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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, May 25, 2024

A Fantastic Voyage: 'Three'

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We have now arrived at the reason I began this column: “Three.”

"Three” (2011) is, for my money, the best-executed arc in Jonathan Hickman’s "Fantastic Four" epic, as it makes each of its three plot threads into tremendous personal dramas with huge stakes. 

Story 1 sees Ben Grimm taking the serum concocted by the students of theFuture Foundationand spending his week as a human living large and partying hard. The week sees Johnny and Ben as the best of friends. Ben’s return to his humanity, though temporary, serves as an opportunity to see Ben free from worry, with his walls down. It’s great to see the character get a much-needed break. The story ekes out some rather poignant moments for Johnny too, particularly when Ben asks the perpetual womanizer, “Do you want kids, Johnny?,” to which Johnny replies, “More than anything.” Their peace is short-lived, though, as scheming hordes from The Negative Zone seek to use the Baxter Building’s Negative Zone portal to unleash the hordes of Annihilus.

Over in Story 2, Susan Storm is dispatched to the undersea kingdom of Atlantis to act as a negotiatorbetween an ancient race of Atlanteans and the fearsome Prince Namor, a mutant Atlantean with eyes for Susan and contempt for her husband. When Namor attempts a coup, though, Sue uses her forcefield abilities to seal everyone inside and forces Namor to negotiate. This story highlights the powerful dichotomy of Sue, a fierce warrior with the mind of a diplomat.

Finally, Reed is pulled back to Nu-World by Galactus, the world eater, and with the help of the previously established founder of Nu-World, Ted Castle, Reed has to save as many people as possible before the world is consumed by Galactus. Admittedly, this is the weakest of the storylines, but it does wrap up the Nu-World plotline in a satisfying way and contributes to the desperation of the three-part finale that will keep any reader on the edge of their seat.

As Sue debates Namor and Reed rescues the hive mind behind Nu-World, Ben and Johnny team up with the children of the Future Foundation to defend the Baxter building until they’re faced with an impossible choice: one of them must stay behind to make certain the portal closes. Naturally, Ben volunteers, but Johnny refuses and knocks the still-human Ben through the portal. In a gut-wrenching scene, Ben watches as Johnny makes a last stand against the annihilation horde, but he can do little more than watch as the beasts rip Johnny apart.

“Three” is the apex of Hickman’s storytelling process. It’s a powerful story that runs the full gambit of emotions, nails characterization and thrills the reader from beginning to end. Hickman could have ended the run after this arc and anyone would have understood, but there are still many plots left unresolved and secrets to be revealed, as is apparent by the switch from the title of "Fantastic Four" to “Future Foundation,” but that is a story for next week.