I’m not entirely sure why the Fantastic Four are such difficult characters to write. Is it the family aspect? The hook of mixing crazy science with superheroics? For whatever reason, “Fantastic Four” has remained one of the more problematic titles to write at Marvel. And unfortunately, James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s new run hasn’t reversed that trend.
Part of the problem right off the bat is that two issues in, this feels like a remarkably generic plot. It would be fairly easy to swap in the Avengers, the X-Men, or just about any other group of superheroes. That’s something that almost any comic should avoid, but it’s especially notable here because of the nature of “Fantastic Four.” Aside from a glimpse of the Future Foundation kids being safe from the attack, it would be quite easy to mistake this comic for almost any other published by Marvel.
It doesn’t help that most of the issue is little more than a large fight scene. Robinson tries to raise the stakes by showing all of the other New York-based heroes coming out to fight the horde, but at the end of the day it’s a comic with a lot of identical monsters swarming around and attacking things. There’s no immediate hook, no wow factor, and if there’s a comic that should always have a wow factor, it’s “Fantastic Four.”
What does work in “Fantastic Four” #2 is the art from Kirk and Karl Kesel, who present some crisp lines and clean faces. It’s the same sort of style the title had back when Mike Wieringo was drawing the comic. Kirk has a good grasp of how to draw the characters; Reed in particular comes across as inventively stretchy, and both he and Sue have some nicely expressive faces. The final page, focusing on Johnny, is also very well composed as it slowly moves the focus tighter and tighter on his face. It’s a setup that comics and movie fans alike are very familiar with, but it’s handled with grace that makes it feel especially strong. The only art complaint I have is that the new red uniforms still aren’t grabbing me — it feels like a change for the sake of change rather than a bold new look for the team — but I’m willing to give it some more time to see if it eventually clicks.
Robinson is hardly the first writer to have a problem with writing “Fantastic Four.” It’s no small coincidence that Matt Fraction’s “Fantastic Four” run wasn’t half as strong as his “FF” title being published at the same time, certainly. So far, I’m not seeing a reason for this to be a “Fantastic Four” story in particular, and that’s a little worrisome. The art is nice from Kirk, but the story definitely needs to catch up and soon.