Off The Shelf — Brian Reviews Fantastic Four The Reckoning War Alpha #1

It’s the end of the world as we know it. Brian reviews Fantastic Four The Reckoning War Alpha #1
Written by Dan Slott

Art by Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, and Carlos Magno 

Colors by Guru-eFX

Welcome friends to another Off The Shelf,Church of the Geek’s review of recent comic book titles. I am Brian Bennett, campus pastor of the Lutheran Campus Ministry in Greater Pittsburgh and our student group PSALM serving Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, Chatham and Carlow universities AND I’m also your regular co-host of Church of the Geek.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega.” “I am the first and the last.” These words recorded by John the Seer in the book of Revelation not only denote the nature of Jesus Christ, the Son, the 2nd person of the Trinity, but remind us of the nature of much of legend and myth. The beginning and the end are deeply connected. Apocalypses rely on a well of source material to provide images and themes as the end of all things is considered.

This notion of the end being a recapitulation of the beginning struck me hard when I read through the recent Fantastic Four: The Reckoning War Alpha #1. This issue is written by long time Fantastic Four writer Dan Slott, with a team of artists: Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, and Carlos Magno and colors by Guru-eFX. In this issue a veritable apocalypse is unleashed upon the world as numerous threads are brought together in a volume that sets the stage for a much bigger story line that will likely have ramifications across the Marvel universe.

There are eight different settings or storylines that get laid out here, including a great flashback that helps tie things together and which sent my brain to apocalypse. Uatu the Watcher and Nick Fury’s The Unseen begin the story. We have a Bardoon invasion force. A cataclysmic devastation in which the Fantastic Four, X-Men and Avengers are all present for. We see the Time Variance Authority. Silver Surfer’s appearance makes it clear that the very fabric of the worlds sustained in this universe is at stake. Doctor Doom and Latveria get a page. And again a great flashback that sets the stage for The Reckoning.

The story revolves around the Luminous, which is how they were known before they took on the name of Watchers, helping out civilizations become more advanced, until one of those societies decides upon conquest as the best use of the tech that has been gifted to them. These are The Reckoning. The Reckoning are waging war upon the universe. Not just a universe. All of the universes. There is not a plane of existence that remains unaffected.

The storytelling is frenetic and the use of multiple artists helps set each setting or storyline off enough to get a different feel in each. But the coloring does help create a consistent feel across them all. The fast-paced chaotic nature of this issue fits with the sudden nature of the situation that the Earth finds itself in. I will admit, I had to read through twice to get a grasp of what was happening. The first read was a page turner where I just kept asking “What’s next? What’s next?” since the story lines kept switching every few pages. The second read was more deliberately paced to set the story lines apart and soak in the details that are just everywhere.

It was in this second read that I made the connection to the beginning and the end. In many ways it mirrors the narrative of the Fall in Christian theology. In Genesis 3, we read of Adam and Eve in a paradaisical garden who walk with God in the cool of the evenings. We read of the human willingness to forego that paradise and choose less than what God desires bringing about a rupture in all fundamental relationships. It is not a coincidence that the book of Revelation, in a cosmic battle unleashed upon all creation, ends in a new peaceful paradise of a garden, with a tree that no longer bears forbidden fruit but leaves that are meant for the healing of the nations. The beginning and the end are forever entwined.

In much the same way in this event, the Reckoning begin their existence in a veritable paradise and they choose less than what The Watchers desire. The rebellion of the Reckoning forces an exile of sorts to save the remnant of reality that remained. The return of The Reckoning is the one thing that The Watchers allow for an exemption so they may intervene… even if we all know they break that vow on occasion. But this end scenario is directly related to the first. Slott has deftly picked up threads across earlier storylines from multiple volumes to craft a grand scale apocalypse that John the See would be proud of.

And frankly, it raises some of the very same questions we raise when we begin to think of all of the violence and messiness that accompanies the creation of our world and the fall of humanity and the degree of accountability that God holds for all the things gone wrong. The solution that the Luminous ultimately use in the beginning might have been the only thing they could have done, but now they must deal with what looks like an atrocity. Is there a way to bring about reconciliation in the great chasm that exists between The Reckoning and the rest of the universe’s peoples, let alone the Watchers? I have no reason to believe that Slott will simply reskin the salvation history within Scripture, but there will clearly be a positive outcome. The whole Marvel universe is not going to go poof. But we will see a cosmic battle that will bear a great price. We are told as much in these pages. What is that cost to bring about peace and how will it be reckoned?

Geek be with you.

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