by James Robinson (Writer), Leonard Kirk, Karl Kesel (Artists), Jesus Aburtov (Colorist)
The Story: It seems the nineties are back to kill the whole Marvel universe, as crazy bugs brings darkness with them to Manhattan.
The Review: It must be hard to write the Fantastic Four. With a history that is simply rich with creativity and some impossibly talented creators bringing a great deal to the team, anyone writing them will have a colossal and threatening presence looming over them. Jack Kirby, John Byrne, Mark Waid and Jonathan Hickman all had their turn at bringing a very deep sense of fun, but also adventure to those beloved characters as they balanced nostalgia with innovation. Anyone coming after them has the challenge to do just the same in order to contribute to these almost historical personalities that opened up the Marvel universe itself.
With an opening issue that was decent, does James Robinson show that he has the very potential to carve himself a name as one of the famed writers of legend, or does he merely stumble as his story continue this month?
It’s a bit too early to answer in a conclusive manner, but one thing that is certain is that Robinson really does try here, with something a bit different. With an issue with a bit more darkness and more action than a more regular and classical Fantastic Four tale of old, there is certainly an attempt here at innovation, which works yet not completely.
Where Robinson gain some points is with some of the ideas he brings on the table, setting a certain mystery around just what is happening and who is behind all of this. The arrival of creatures from the Heroes Reborn universe created by Franklin Richards, the fact that every super hero in New York tries to fight them and how Mister Fantastic manages to beat them makes for a surprisingly fun reads at time, with a good emphasis on action that fuels the drama of the whole issue.
Another part of the issue which works is the division of focus between each characters. While this chapter is more concentrated on Reed Richards and his inner thoughts about what is happening, there is enough panel time given to everyone in the titular team to make it a good effort. Ben is there clobbering stuff, Johnny is his obnoxious yet heroic self, Sue is there being efficient yet worried and there are simply a good lot of other guest stars as well. While the Marvel universe is present, the Fantastic Four are still the star of this book, which is a good thing considering the scope of this tale.
Where it’s decidedly not as strong, though, is with a plethora of smaller details that don’t really add up to the tale offered. There’s nothing majorly wrong, yet there are some minor problems that combine to make the greater whole a bit weaker than it could be. For one, the apparition of some characters, like Rogue (who is supposed to be dead right now), Daredevil (who’s supposed to be away to San Francisco), Havok (who is supposed to be in space) and some others make this issue a tad problematic. While continuity doesn’t seem to be a major weakness for this issue and the tale it tries to tell, it can be annoying considering a bit of research could have been done before this issue got released.
What’s good, though, despite all of this, is the tone of danger and catastrophe that Robinson is able to convey through the dialogue and the action of his characters. With the urgency of a solution bringing in a good sense of scope and excitation to the issue, the more super heroic roots of the characters, as opposed to their more explorative and adventurous beginnings, do manage to make this issue shine a bit in that respect.
Of course, much of that effect is realized by Leonard Kirk and Karl Kesel, who really make the action and the scope of the tale shine here. With a good attention to size and mayhem, the very chaos caused by the invasion of those beasts is simply one that gets the reader’s attention. With a talent for including a very high amount of elements on a page without overflowing the pages and overwhelming the readers, there is quite a lot going on in each panel. Making this strength an integral part of the visuals and with a pretty layout allowing for a multitude of angles being covered, the setting in which the issue takes place is an overly solid one.
The characters, still, are the very focus of the issue, with Kirk and Kesel doing a decent job with them. Their adult and more bizarre characters being clearly very good thanks to a good attention to facial features, poses and a multitude of smaller details, their emotions and actions have the chance to add to the experience. The design of the beasts, the reactions of citizens and some of the other super hero characters all range from decent to spectacular here. However, not all is perfect, with some of the children characters appearing a bit less polished, with wonkier features as well as some character being a tad bizarre in their anatomy. Let’s just say that I doubt Luke Cage’s arms are twice as big as his very head.
Despite those few weaker moments, Jesus Aburtov is here to make things even better with his astounding colorization. With a good handle on handling shadows and brightness, the simulation of explosion, destruction and general violence is rather well done. With a very rich diversity that allows a very fine balance between light and dark and thanks to a good handle on contrasts, Aburtov makes the uneasy tension and the danger an integral part of the visuals. Adding to the fun and to the characters in meaningful ways, he allows a couple of solid transition with his shading that makes the tone of the issue abundantly clear, yet without making it painfully obvious in its symbolism. As a colorist and as a collaborator, Aburtov is very solid here.
The Conclusion: While there are some minor problems in the executions of his concepts, Robinson craft a solid tale of action and chaos along with a his very talented collaborators, Kirk, Kesel and Aburtov. It’s not the greatness that this title has reached before, but it’s good fun nonetheless.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière