"Fantastic Four" #3 from writer James Robinson and artist Leonard Kirk focuses a great deal on the relationships of Marvel's first family in the aftermath of the destruction brought about in the previous two issues. Robinson doesn't keep the interactions constrained to just between those four, however, reminding readers that the Marvel Universe is a big place and the Fantastic Four are at its heart.
While the Fantastic Four continue to fracture throughout this issue, the mastermind behind their accumulating tragedies is no more apparent. Robinson drops clues, but I think it's still a little early for us to presume the answer has been set right in front of us. Beyond that, it feels like Robinson checks in on all of the Marvel Universe in the span of twenty pages. There are appearances from Damage Control, Namor and the Avengers. A new Frightful Four is introduced and the Future Foundation takes a field trip. It's not all scenery, however, as Robinson seeds the story with intimate moments and personal conversations. Among those moments are Johnny coming to accept the loss of his super powers, Ben Grimm spending valuable time and speaking from the heart with Alicia Masters and even a moment between Valeria and Doctor Doom.
My biggest criticism of Leonard Kirk's work is that while his children are mostly well-scaled and proportional, it's impossible to tell Valeria's age just from the context of this issue. She could be anywhere from six to twelve. Otherwise, the book is visually quite solid, from the undersea pages featuring the Future Foundation's field trip to the Frightful Four's dynamic attack to close out the issue. Karl Kesel does a great job inking Kirk without imposing his own style while Jesus Aburtov's colors are rich with tone and texture, bringing out the coarseness of Ben's hide and the fluidity of the ocean through viewports. Kirk isn't the most ostentatious artist to take on Marvel's First Family, but he doesn't have to be. He's got enough style and flair to carry the story and hit the stratosphere when necessary, but enough detail and realism to keep it grounded.
Packing "Fantastic Four" #3 with a grand tour of the Marvel Universe, it's clear that Robinson, Kirk and company are definitely building a long-range story with significant ramifications to come. I haven't been this dialed in to "Fantastic Four" since Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo were on the book, nor have I been this enthused to share it. Robinson has a well-defined understanding of the characters and what makes their universe so exciting and he delivers it in an approachable, easily-consumed story that really should be making its way into more hands.