How about red costumes?
If it’s alright with everybody else, I’m just going to pretend that was the extent of writer James Robinson’s pitch for his tenure on Fantastic Four, and Marvel snatched it up like candy from a pinata! At least the new costumes do look pretty sharp.
But the red togs are the only new idea that Robinson brings to Marvel’s First Family in his first issue, through he promises a lot of upcoming intrigue and plot twists. Robinson, and artist Leonard Kirk, are coming on board after a spectacular run by Matt Fraction, the Family Allred and few others. With the twin titles of Fantastic Four and FF, Fraction delivered a wacky and wild family adventure, though according to apparent “reviewer of many things” Kristi McDowell, Fantastic Four was the ugly twin. Now that all of that wackiness is over, it seems Marvel wants to try a more serious Fantastic Four, and Robinson is their man.
Red represents seriousness, right? Or anger?
Nobody seems very angry yet in Fantastic Four #1, but seriousness permeates these pages. Robinson kicks things off with one of those classic fiction flash forwards, where Sue Storm narrates all of the bad things that are going to happen to the team in the near future. Reed’s a broken man. Ben’s in prison. And Johnny’s a party animal, but more so than usual. It’s a grim future and no doubt the story that gets us there will be equally grim. Not that I’m suggesting Robinson’s Fantastic Four is a grim and gritty affair. In fact, the first issue features a battle with Fing Fang Foom. And if that’s not giddy, exciting comics, then what is?
But I think the fight with the purple underwear dragon is just part of Robinson’s first issue set-up plans. The fight with Fing Fang Foom, and a quick visit by the Future Foundation kids, are his way of introducing the Four in classic fashion. He’s got a good handle on every character’s voice in the fight, and has a little fun with the zaniness of the FF kids. But it’s all set-up. Robinson has big, scary plans in store for the team, but for now, he just wants to settle in and get to know everybody. The scene with the kids is just a quick cameo, reminding us all that they’re in the book. But it doesn’t have nearly the same kind of heart and love as Fraction’s take on the little ragamuffins. That leaves me a little worried that Robinson doesn’t really have any plans for them. But when you get to write the Fantastic Four, your first thoughts would probably be about the Fantastic Four.
After the fun introduction of the downtown monster fight, Robinson quickly gets to the business of setting up his future stories. He’s got some plans for Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters, a celebrity-focused storyline for the Human Torch, and some marital joy/strife for Sue and Reed. There’s also something about interdimensional monsters, but when isn’t there?
Artist Leonard Kirk brings his A-game to Fantastic Four #1. I’ve seen Kirk at his best, and I’ve seen Kirk phoning it in, and this time, the man goes all out. His characters are richly detailed and expressive, and Kirk doesn’t slouch when it comes to their amazing powers. Are there any superheroes more visually exciting than the Fantastic Four? Kirk nails the action scene against the giant dragon, with a flurry of punches and science. And he does an equally great job with the quiet, personal scenes too. It’s always great to see Leonard Kirk delivering solid work on a book.
Fantastic Four #1 is a nice start to the team’s latest relaunch, but it suffers a bit from set-up syndrome. Robinson and Kirk take an entertaining tour of classic Fantastic Four elements and introduce a few storylines of their own, but nothing really stands out as especially new or exciting. It’s all par for the course for the Fantastic Four, a mixture of superheroics and family drama, with a hint of even more drama to come. I just hope Robinson has a few bigger ideas in store for the team than just red costumes.
And none of them even mention why they switched to red. What’s up with that?
Rating – 6/10.