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

The Fantastic Four #2

"Skrulls from Outer Space!"


CMRO#2
The Fantastic Four #2
January 1962

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

An improvement over the previous issue (which came a whopping two months earlier!), but not by much. This time we’re introduced to the Skrulls, but much like the Ferengi from Star Trek, their debut appearance here is off-hand and slightly silly. Despite some sketchy conclusions however, it’s still entertaining (especially the opener, which, while copied to death since, was quite a clever device by Lee) and works well to flesh out the Four a little more.

MY SCORE: 3.0 (out of 10) 

27.07.11

The Fantastic Four #3

"The Menace of the Miracle Man"

CMRO#3
The Fantastic Four #3
March 1962

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Sol Brodsky
Colours by Stan Goldberg

So this is finally where Lee and Kirby throw their gloves down and quit pretending that these guys (and gal!) weren’t anything but Superheroes. Showered with an assortment of gifts, the Four are given their famous costumes (which the Thing promptly rids himself of), their Fantasti-Car and of course we’re treated to a great drawing of their HQ.

So an important issue for sure, but one that still finds itself lacking in the story-telling department. Aside from the gradual development of the characters which continues here (particularly amusing are Torch and Ben Grim’s interactions, and Grim’s more solemn self-reflections thus far unheard of in these kinds of comics), the central plot involving the lacklustre Miracle Man isn’t as strong as previous antagonistic ploys.

With that said however, it’s the characters that shine here and in turn that’s what will hold reader’s attentions for decades—it’s a subtle shift, but one large enough to change the face of comic books to the point where the characters themselves would be the focus of a writers’ imagination, rather than who or what they could stop from taking over the world that month, and with what toy at their disposal.

MY SCORE: 4.0 (out of 10) 

27.07.11

Fantastic Four #4

"The Coming of… Sub-Mariner"


CMRO#5
The Fantastic Four #4
March 1962

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Sol Brodsky
Colours by Stan Goldberg

Drawing a thin line connecting Marvel’s Golden Age with their current age, Lee and Kirby break down more walls and expand the space between their borders once more by infusing backstory from decades prior into its weaving. So not only do we have characters that exist within our real world New York who share a less than perfect relationship with each other that develops over time, but we can look forward to seeing villains and other backing characters in more than just a single issue. Again, it’s nothing we think twice about these days, but back in 1962, this was by no means commonplace thinking or formula.

Luckily however, Lee was all about switching things up to get ahead on the game, and he does that here not just by rethinking concepts, but also by telling a pretty good story to boot. The first of its kind, actually, since the Four were born six months prior—this re-introduction to the Sub-Mariner is great stuff that mixes pathos with some interesting character conflicts (Sue and Namor for one goes against all conventions) that point towards a brighter future. Great reading.

MY SCORE: 7.0 (out of 10) 

28.07.11

Fantastic Four #5

"Prisoners of Doctor Doom!"


CMRO#7
The Fantastic Four #5
July 1962

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Joe Sinnott
Colours by Stan Goldberg

Cue the ominous music, boys, Dr. Doom’s just walked in. You know, I’m not sure if Stan or Jack were anticipating that Doom would make the impression that he did when he first arrives here, but regardless, this issue (like many origin stories of both heroes and villains thus far) is tepid at best. Going from time travel to black magic and all sorts of crazy shenanigans with castles straight-up existing somewhere around New York, our fifth adventure here is spotty at best with perhaps the best first quarter seen to date. Shame about the rest, though. Doom would get better with time—his ploys a little less inane than seen here.

MY SCORE: 3.5 (out of 10) 

29.07.11

Fantastic Four #6

"Captives of the Deadly Duo!"


CMRO#11
The Fantastic Four #6
September 1962

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers
Colours by Stan Goldberg

So it’s getting to the point now where I actively look forward to getting around to the next Fantastic Four issue. In comparison with just about everything else Marvel was putting out around this time, the FF are single, fairly consistent beacon of hope. What’s best about this though is that after this issue, the Four would be printed monthly rather than bi-monthly. So now we get twice the thrills, and boy is this one a good way to start!

Pairing up the series’ most dastardly villains thus far, putting them into space with the Baxter Building tethered to their rocket, which has the Fantastic Four inside, is just insane. In fact, it’s probably the most extreme thing I’ve read yet, that isn’t just dumb. Sure, it isn’t the most plausible thing in the world, but Kirby does a great job here of conveying it in the most convincing way possible.

Oh and we also get a little more melodrama in the form of Sue Storm and Namor being at odds with each other again. You think Reed would have socked Mariner in his Sub by now. Alas, it continues and we’re left with the impression that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of either of these villains (despite one of them clinging to an asteroid at comic’s end!)

What a ride! 

MY SCORE: 7.0 (out of 10) 

31.07.11

Fantastic Four #7

"It Came From The Skies"


CMRO#14
The Fantastic Four #7
October 1962

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers
Colours by Stan Goldberg

Now I like invasion stories just as much as the next guy, but seriously, I’m beginning to loose count of how many visits Earth has had from strange aliens over the past few months. It’s a bit of a relief then that much of this issue, although not quite as strong as #4 and 6, serves as a neat little stand-alone story that blends some cool sci-fi concepts with some genuinely interesting “antagonists.”

Sure, the whole plot boils down to one big Deus Ex Machina yet again, but it’s not without its charm. You have to wonder why they didn’t just shrink the asteroid however. I guess the compounds might not have reacted the same in zero-G? Who is to say! Maybe it’s something to do with Cosmic Rays or Nuclear testing in space? All joking aside, Lee and Kirby deliver again this month and continue developing our favourite supergroup whilst keeping a firm hold on our imagination. Kudos. Now… hold off the Aliens for a while, huh?

MY SCORE: 5.0 (out of 10) 

02.08.11

Fantastic Four #8

"Prisoner of the Puppet Master!"


CMRO#20
The Fantastic Four #8
November 1962

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers
Colours by Stan Goldberg

Though not the best the series has seen thus far, this month’s outing for theFour is an important one—perhaps more than any other since their debut—in that it makes do on its promise to deliver human characters as well as superheroes and villains. Of course, this most blatantly comes into play with everyone’s favouritefreak, Ben Grimm, but also kind of sweet is the interplay between the other three and Ben that hammers home their already tangible chemistry. 

Providing our source of antagonistic folly this week is The Puppetmaster, another madman, this time with the power of voodoo dolls at his disposal. Interesting themes of control and megalomania permeate his character, but it’s perhaps his adopted daughter that provides the story with its central source of significance when she rather sweetly falls for Thing, because, well, she’s blind as a bat and accepts him for who he is on the inside. Aw, shucks. 

MY SCORE: 6.5 (out of 10) 

04.08.11

Fantastic Four #9

"The End of the Fantastic Four!"


CMRO#23
The Fantastic Four #9
December 1962

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers
Colours by Stan Goldberg

This one is something of a Hulk. On the one hand you have a pretty intelligent, character-driven premise based on human flaws and everyday troubles of paying the bills. Then on the other you have this terribly overly fantastical plot of the God of the Sea (or whatever Namor is) buying a film studio (presumably with magic fish money) and using it to kill off his four nemesis one by one in a series of unbelievably elaborate action sequences. Of course, in the end Namor gets to walk off into the ocean again, learning from his heart’s mistakes and in that vein the issue is better off, but with such a wacky second act, much of that great character work is muffled in amongst degrading comic capers that The Fantastic Four have thus far worked hard to move away from. Intriguing, somewhat radical and laughable all at the same time.

MY SCORE: 6.0 (out of 10) 

05.08.11

Fantastic Four #10

"The Return of Doctor Doom!"

CMRO#31
The Fantastic Four #10
January 1963

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers
Colours by Stan Goldberg

Another stellar tale starring the Fantastic Four, this time seeing them up against Dr. Doom, and themselves (in a way), with a little help from Stan and Jack themselves! Featuring heedless fourth wall breaking (which, admittedly, I’ve always been a sucker for ever since seeing Gremlins 2 as a kid and being like “Hulk Hogan’s in the cinema!”) that introduces the writers within their own story is kind of crazy, but kind of cool at the same time. It happens just at the point where Mr. Fantastic confronts Sue about her feelings for Namor and BAM, we cut directly to a frustrated Lee and Kirby as they try to figure out what to do next before Dr. Doom walks into their studio. Genius.

Moving on from here, we get another “oh no, the Fantastic Four are doing bad things!” story (only this time, it’s just Mr. Fantastic, and yeah, once again, it isn’t really him, it’s only Dr. freakin’ Doom inside his body.) Once again though, it works extremely well and highlights several key elements to both Doom and Richards’ personalities that clash and in turn create some decent drama. My only complaint once again is that the villain here slips up too easily in the end in order to wrap things up, but then, he does vanish into thin air which is interesting! Is this the end of Dr. Doom? Most likely not but I’ll definitely be staying tuned to see just how Lee and Kirby get themselves out of this one by the time they realise they need him back.

A terrific issue. Perhaps the best yet.

MY SCORE: 7.0 (out of 10)


08.08.11

Fantastic Four #11

"The Impossible Man!"


CMRO#35
The Fantastic Four #11
February 1963

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers
Colours by Stan Goldberg

Man oh man, talk about drama! Well, despite the fact that I wasn’t able to read the letters pages from the previous couple of issues, it’s well known that Sue didn’t initially go down with a select group of readers. It’s something of a sidenote here in part 1’s A Day With The Fantastic Four segment, but damn it’s funny, and pretty innovative for a comic book of its kind. Also strong during this part is Sue and Reed’s romance which is hinted at again, plus nice touches again with Ben and Johnny which are more than welcome and develop this bond even further amongst some nice nods to continuity. What doesn’t quite pay off however is the very rushed and predictable backstories of Grimm and Richards meeting in college then fighting in the war. It’s fine, but fails to add much to either of the two’s characters.

Yo, ask Reed anything about women.
Reed Richards is callin’ YOU out, you sexist pigs.

And thenwhat? Hobo Jungles. And aliens from the planet Poppup! Boom. Actually, it sounds ridiculous, and for all intents and purposes it is, but Lee and Kirby know it and they run with it to the point that it comes off as a zany hoot contrasting part 1 nicely. That and the fact that, although this alien fella is obnoxious and downright irritating, his “power” of instant evolution is fascinating and not quite as trite as most villains of this age come off as. In the end, as Reed proudly deduces, it’s boredom which defeats the Poppup alien who just wanted a fun holiday on Earth, but yeah; he sure gave me a laugh or two. A fun segment for sure.


Yeah, he doesn’t have a name, you dolt! Take that!

Overall a fun issue that carries on the fourth wall breaking that we seen last month. The only major problem I have with it actually is that final panel which says everything goes back to normal again next month when the FF meet the Hulk. Honestly, I just can’t see that doing any better than what I just read. Just sayin’.

MY SCORE: 7.0 (out of 10)

10.08.11

Fantastic Four #12

"The Incredible Hulk"


CMRO#39
The Fantastic Four #12
March 1963

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers
Colours by Stan Goldberg

The Marvelverse just got a little smaller this month as The Fantastic Four somehow manage to get themselves on the wrong end of everyone’s favourite big green guy, Hulk. I mean, that’s what defines him really, ain’t it? You see the Hulk, you think “man, that’s guy’s green.” then you realise, “he’s quite strong too, huh?” According to military however, The Thing looks just like Hulk, so much so that they try to capture him resulting is myriad of panels devoted to soldiers being mauled. Sound familiar? Well, it is—for the wrong reason. Fantastic Four #12 by all means, should have been Hulk #6, because it’s told in same uneven, drab fashion that his stories are told. Sure enough, we get a couple of good character moments from the Four here, and we see the debut of the new Fantasticar, but all in all this just reads like a pretty dull Hulk episode. To make things worse, despite this ploy to boost Mr. Green’s green-flow, Banner would be axed just two months down the line. Bummer.

On the upshot we get a clash between Hulk and Thing which is fine—it’s not exactly as epic as you’d think, but it’s much more entertaining at least than the predictable commie spy plot which forms the underside here. That, and the fact that everything has opened up here just by bringing these two houses together. Just like that we have more possibilities—it’s just a shame that this one doesn’t seem all that up to delivering on them. Not bad, but far from the standard of the Four either. An upper-tier Hulk issue if anything.


Some things deserve to be ripped up… all at once.

MY SCORE: 4.5 (out of 10)

12.08.11

Fantastic Four #13

 

"The Fantastic Four Versus the Red Ghost and His Indescribable Super-Apes!"


CMRO#47
The Fantastic Four #13
April 1963

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Steve Ditko

A surprisingly dull episode for the Fantastic Four this time around, when Reed Richards precedes our own history and lands on the moon in 1963. This makes me wonder, if, by the time I read up to modern day Fantastic Four issues, references to this will ever be made. Surely not, as that would put these events during, say, 1998 on the sliding timeline. Oh you got to the moon in ‘98, eh Richards? Nice. 

Nevertheless, all presumptions aside, going to the moon was a big thing in ‘63 and to be fair Stan and company try their best to make it a big thing. The problem though is that it’s stained with this dirty Red villain and his super apes that get their powers the same way that the FF got theirs—only theirs are supposedly better because they lasted longer. Cosmic Rays, eh? How long ‘til they’re sold over the counter? None of them are used that effectively and in the end everything closes in an anti-climax.

Aside from the usual Fantastic Four shtick that we get between the members, just about the only real fantastic thing about this issue here is in the Watcher; a supreme being that lives on the moon and observes humans for reasons not entirely detailed. Nevertheless, it provides Kirby and Ditko(!) ample space to flex their creative muscles and dream up some great scenes. That, and we get a little bit of a sympathetic, neutralist vibe going on for the first time when both Sue and Reed make a couple lines that aren’t riddled with anti-communist propaganda. 

Overall, a spotty, lacklustre outing for Marvel’s supergroup, but still better than a lot of the other stuff out there. 

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

MY SCORE: 4.0 (out of 10)

16.08.11