Fantastic Four #1

"The Fantastic Four!"

CMRO#1
The Fantastic Four #1
November 1961

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by George Klein
Colours by Stan Goldberg

Discounting the fact that this is virtually where the Marvel Universe would sprout its legs, this initial outing for the Fantastic Four is riddled with typically bad Silver-Age writing that makes the read a bit of a chore. To be fair, a lot of ground is covered, but the whole ordeal seems mechanical and forced—something that this series would suffer from periodically throughout its initial year. Fair enough, I guess, but definitely not the Fantastic start that it could (and should) have been.

MY SCORE: 2.5 (out of 10) 

27.07.11

Strange Tales #103

"Prisoner of the 5th Dimension"


CMRO#22
Strange Tales #103
December 1962

Written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers

Man, Johnny sure likes to be made people’s prisoner these days. Last month it was The Wizard, then the Puppet Master and now this week it’s… The Fifth Dimension! Okay, so it sounds cooler, but it isn’t. If there is one thing slightly amusing about the whole affair though, it’s hillbilly Jim who warns everyone of Swamp Demons. Of course, numerous plot twists ensue and not everyone is who they claim to be, but none of it really makes any sense, nor do you really care enough to will it to. A throwaway issue if ever there was one, which makes you wonder why Johnny was given these 14 pages every month when they seem to be largely hit and miss rush-jobs.

MY SCORE: 2.5 (out of 10)

05.08.11

Journey into Mystery #89

"The Thunder God and the Thug”

CMRO#34
Journey into Mystery #89
February 1963

Written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers

As is become standard now, every second issue of Journey into Mystery seems to pitting the Asgard God against silly little insignificant mortals who bring out the silliness in him. This time Lee and Lieber try to attach a more tangible threat to Thor, or more specifically Don Blake, by getting Jane Foster involved. It works to a certain extent, but never capitalised on and with Foster still unaware of Blake’s secret identity (even though everytime he changes into Thor, nobody seems to catch on—”where’s that lame doc?” is commonplace by now), nothing seems to be moving forward.

In addition to minor letdowns, we have major pitfalls, most of which come from the utilization of Thor’s contrived powers against Thug Thatcher (yeah, that’s his real name alright), specifically when Don Blake seemingly alarms Odin to his danger which prompts some sort of electric fire bolt or something to strike from Asgard to hit one of the mob. Like I say; silly, and so far Odin has been used well until now. Oh, but at least we get a look into Thor’s most overlooked power here—textiles. Yup. One continuously positive element to the book however is in Kirby’s art which by now is getting more adventurous each month. And during one of the few action sequences that pay off, Jack delivers this beauty of a shot.


If only the rest was as engaging as small moments like these.

MY SCORE: 2.5 (out of 10)

09.08.11

Tales to Astonish #41

"Prisoner of the Slave World!"

CMRO#43
Tales to Astonish #41
March 1963

Written by Stan Lee & Larry Lieber
Pencils by Don Heck
Inks by Don Heck

Another dumb Ant-Man issue from Tales to Astonish that does anything but. To be fair, it’s something of an improvement over the last, but not by anything drastic and we have Don Heck taking over from Kirby this month (and the following months) which is… jarring. Something of a great contrast to Kirby’s work, and to a lesser extent Steve Ditko’s, Heck’s art is rough, jagged and full of lines. It’s original, sure, but not in a manner which I can appreciate. There’s just something about those erratic lines…

This time we have Pym being kidnapped along with other scientists to another dimension where an evil warlord Shrek demands they make him a death-ray to rule his world. In short, our tiny superhero saves the day by converting the strange alien bugs to overthrow the evil doers. And surprise surprise, the other scientists don’t bat an eye twice at the coincidence that both Pym and Ant-Man were in the same place at the same time. Nevermind that there was only him, and a few other humans in that entire dimension. They shrug it off like they don’t care. And yeah, I guess they’re right.

MY SCORE: 2.5 (out of 10)

14.08.11

Strange Tales #112

"The Threat of the Living Bomb!"

 

CMRO#74
Strange Tales #112
September 1963

Written by Stan Lee & Joe Carter
Pencils by Dick Ayers
Inks by Dick Ayers

A bit of an oddball adventure for Johnny this month as we see him go head to head with a villain who proves to be a bother for reasons outside the norm for your typical antagonist. Chasing down The Eel who has accidentally stolen a weapon of atomic force and activated it, Storm finds himself at odds with what to do with a nuclear bomb about to go boom-boom next to a Vet’s home. Taking the blast into himself with some stodgily written pseudo-science pieces (there are plenty here by the way, from a tracker fireball guided by vibrations and a miracle dues ex machina cure from the nuclear blast amongst others), the world stands by in shock as they await to here whether Torch will live or not. As a plot piece, I can see why Lee thought this would be a good idea—the problem though is that it’s neither convincing nor as emotive as it should be. What we’re left with then is an off-beat race-against-the-clock issue (something of a first this early on) that tries to be grander than Joe Carter ever achieves. We also see a little attempt at the Peter Parker curse of the public being turned against him, but this too feels all too contrived and inconsequential to be effective. All in all, a disappointing, but somewhat daring issue that also lacks the appearance of Dr. Strange, who was receiving a regular story here but has seemingly been postponed just two issues in. Strange.

Dick Ayers however, is on top form here.

MY SCORE: 2.5/10

30.08.11

Fantastic Four #24

"The Infant Terrible!"


CMRO#115
The Fantastic Four #24
March 1964

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by George Bell

Oh dear. Remember when I expressed concerns over where the attention was being given back at the Marvel house of ideas? Well it’s quite obvious now that The Fantastic Four were being put on the back-burner at this point seemingly because they had already made the company a lot of money and attention, and so, naturally they wanted to try make something similar out of their other stars. Sure, we got The Amazing Spider-Man out of this, but seeing a once consistently great series sink to such lows as The Infant Terrible is just, well, terrible. Hell, even Stan’s infamous hyperbole gets some doubts thrown in there; “Our slightly sensational tale…”; “we kinda think…”

And he’s right in doubting this one. While it’s not exactly unredeemable per se, the vast majority of the story is so ridden with holes and implausibilities that not even the usual well it’s a Silver Age comic excuse can hold much ground. To Stan’s undying credit, he does try to work in some moralist themes here and there, mostly dealing with the ego of humans that for all intents and purposes are probably severely primitive, even to a child of an advanced alien race. Such small moments are nice, but can’t completely redeem the iffy storytelling that relies way too heavily on long stilted dialogue and patchy criminal motives that never really gel in the manner that they ideally should. At least The Impossible Man was kind of funny and entertaining. But yeah; this is a definite contender for the worst Fantastic Four issue to date.


MY SCORE: 2.5 (out of 10)

10.10.11