop a drug problem, and he could help him work through it. And I’m sure someone at school needs advice on how to deal with an abusive father. The letters column, which is surprisingly non-sentimental for the final issue of a long-running series, does print one negative reaction to the new direction. The editor’s response is essentially, “maybe you’ll like what Jim Lee does instead”, which reads to me like, “Fine. You kids buy whatever crap you like. I’m probably getting laid off next week anyway.”