Review: Fantastic Four #1 by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk

Fantastic-Four-1-Cover

Fantastic Four #1

Written by James Robinson

Art by Leonard Kirk, Karl Kesel, and Jesus Aburtov


 

The short of it:

In the not so distant future Sue Richards writes a letter to her children, one detailing the dark times befallen the family. Of Reed’s being broken, Ben’s being imprisoned, and Johnny being lost to himself; while all Sue can do is wonder how it went wrong. This takes us to the present where the family, decked out in red and black, where they fight Fin Fang Foom. Everyone gets a display of their bits, with Reed having a giant science gun, Sue doing epic crowd control, Johnny being the distraction, and Ben clobbering. Well, trying to. He gets there eventually, after Reed finally uses his science and Johnny helps. After the fight, Reed breaks down to Nick Fury why this whole thing is odd, complete with a recap of the different version of Triple F, but nobody seems to care about his overthinking.

Back at the Baxter Building, after, Sue is mopey because their three or four year old daughter chose to go and live with Uncle Doom. Reed tries to console her, but come on, there’s no way to smart talk this into being okay to a mother. Thankfully, there are other kids around, and the Future Foundation is still a thing. Complete with Bentley making death rays, well, not really death rays, but Franklin calls it that, and Dragon Man assures it’s all under control. Left alone, they go to do married people things, and the book pans to Ben and Johnny. Ben goes to see Alicia Masters to talk about their relationship, and while the scene is brief, it’s very much to the point, and very well handed. Johnny’s, on the other hand, paints him as a selfish and fame-hungry brat, who signs a contract forbidding him to go off world for Fantastic Four stuff because he has a band now.

And then we return to the letter writing narration of Sue Richards for the end, as everyone relaxed in their own versions of peace, a sealed gateway opens in Reed’s lab, and flying monsters from another universe explode out into New York.

 

What I liked:

  • Val has gone to live with Uncle Doom? I really want to read that. Seriously, James Robinson writing Doctor Doom? Yes please!

  • Doesn’t matter who writes him, it’s damn near impossible to not love Bentley-23.

  • Ben and Alicia. I have no real nostalgia for them as a couple, I mean, I get it, but I’ve never really read a ton of the stuff from before I was born. That said, she’s a familiar face that tends to be well characterized, and I like Ben when he gets to be happy. The pairing works for me, and the absolute simplicity of their getting back together was perfect and a reminder of the little things that Robinson did spectacularly years ago in Starman.

  • I’m a Leonard Kirk fan. Have been for years. Him on a regular series is actually a selling point to me, and the only complaint I’ve ever had with him is that his run on X-Factor was pretty much every third issue. This issue looks great, and I really hope he can keep up with the Mighty Marvel Schedule of DOOM so that I can keep enjoying his art on this book.

  • FIN FANG FOOM! Purple pants and everything!

  • Robinson’s Reed is brilliant but he, as of the first issue, isn’t talking directly over the heads of the reader. It’s a little thing, but I like it…for me. Sometimes it drives me nuts when I actually can’t understand what the hell I’m reading, and I’m getting the feeling that won’t be happening here.

 

What I didn’t like:

  • Johnny. I think Hickman ruined him for me, I’ve seen him at his most mature and awesome, and while I can still deal with him doing comedy‚Ķ.this version feels like an amped up version of Mark Millar’s take. Yes, he’s the kid brother of the team, but he doesn’t always have to be written like an immature, idiotic, twerp.

  • He also should be funny if he’s going to rag on Ben. The attempt here…not funny.

  • I might like that Val is with Doom, but her not appearing in this issue was a buzzkill. She’s been my favorite member of the family ever since Millar added the smartest girl in the world wrinkle to her character, which is probably the only thing he did during his run that I liked. Her not being around is an actual gripe, and not like my random Eva whining in Uncanny X-Men. Val is awesome.

 

Final thoughts:

It feels REALLY weird to have a Fantastic Four book without Paul Mounts.

Fantastic Four: Wolfpac. The Red and Black Attack.

So how old is Franklin here?

I’m happy that FF isn’t around anymore as it’s own title. I mean, I own every issue of both volumes, and loved the first one so long as Juan Bobillo wasn’t on art, but the Fantastic Four doesn’t need to be a franchise. It’s not the X-Men, or the Avengers, or even Spider-Man. Yes, a spin off book is nice from time to time, but the Fraction era was a hard reminder that just because you can have two books, doesn’t mean you should. The characters are just fine as a supporting cast here, as one thing Robinson has always done well is handle a larger cast with ease.

My ideal Johnny Storm. Acts his age, which should be (given the characters he came up in age with) the same as Peter Parker. Peter is a capable adult when not under the mind control of Doctor Octopus, at which point he’s a sociopathic capable adult. Also, Johnny should live with the memories of his death, rebirth, death, rebirth, and the entire cycle that he went through in the Negative Zone. It was relatively recently, and it made for a great development as Johnny was given an actual reason to toughen up mentally. He can still be a smarmy jackass that plays pranks on Ben, but that doesn’t mean he’s a kid. Also, being a rockstar with a manager that dictates what he can and can’t do, and an eventual future filled with booze and groupies? I am not expecting to like this version of Johnny Storm.

Reed gets to a point where he can’t invent anything? Man, that reminds me of Heroes Return when Crucible (I can’t believe I remember that name off the top of my head, seriously, no research…I’d have to do that to tell you who wrote the book) made it so Reed couldn’t make anything new…and then Reed eventually beat him by making something he’d seen Doom use once.

For those who don’t know, I love the Fantastic Four. While the X-Men were my gateway into Marvel as a kid, the Four always seem to be a book that brings me back. Like when I got back into reading circa Heroes Reborn, Jim Lee and Brandon Choi on Fantastic Four is STILL one of my favorite runs. When I started reading again at the tail end of high school, bam, there’s Mark Waid writing it, and you know where he was at? The Unthinkable prelude. I have his tenure as the F4 writer marked down as my favorite ever. I haven’t missed an issue since. That means I worked my way through JMS and the late, great, Dwayne McDuffie and their boring runs. Then I’ve referenced it enough in this review for it to be obvious that I read Mark Millar’s go around, and the best thing it did, again, was make Val a genius, because that allowed Hickman to make her absolutely amazing during his run, which I have as my second favorite. Lee/Kirby is number three. Anyway, Fraction sucked it up something harsh. I mean, his run sorta came together at the end, but at the same time…meh. It was boring, Allred’s art on FF was the best part of both books.

But now we’ve got James Robinson, and I’d be remiss to refer to him as anything other than the guy who wrote Starman. Yes, he’s written other books, and chances are you’re picturing a DC mini series with terrible art and a horrible ending and aftermath, but damn it, he wrote STARMAN! That’s enough to forgive editorial mandated crap! He gave us a damn classic!

And I mean, there is absolutely no telling that this book will become a classic, and it’s off to a somewhat slow start, but there’s potential. Save for his take on Johnny, I like his handling of every other character that he tackled in this issue. I think the futures Sue talks about could be interesting to read about…well, the ones not Johnny’s, but it’ll all matter how Robinson plays it out. He’s a master at long form storytelling, but he’s a slow pacer, so he may actually benefit from Marvel’s double and triple shipping. There is really no such thing as too many issues of a James Robinson book, so long as you ignore Earth 2 between his first and last arcs.

I just wish it wasn’t four bucks, but then again, this is Marvel. If a book isn’t four bucks, chances are are that it’s on the bubble so they can replace it with a book that is.

Overall: 8/10

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