James Robinson has been turning the screws on Marvel's First Family since the onset of his "Fantastic Four" run and continues apace with this tangentially-related "Original Sin" tie-in. It's a well-designed story, told well by an industry veteran, with stellar artwork by the criminally underrated Leonard Kirk, but the overall product is bleak in a way that left me feeling more depressed than anticipating an upward trajectory in the third act of this overarching plot.
Ben Grimm has been arrested for the murder of the Puppet Master and he doesn't put up a fight as he's taken away in manacles. Still reeling from the revelation that Johnny Storm screwed up a potential cure for the Yancy Street Brawler, Grimm is morose and maudlin as he is transported to a maximum security wing of Ryker's Island. Meanwhile, readers discover what happens when the Avengers try to keep Susan Richards from her children, and Reed Richards accepts a position at a company on an island floating above Lake Michigan.
The highlight of the issue is Sue taking on the Avengers. She cuts loose and Robinson shows inventive use of her powers. Guiding Thor by the Mjolnir is a stroke of genius and displaying her knowledge of her friends' power sets proves that Reed isn't the only Richards that knows how to think ahead. Kirk illustrates the action with fun kinetics and the full fury is evident in Sue's face throughout. I found it odd that even the script calls her actions out-of-character here, because it really felt that way. I get that it's important to show the lengths to which someone would go to see their flesh and blood, but her dialogue is almost spiteful. Jim Hammond's arrival immediately pacifies her and it seems so odd that she falls into his arms immediately, a sobbing mess. A stranger that looks like her brother says he's taking care of her kids and that settles her down more than a cadre of her friends telling her they're safe but she can't see them right now? It made for a cool scene until I started thinking about it.
Ben Grimm is more like Ben Grim since the switch to the red suits. He is so woe-is-me, and I still don't understand why he's suddenly flown off the handle about a botched cure for his condition. That's been the plot of at least a third of his stories. It feels forced, and his Eeyore routine feels like a huge step backwards. In fact, everyone seems miserable in this book. It feels very '90s in that way where everyone felt like the best way to explore a character was to pick them apart; often times it depressed and regressed the characters more than it allowed them to show off how they can stand up to and overcome adversity. The story is in the thick of it right now, but I'm not getting enjoyment out of dragging these guys through the muck. I put the book down and felt like I needed to read anything funny to get myself in a better mood. However, Kirk's pencils give the tale a huge boost as he is just as comfortable displaying the heft and weight of The Thing as he is showing off the lithe fluidity of Mister Fantastic. He is this book's secret weapon.
Robinson is a writer that plays a long game, but with the dark a path he is taking with the Fantastic Four, the light at the end is going to have to be incredibly bright to get past the depressing state in which the characters now find themselves.