Reviewers Note: Due to the amount of super-hero titles coming out every week, we here at Capeless tend to stick to indie reviews on new and upcoming books. However, an important #1 release and a penchant for all things Fantastic helped contribute to a comprehensive look at one of Marvel’s most important series.
Anyone with a slight interest in Marvel comic books has probably delved into a run of Fantastic Four sometime during their fandom. Whether it involved Lee and Kirby, Byrne, Waid, or Hickman, we’ve seen the fearsome foursome run the gamut from forgettable to can’t-miss brilliance. Recently, Matt Fraction and every member of the Allred family brought on a fun and refreshing take that, amazingly, was eclipsed by its sister title, FF. It was a tough blow to hear both of those series were ending shortly into their runs, made even tougher after the announcement of a reboot launching only a month later. Rest assured, however, that Marvel’s original family is on track to reach that pantheon of greatness.
James Robinson, of Justice League fame, returns to Marvel to pen the series. I’ve always held the understated belief that an FF writer needs to be a fan first, due to the many years it’s survived. Robinson has publicly stated he’s been an avid reader since childhood, so that base is covered. He’s joined by Leonard Kirk (Star Trek, Supergirl), one of the most versatile artists working in comics today. Rounding out the team are a cavalcade of cover artists and he-only-does-everything Clayton Cowles. It’s a formidable bunch.
The story opens with a fast forward (an unfortunate cliché, as most comics tend to do these days) that gives us readers an ominous prescience about the dark road this series plans on taking. Back in present time, a villain who’s been making cameos for over fifty years should get a squeal of approval from longtime fans. Immediately noticeable is the profusion of excellent dialogue that fits perfectly with each character. A few Marvel origin books tend to have slightly bland characterization in favor of pushing the opening story along, but Robinson makes sure to give everyone a vibrant and well-realized personality. Sue and Reed have an exciting flair that balances their conversations between playful and serious.
Villains aren’t the only ones making cameos, as certain genius children and former lovers also enter the picture. Although this issue is absolutely a set-up to a future grandiose story-line, it pulls out enough surprises to feel different from most #1 super-hero issues. While it isn’t necessarily anything unique, Robinson is able to blend the amusing aspects of Fraction’s tale with his own bleaker take. There are big things in store here, and it’ll remain interesting to see how much of this is tied into the new movie coming out in 2015.
Leonard Kirk absolutely shines on every panel. The medley of different faces are all drawn sharply and painstakingly, and there’s nary a bad page in the entire book. The Baxter Building lit up at night, each rock shown on The Thing, shots of slumber, etc. Having Kirk on this series is going to greatly enhance every background traveled to, especially if it reaches into the cosmic or impossible realm.
Fans of The Four will run out to collect yet another #1 issue and will be well rewarded for it. There are some small niggles (red suits?!), but they never threaten to ruin the experience. The throwback references and traditional feel should appeal to the built-in fan base, though new readers won’t feel an overt need to check out past titles. Don’t expect a retelling of the well-trodden origin story. This is about the future of The Fantastic Four and possibly the end. With James Robinson and Leonard Kirk, that future is in good hands.
Alex Smith is a news and reviews writer for Capeless Crusader. When not wasting away in class, he spends all his free time with comics, movies, and video games, and has been since birth. He can spend hours discussing Saga, Hawkeye, or Game of Thrones. Lying Cat’s number one fan. Random brain thoughts: @imapensfan