Here it is, the start of a brand new Fantastic Four volume, with a new creative team of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk. The Fantastic Four themselves have even gone out and gotten themselves some red costumes too, just in case it wasn’t clear that this is a fresh start.
The issue begins with Sue writing a letter to her children. She’s lamenting bygone times and explaining how basically, everything has just gone to hell. The family aren’t united, nobody is happy, everything is miserable. From this grim narration we’re then taken back in time to what’s framed as essentially being the beginning of the end. In classic Fantastic Four fashion, they’re fighting a big ol’ monster. Long-time Marvel fans may be happy to see it’s everyone’s favourite green alien, Fin Fang Foom, that’s wrecking the city. This leads the group to do what they do best, save the day as a team.
The whole sequence is great fun to follow thanks to Kirk’s art. The action is on a huge scale, the team whiz by dozens of feet above the city as the villain crashes against buildings. There’s dynamic angles as we look up from the ground while he towers above us, it gives a real sense of the deadly scale of the destruction and the Fantastic Four come off as real heroes against a huge formidable foe. But even the quieter moments look great too, talking amongst themselves Reed and Sue both display plenty of emotion on their faces, even The Thing looks downright depressed on a couple of panels. Kirk shows here that he’s absolutely perfect for the book. There’s little touches that would make you feel like he’s been drawing the book forever, Reed steps over a couch with his elongated limbs for instance and it all looks effortless and natural.
Speaking of those more sombre scenes, the emotional level of the book is surprisingly engaging. I’ve always struggled to really feel attached to the Fantastic Four’s cast but here I could feel myself getting drawn in. Although it feels a little bit cliché that the series is parading the ‘this is the end of the Fantastic Four!’ story, there’s plenty of evidence here that this can be pulled off with some emotional punch, especially since guest characters make an appearance which makes me worry about collateral damage. Even the old FF, as in the Future Foundation, cast pop up, which makes me momentarily regret that they no longer have a book of their own anymore. Hopefully Dragon Man and co. will remain a presence in the book in some form or another.
I must admit, from the earlier preview images I thought the new black and red costumes looked rather dark, maybe even a little evil. I’ve also seen them jokingly compared to The Incredibles, fan reaction has certainly been rather mixed. But actually seeing them in action and really rocking these new clothes, I’ve actually come around. Sure it’s different, but they make it work. If the story is indeed heading down into a dark direction then I can understand why the cheery bright blue had to go.
As an opening issue to a new volume, and a new creative team, it’s a good one. There are splashes of different tones which show that they can pull off the set piece action and also nail some simple character moments too. The new dark tone is an interesting choice but so far it does seem to be working. If they can keep this level of quality up going forward, then this could be the start of a new memorable chapter for Marvel’s first family. As a nice bonus it’s completely accessible to new fans, or comic book beginners in general. You might be a little bit lost about the extended cast, but the comic makes the effort to quickly fill in the blanks itself about older continuity stuff. So new fan or old, you can enjoy this new first issue.