Something the best creators have always managed to exploit in the Fantastic Four is the sheer conceptual energy there should be around the world’s smartest man, and that’s something James Robinson reverses. How effective is Reed Richards if his confidence is shredded, if he can’t even recognise a viable source of planet-saving research when he’s led to it? That’s not the only interesting reversal as the FF’s decline continues. The Thing’s circumstances are inevitable given what’s happened to him, but it’s a clever piece of writing when Susan Richards takes on Doctor Doom and it’s Doom who’s not only reasonable, but right.

That story features the weakest art, Tom Grummett never coming to terms with Valeria Richards being a young girl and drawing a selection of approximations that don’t work. He’s more comfortable on the pages not featuring her. Leonard Kirk doesn’t draw Valeria much, but when he does, normal service is restored. Marc Laming was also good on Original Sin, but here just contributes a few polished flashback pages.

Robinson has now hit the rise arc of his fall and rise scenario, and by the end of Back in Blue much has been revealed, not least the architect of the Fantastic Four’s problems. It’s not as if any reader presumed the downfall was permanent because the Fantastic Four has always been about overcoming the odds, but some might be disappointed about who’s responsible, which raises the question of whether a big story always needs a big villain. What Robinson provides is clever, and the way it opens the door to the past even more so, but the reasoning behind the motivation? It’s just not good enough. Robinson’s a better writer than it indicates, and pointing out the flaw in-story is an idle piece of writing.

Thankfully it’s the only example in an otherwise enjoyable series of events. The foreshadowing with which Robinson began Fall of the Fantastic Four has now played out, and also smart is the importance of a seemingly offhand comment in that volume. When the full catharsis arrives in The End is Fourever we’ll be in new territory. The beginnings of the road back have a thrill to them.