The Fantastic Four aren't easy to handle, and they're no longer in their prime. Since their creation as Marvel's first “superhero family,” the house of ideas has brought us even more interesting characters and much better stories than what the FF has to offer, and they've fallen by the wayside to other heroes and groups. This latest relaunch of the group marks the fifth time that they've received a shiny new #1, and while it doesn't propel the group into exciting new territories of relevance, it does manage to be more interesting than previous incarnations.
Writer James Robinson scripts this new series, which from the very start dips into the tired comic book trope of telling the end of the story before the beginning. It's usually a device I find annoying, and I can say I did roll my eyes, but it works in conjunction with the remainder of the issue. What is most confusing about Robinson's debut with Fantastic Four #1 is that the team dynamic just doesn't seem to be there. Sure, they're working together during a big fight, but it feels stale and almost like their interactions are just pasted from any other FF story from years past.
The individual moments with the characters is where they shine, away from the core of the group both Johnny and Ben stop being cartoons and feel real. Sue, on the other hand, never feels like anything other than a cookie cutter copy of a female stereotype, defining herself solely by how her emotions control her and how she relies on Reed. Reed, meanwhile, is in the same character structure he's always been in, always planning, always stretching. It's familiar territory, but it still works.
Artist Leonard Kirk does a good job with the series' pencils. While some of his expressions and designs do cause an eye brow raise here and there, they're overshadowed by the jaw dropping splash pages which feature excellent colors from Jesus Aburtov. Kirk is at his best when drawing larger and small scale images. Close ups on Ben Grimm look amazing, as do the tight shots on the gizmos and gadgets in the Baxter building, but middle scale images with a lot of details end up getting lost and seem rushed. Overall, Kirk's art is what really makes this title.
Robinson seems to be on track to getting this team where they need to be for relevant and exciting stories, but it's just not there at the moment. Leonard Kirk's art is solid throughout, with a few bumps in the road, and he's got the FF looking their best in years. Fans of the series will likely enjoy this new starting point. New readers, on the other hand, might find it less than welcoming as story details have been carried over with little explanation.