Review: ‘Fantastic Four’ (2014) #1 & 2

FF 1Fantastic Four (2014) #1 & 2
Written by James Robinson
Art by Leonard Kirk

The Fantastic Four have always been of interest to me,  however I have not found many of their comics to be that great. Aside from the first 18 issues of Ultimate Fantastic Four there are no Fantastic Four comics that have wowed me. Over in the main universe, for the past few years, we’ve gotten the over the top writings of Mark Millar (his work on Ultimate Fantastic Four was much better), the complex (read: confusing) writing of Jonathan Hickman, and the flat writing of Matt Fraction (others go gaga for him yet I find him wildly overrated).

Yet another relaunch of the title is upon us. I figured I would try my luck once again. This incarnation is being penned by James Robinson. Robinson’s biggest claim to fame is Starman. I hear good things about it, but I have yet to read if myself (it’s one of the most glaring holes in my comic reading career). I am more familiar with Robinson’s more recent works such as Superman and Justice League of America (each from the pre-New 52 reboot) both of which were lackluster to say the least. Most recently he wrote Earth 2, a book  that was decent but that never achieved greatness under Robinson’s direction. The book was almost enjoyable despite Robinson, and it has greatly improved since Tom Taylor came aboard.

So, how does Fantastic Four stack up? Sadly, this book is plagued by the same things that were prevalent in Robinson’s recent DC work (as well as his other current Marvel book, All-New Invaders). Robinson’s writing is stiff and inorganic. The dialogue does not flow naturally and is instead overly expository. It is like Robinson wants to write snappy dialogue but has never actually talked to another human being. Most people do not talk like Robinson writes. The book is extremely dated. It’s as if the book was written in the 70s or 80s. There are many great books from that era, but it is 2014 and comics have evolved.

The story itself is decent enough. It is framed through a letter that Sue is writing her children, telling them about how the Fantastic Four’s lives went horribly wrong. We get a quick glimpse of where the characters will be ending up in the near future before shifting back to the present and the better times right before things fell apart. These better times include battling Fing Fang Foom, so everything is relative, I guess.

FF Sue

Poor dialogue, Mr. Robinson.

The lives of the Fantastic Four begin to go wrong when a bunch of aliens from another dimension invade New York. They somehow get though a portal that opened in the Baxter Building. How this happened is a mystery that Reed vows to solve. The aliens apparently come from a dimension that Reed and Sue’s son, Franklin, created. This is a reference to the 90s event Heroes Reborn which is rather reviled within fandom. Why Robinson decided to go back to this well is unclear, but is seems ill-advised. The second issue’s pacing is wonky (that’s a technical term, look it up). Robinson packed too much into the issue and as a result the end feels rushed.

I will commend Robinson on bringing new readers up to speed. As someone who never finished Hickman’s run and gave up on Fraction’s after about two issues, I never felt lost. However, Robinson did seem to force a change back to the old status quo a bit. My main gripe with this is Thing getting back with longtime girlfriend Alicia Masters. It came out of nowhere. If it was alluded to at the end of Fraction’s run then I retract my statement, but as it stands it did not feel organic. In addition to that, Johnny Storm felt like he did a backslide and was just a caricature.

FFThe art in the book, provided by Leonard Kirk, is a highlight. While it is not astounding, it is enjoyable. For the post part everyone looks good. There are a few off panels, but they are not pervasive. There have been some complaints about the new costumes, but I like them. The change in color is kind of refreshing. The color of Thing’s shorts does blend in with his skin a bit and making them black might have been advisable, but it is not a deal breaker.

This is not the worst book that I have ever read; it’s just extremely lackluster. The dialogue is painful at times and the second issue feels really rushed. I had the urge to rewatch the 2005 movie after reading these issues and by comparison that movie is Avengers level good. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point.  This book could have been so much better. If only Robinson could realize that it’s 2014 and update his writing to match. In the end this book just isn’t up to snuff and thus I give Fantastic Four (2014) #1 & 2 a 2.5 out of 5 extinguished torches.

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Who ARE these people!?

John-Michael (aka the Fudgemaster General) is a lifelong nerd whose passion for comics and TV continues to grow each day. He is PoP!'s resident Tim Drake and Power Rangers fanboy and he's proud of it! He currently resides in his hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan where he is attending grad school for Counseling Psychology.

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  1. Jim Leszczynski says:

    Robinson’s FF has been really disappointing. I was a huge fan of Hickman’s run and place it third behind Lee/Kirby’s and Byrne’s runs. I gave Fraction and Bagley a chance to convince me to stick around and dropped it after one issue. Robinson received the same courtesy and I was shocked that it was not any better. Robinson’s Marvel output so far has been disappointing overall. When I found out he was doing one of my favorite teams of all time, The Invaders, I thought this would be a perfect match for him. He has an affection for Golden Age heroes that shined through in his JSA work, as well as ‘The Golden Age.’ But, so far, this hasn’t translated to Marvel. Either he doesn’t have an affinity for the characters or he just doesn’t have any more stories about the greatest generation to tell.

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