One of the oddities of the last twenty or thirty years is the marginalization of what used to be Marvel's first family, the Fantastic Four. Certainly it was paid homage to by the generation of writers and artists that had come of age upon the magnificent Lee and Kirby issues, but that also placed them in the difficult position of trying to follow stan and Jack, and very few of them were up to the challenge of taking that on. Wolfman and Perez actually succeeded for a while, but it took someone like John Byrne to channel the same zeitgeist that made the Lee/Kirby work a success. (And to be fair, John didn't hit it right out of the gate either. His first four or five issues were him feeling is way, and they were a bit clumsy compared to where he was 10 issues later.)
So I decided to wait out the first story arc of the Millar/Hitch series and see how it all wrapped up. And now we know. At the start of the second story arc we can officially say that Mark Millar has no feel whatsoever for the Fantastic Four.
Many of the elements that you would hope for are there: the multiple storylines happening all at once, the introduction of amazing new concepts just around each page turn, the long standing family bickering that you would expect.
And yet somehow all that adds up to nothing. Primarily, we always thought that Reed cared too much about, well, everything. He could hardly take anything lightly really. So we expect him to care about Nu-Earth, about the C.A.P. robot, but there is never a sense of him being all that involved is what is going on. There is also the matter of a terrible deux ex machina to finish off the four issues that is so awful I can't really figure out how to make fun of it.
Ben's character is not as "off" as Reeds, but the funny thing is, he is the most ignored character in the book. Time was, the Torch was given one label, "hothead", given about three petulant lines in the book and Ben Grimm, the heart and soul of the team, given to being the "go-to" character for a good moral or some decent comedy. Millar doesn't know what to do with Ben. And worse, Hitch can't draw the character. The Thing has different body dimensions from an ordinary human, and Hitch hasn't taken the time to figure them out. He "looks" wrong proportionately.
The flow of ideas that Millar is producing should work for the book: Sue decides to put together an all female side team, the kids need a new nanny (one who is clearly more than she seems), but there is just nothing but a resounding silence of emotion where the characters should be. Johnny seems to be the best defined, but then that has also been the case for the movies as well, so the characterization should come as no surprise there.
Hitch is working twice up on the art, and it is giving him the ability to really over do detail, in ways that are not making the art work. There is something of the scope that Jack had when his artwork was done twice up, but Hitch makes us feel that the letterboxing has somehow gone awry on the art. FF #556 is a mess art wise. the snow storm is so over done that it is almost impossible to make out the work beneath. As well, look at the two cover versions. One, sans balloon, is almost a compelling image, while the other has Ben saying something that, well, just isn't Ben.
Maybe he's a skrull.
Ooops. Just kidding.
I would rather that Millar is a skrull than admit that this is the best FF that he can do. It doesn't work as a comic, a deadpan series of scenes that look fun but don't add up to much. The first family of Marvel, not the X-Men, deserve better.