Dan Slott, who headed up the storytelling on the Spider-Man franchise at Marvel Comics for the past several years, takes over on The Fantastic Four. It's nice to see Marvel's first family back in print, and this is most likely made possible because Disney will now have control of the movie rights (and it's okay to allow the FF back into the pop culture realm of publication since they don't have to discourage the potential profitability of any movie made about them). Will the FF's new adventures be worth the wait, and the read, though?
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of Slott's work. I haven't been inspired to read a Spider-Man book in several years. They just didn't strike the balance of realism and whimsy to me that they used to, even as late as the stories and titles of the 90s did for me. (Remember Cosmic Spidey?) I don't know if this has anything to do with Slott's storytelling or the artists involved in the titles. I can't particularly put my finger on it, but it just didn't work for me.
I've never particularly been a die hard Fantastic Four fan. I used to be a die hard Spider-Man fan. I really only read FF twice in its long storied publication history. One was during the John Byrne run (which was sporadic as I was a kid and didn't have a personally generated disposable income at the time), and the second was the Jonathan Hickman run, which for me was the absolute greatest run of any writer on the franchise. With the title being out of publication for so long, and nostalgia weighing heavy, I decided to pick up the first issue of this new run.
Slott's story focuses heavily on the family dynamics of the characters, which is obviously a good place to start as this has been the hallmarks of the characters since their inception. Slott's tone is way different from Hickman's and Byrne's though. It feels much lighter, and Sara Pichelli's crisp and whimsy tainted artwork reinforces this tone. There's nothing wrong with that, and Slott and Pichelli do indulge in a little heaviness (Sue, Reed, and the kids aren't back yet-but they ARE on their way-and this weighs on Johnny). Some of the interactions feel forced though. Johnny's reaction to Ben's big question (I'm not gonna spoil it) is obviously designed to stoke some of that legendary Ben/Johnny love/hate relationship issues, but it really doesn't work well in the narrative here.
The fact that Slott is injecting some joy into the proceedings though is a welcome development overall. Marvel Comics' first family deserves some happiness, especially Ben Grimm/The Thing. There's enough in this issue to make me curious about what's next, but it's going to take some of that old Kirby (now Hickman) smart sci-fi to keep me interested. Family dynamics isn't enough. We'll see where this new Fantastic Four goes.