Despite my misgivings about the FF now having red costumes (I could handle the white and black we’ve had for the last few years, but red? That is, like, the opposite of blue, it’s ridiculous!) this was a good opening issue from James Robinson and Leonard Kirk that simultaneously gets the Fantastic Four back to basics after being in state of flux recently, as well as setting the stage for tragedy to come. So even whilst you’re enjoying the old-school fun of the Fantastic Four taking down a giant monster, there’s a little extra to it. This issue really was mostly set-up, but I don’t mind that, as it gave us a sense of how good a handle James Robinson has on these classic characters, before he brings them down, and generally, I think he does get Marvel’s first family.
The issue begins in a flash-forward, with Sue writing a letter of apology to Franklin and Val, and giving us a teaser of what bad shit is going to happen to the team throughout Robinson’s tenure. Reed is now a broken man, unable to do any science. Ben is in prison, awaiting trail for murder… and he’s there on Reed’s testimony. As for Johnny, his party-boy lifestyle seems to have now caught up with him, and it’s implied that he’s now an alcoholic. Sue herself is all alone, flying over the ocean and weeping.
So, we’ve seen the FF after their fall, but how does it happen? Well, it begins innocently enough with the team stopping an attack on New York by none other than Fin Fang Foom. This was a pretty basic, old-fashioned FF scene, you had Reed the genius with a special weapon telling the rest of the team what to do, Ben and Johnny bickering and Sue holding things together, but it was a lot of fun, especially because, as I said, we haven’t really had the classic Fantastic Four doing stuff like this for a long time. Hickman killed off then brought back Johnny, and then Fraction sent them off into time and space. The FF defeat Fin Fang Foom, but it might not be as routine and classic as I thought, as Reed realises that a mindless rampage like this is not normally Fin Fang Foom’s M.O. Could this be a clue about where things are heading? I was also surprised by the Fin Fang Four reference Robinson slipped in here, he really has been doing his research!
Back at the Baxter Building, we see that not everything is back to normal, as Valeria has moved out, angry at her parents for lying to her during Fraction’s run, and gone to live in Latveria, this causes a bit of a domestic between Reed and Sue, but it doesn’t last long, as they reconcile, and are soon interrupted by the rest of the Future Foundation kids. I’m really glad that Robinson is keeping these characters around, as with there now being only 1 Fantastic Four book, I thought that perhaps they would be dropped, but nope, they are still here, and still a lot of fun. Bentley-23 building a death-ray that turns things into chocolate is just great.
After this, we see Ben out, reuniting with Alicia Masters and getting back together in a very touching scene. There’s a reason writers keep going back to Ben and Alicia, it’s just a classic romance. We also see Johnny’s new status quo, and it’s that he’s now become a rock/pop star (perhaps inspired by his ex, Darla Deering?), and his agent calls him telling him that, for the good of his music career, he can’t go on any vacations like he did recently. He can still be a superhero, but he has to stay Earth-bound. Which, for the FF, might be an issue. I know a lot of fans bristle at every writer reverting back to immaturity for Johnny when they take over, but at this point, I guess we have to accept that it’s not bad writing, it’s just a character trait, he’s an immature person that might grow up at times, in serious situations, but he’ll always want to have fun first and foremost.
The issue ends with everyone in a good place, but of course, that won’t last long, and we see a Negative Zone (I think?) doorway in one of Reed’s labs open up, unleashing a horde of ravenous insect monsters on New York.
This was, as I said, a strong opening issue for Robinson, he showed he gets the characters and, with the flash-forward, hooked me in with wanting to find out just how the FF end up in their bad way. Leonard Kirk’s art was also very strong, I’ve been a fan of his since he was on JSA, and he’s just a brilliant, classic superhero artist, and there’s no better classic superhero team than the Fantastic Four, his line-work is strong (Karl Kesel is back on inks, he should never not be on the FF in some form or another), the characters look great and, even though he does have that classic style, he is suited to the darker edge this story will have. In fact, the only problem is those pesky red costumes. This is the real FF controversy right now, I don’t care if Johnny Storm is black, all I care about is that he’s not wearing red!