Family. Whether it is the one you are born into (a la Arrested Development) or the one you create (see: the Fast and Furious franchise), it is forever. You can try to extricate yourself from your family, but it won’t work; you’ll always get sucked back in. The Fantastic Four are the first family of comics, and Marvel Comics is never going to let you emancipate yourself.
The various Fantastic Four series over the years have been relatively hit-or-miss depending on the creators behind the book. The last couple runs, overseen by Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction, have been successful and critically acclaimed. I personally only got through about half of Hickman’s tenure, but I really enjoyed what I read. Regardless of writer, some things never change. The team is always (outside of a few exceptions) composed of Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards; his wife, Sue “Invisible Woman” Richards (née Storm); her brother, Johnny “Human Torch” Storm; and Reed’s old friend, Ben “The Thing” Grimm – the best example of a strong Jewish character in modern comics.
It is the job of most every creator that takes on the FF to try to inject something new into the formula. New writer James Robinson (Starman, JSA) is making his own strides in this department, introducing a fascinating new status quo for the quartet before flashing back to the present to (presumably) discover how they got there. Hopefully the “In Media Res“-type story (one of the worst and most overused tropes) is strong enough to sustain what I suspect will be the first arc of the new series.
Outside of the unanswered questions about how the family gets to their eventual fates (and how they got their brand new red costumes), this is a pretty strong issue. Robinson has an excellent grasp on the history of the characters, something he has used to great effect in his past work at DC. Robinson has always been intrigued by the legacy of the characters he writes, and I am really excited to see what he does for the competition. Robinson’s other strength in the issue is the family dynamic. The Richards-Storm clan succeeds or fails based on the writer’s grasp of the character interactions, so it is encouraging to see Robinson have a strong take on it from the beginning.
The issue is mostly set up for what is to come. That is pretty standard for 21st century comics, where extended storytelling is king and everyone’s eyes are on the trade paperback compilation market. The whole decompression dilemma could be bettered by a more creative use of the three title/recap pages, but that’s indicative of mainstream comics as a whole: higher costs for fewer pages.
The combination of Robinson and artist Leonard Kirk (whose combination of fluidity and rigidity is perfect for the book) must have more than a few tricks up their sleeves. It is hard to tell where the creators are going, but they have built up enough goodwill for me to give the series a few solid chances to really impress.
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