This one was a disappointment considering the praise it received.
In one sentence: I like Hickman’s grand ideas, but I felt overwhelmed and confused by the amount of characters and concepts, and I was really thrown off by the pacing.
The omnibus starts pretty well, with a few issues about dark reign, and a nice run on the council of Reeds. After one third of the book, be prepared, most of the stories are one issue set-up, full of barely explained high sci-fi concepts with a lot of B-list characters. For example, anything related to the Nu-world did not make any bit of sense to me, especially these 2 pages spread attempting to explain what is happening in the Nu World at +100 years, +1000 years, etc. What a confusing way to depict what is going on! There is really no explanation to new readers, but I suspect that even if you know about the Nu World, the whole thing does not make too much sense anyway.
I liked the issues where Hickman took his time to tell a story, like the issues with the council of reeds for instance, because it was spreading over a few issues. But all the other set-up stories written in one issue were terrible to me. And I believe they fail at what they are trying to do: set up events for a grand finale. One issue is just too little to get you into the story, and there is way too much going on in a few pages. I read that people found this comic to be much decompressed. I am thinking the exact opposite. When you read one issue of fantastic four, it’s like you’re reading 4 or 5 issues crammed very forcefully into one. This made the book extremely confusing to me.
In addition, on half of the issues of the book the art is really subpar (seriously, the kids are drawn with old men faces, making them look super creepy at times), it really doesn’t help enjoying the story.
Then, surprisingly, for the last third of the book, all the ideas, concepts, characters come together for a pretty rewarding story. You will have to get the second volume to get the rest of the story though. However, when everything came together at the end, I was actually enjoying the book quite a bit. The book became fun to read. Not enough to remove the bad taste of the setup issues from my mouth, but still, fun read towards the end, and the art was getting much better too.
In the end, I find that FF is clearly an ambitious work, but I feel that Hickman really overwhelms the reader with his many characters and concepts. New readers of FF like me will be left scratching their heads...
To talk a bit about the book itself, the binding is sewn and the book lays flat easily without any gutter loss. The cover is now matte and much cheaper in quality than the old omnibus covers which were really sturdy. The pages are also really thin, which is pretty bad considering the amount of white pages there is in the book. In the end, the omnibus felt quite thin and not has well built as the former Marvel omnibus.
IMPORTANT: Please note that you will need the second Hickman omnibus coming out in November to have the rest of the story. The first omnibus ends with a big cliffhanger, in the middle of the story. No need to buy the first volume if you are not ready to buy the second. In addition, Marvel hiked up the price of the 2nd volume in their solicitations. The MSRP of the second omnibus is 125$ for the same amount of pages than the first omnibus (which was originally at 75$ before the increase to 100$). Thank you Marvel, you made it easy for me to choose on whether to drop the title or not…