Thursday, 13 September 2012

It's not a review. It's just my opinion! #7 - FANTASTIC FOUR

I read a lot of graphic novels, more so than floppies. So I have decided to tell you all what I am reading and what I thought about those particular books. I want to stress though that I am not looking to review these books in the style of a critic, or to give them a rating, only to express my opinions as a fan of what I personally thought of what I have read. Please do not let my opinion sway you in any way, as I have always lived by the credo that I will make my own mind up about something and so should you. Plus, they say that critics are people that can't actually create themselves and that aint me.
Finally, this is my actual reading pile. All the books I have bought myself for the purpose of my enjoyment and as I am not tieing myself down to any kind of formulated structure, you may notice that I read whatever takes my fancy, rather than switching characters or publishers etc...


The Fantastic Four, along with the Incredible Hulk, was the book that got me into American Super Hero comics as a kid. I remember seeing the Thing on the cover of these comics and thinking to myself how cool this character looked. When I first started reading FF it was the late eighties and I picked up issues in the early #300's. The team at the time consisted of The Thing, the Human Torch, Crystal of the Inhumans and Ms Marvel, soon to become the She-Thing. I think it is because of this reason that I have a love hate relationship with this book. You see, I had never really been exposed to Reed and Sue and even though Sue Storm - The Invisible Woman seemed like a decent character with very cool powers, Mr. Fantastic was lame. I have never been a fan of Reed Richards and I doubt I ever will be, but never let it be said that I am not willing to give a book the benefit of the doubt, so with that in mind I have recently read a good chunk of FF books that reprint issues published 10 years before I began reading.

Fantastic Four Visionaries by Geroge Pérez volume 1 & 2 - (w) Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Roger Slifer, Mark Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio, Marv Wolfman, Peter Gillis, Doug Moench, Tony Matias & George Pérez (a) George Pérez & Tom Sutton

I went into the first volume thinking that the stories inside would be written by George Pérez, but in fact they are a showcase of his artwork. This is both a good and a bad thing. In one hand, you bear witness to a master craftsman, beautifully creating intricate scenes on the page for what can only be described as a visual tour de force. On the other hand, the issues that Pérez did not contribute on are missed out of these volumes and as a reader you find yourself with gaps in the story lines. We are talking about comics from 1977 though and as such, there is more emphasis on single issue story lines and anything missed that may have been relevant is recapped at the beginning of the following issue. It is still a little annoying though.
The stories themselves are swashbuckling tales of high concept sci fi fun. In volume 1, the FF face off against The Crusader, the Thing teams up with the Hulk to form a monster tag-team to take on the remaining members of the FF which concludes with Ben de-powered and returning to human form, we then see the introduction of The Thing suit of armour. An exoskeleton that gives Ben Grimm the visage and power of the ever lovin blue eyed Thing. The battle Luke Cage - Power Man, who is being controlled by the nefarious Puppet Master and get into zany fun when the Impossible Man pops up and invades the Marvel bullpen. The Frightful Four take up residence in the baxter building and with their ranks depleted to only three members, audition other villains (and heroes) to join their gang. Unknown to the rest of the FF, Reed Richards is replaced by an evil counter part from another dimension and finally the team travel to New Salem to rescue Agatha Harkness and Reed and Sue's son Franklin from Agatha's evil Warlock son; Nicholas Scratch.

That's a hell of a lot of story for just one 11 issue volume! Volume 2 is no different with the FF going toe to toe against Klaw, the Molecule Man and The Plunderer, before the team decides to break up and call it a day.

These books are fun and the best thing about them is the glorious art work from Pérez, a grand master of the comic book industry that proven his status time and again, but could these gems, crafted in 1977 be some of his best work ever? The only problems are the gaps in story lines, but it really isn't the end of the world.

The Overthrow of DOOM - (w) Len Wein, Roger Slifer, Keith Pollard, Marv Wolfman & Bill Mantlo (a) George Pérez & Keith Pollard

This book picks up where Pérez Visionaries vol 2 left off, with the FF broken up and gone on their separate ways. The first few issues are more solo adventures than a team book as Johnny tries his hand at becoming a race care driver, The Thing, a former test pilot, offers his services to NASA and Sue Richards heads to Hollywood to try her hand as a movie starlet. All end with disastrous circumstances as trouble seems to follow this heroic band of misfits wherever they go. And what about Reed? Well he has been kidnapped, brainwashed and turned into the super villain known as the Invincible Man, sent on a mission to capture the remaining members. Unbeknownst to him, Doctor Doom is in the background pulling the strings.You see, Doom is about to step down as ruler of Latveria and has hand picked his successor, a clone of himself and now with the Fantastic Four captures, he plans to syphon their super powers into Doom the Second. Things go wrong when Doom Junior defies his "Father" and Victor is forced to kill his creation, leading to an all out battle between Doctor Doom and Mr Fantastic.
This story arc is brilliant. Classic Dr Doom, being the despot that he is, trying to take over the world one piece at a time. Pérez continues to wow with his artwork, as does Keith Pollard who takes over the art duties. This is a very fun book that I would highly recommend, even without reading the previous two books, you can go straight into this.

In Search of Galactus - (w) Marv Wolfman (a) Sal Buscema, John Byrne & Keith Pollard

The Fantastic Four jet off into deep space after the Queen of the planet Xandar finds herself on Earth after being chased by an invading Skrull. The FF agree to accompany her and help in the Xandarians plight against the evil Skrull Empire. The danger lies within the Xandarian living computer, a database of brainwaves of every Xandarian that ever lived and a most frighteningly deadly weapon in the wrong hands. Joining them on their mission is the New Champions, a team led by Nova and comprising of Crime-Buster, Powerhouse, Diamond Head, the Comet, Dr Sun and The Sphinx. Only the Sphinx has a plan of his own and breaks into the Xandarian computer and steals the power for himself. Now, almost indestructable, The Sphinx heads back to Earth, hell bent on destruction and the only being in the universe powerful enough to be able to stop him is Galactus, the eater of worlds. Now the FF need to find Galactus and convince him to help them save Earth before it is too late.
Also guest staring Spider-Man and with an early appearance of Nova, this book is a cosmic saga of epic proportions that is another great Sci Fi romp for the Fantastic Four!

Fantastic Four Visionaries by John Byrne volume 0 - (w) Chris Claremont, Marv Wolfman, Bill Mantlo & John Byrne (a) John Byrne

A teaser volume for the classic run that is John Byrne on the Fantastic Four. A couple of issues of Marvel-Team Up, which see Spidey teaming up with the Human Torch and Ms Marvel to take on the Super Skrull, an issue of Marvel Two-In-One which sees the Thing travel back in time to find himself bitter after only just being transformed into a monster and then they clash in Thing vs. Thing action. The volume rounds off with six issues of the World's Greatest Comics Magazine in which the Fantastic Four do battle with The Frightful Four (with a little help from your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man), Blastaar, the Futurist and HERBIE the robot, who has been possesed by Dr Sun and is on a mission to destroy the FF.
This is a great, fast read, but it is the rest of the John Byrne run that I am really looking forward to sinking my teeth into.

So have these books changed my mind about Reed Richards? A little, yes. I still think he is a bit of a douche, but I seriously can't hate on these classic ctories from the late seventies/early eighties. These have all been really fun to read and I would most certainly recommend them.


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