Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes - Posts Tagged "fantastic-four"

The Great Teams of Fiction: The Family Teams

Continuing on our previous posts about different types of teams, there's another important type of team to talk about and that's what I like to call the family type.

While the balanced team brings a great deal of diversity. However, diversity is not without its drawbacks. Oftentimes, very diverse areas enjoy a great deal of productivity but they also can hurt a sense of community and belonging according to one study.

There's a longing for community, for a sense that we belong and that brings us to a type of team that appeals to that level and that is the family team.

The team need not be perfectly balanced, but there's ultimately a sense of unity in common cause and genuine belonging. This was a big theme of television shows I watched when I was growing up. The best of them did it very well.

True family teams are somewhat limited in the Superhero world. Most superheroes' default status is to fight alone: one-on-one against the forces of evil.

There are, of course, Teams like the Avengers or The Justice League are ad-hoc coalitions that bring together some of these solo fighters. However, the comings and goings of these teams make things feel less like a team and more like an on-again and off-again coalition, particularly with them messing around with multiple Avenger and Justice League teams. While Super Friends may have been applicable to these heroes at one points, Super Acquaintances and Occasional Allies may be more appropriate.

The X-men have had many comings and goings and internal squabbles with a lot of Ex-X-men and some who come back after being Ex-X-Men and then are Ex-Ex-X-men and then there are those who leave again after coming back and they're known as Ex-Ex-Ex-X-men and then...

However, once again, The Fantastic Four . In
Who Needs a Superhero?: Finding Virtue, Vice, and Whats Holy in the Comics, Michael Brewer praises the Fantastic Four as an example of the type of family situation that Christians and the Church in particular should exemplify, even to the extent that they often welcome other heroes to their world and as partners.

Of course, the Fantastic Four has had riffs and members leaving and various squabbles over the past 50 years. But with the Fantastic Four, they always ultimately end up back together because that's where they belong. It's that family that ultimately draws them back and it's what keeps people interested them and in good teams that speak to our desire to be more than just a means to an end but also to find that place where we belong.
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Published on October 09, 2012 22:10 Tags: fantastic-four

The Rise and Fall of the Superhero Marriage, Part One: The Fantastic Marriages

The earliest superheroes were not married and for the most part, romance wasn't on their mind. Superman, Batman, and the like were more concerned with doing the hero thing. The same could be said of the Green Hornet, the Shadow, the Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, Nick Carter, and many characters from the same era.

They were single minded in their pursuits. In the case of superheroes such as Superman, it was a single minded pursuit of justice and crime-fighting that left little time for romance.

Some of this lack of interest in the opposite sex probably fueled some unjustified charges of homosexuality against some comic book characters.

However, romance of sorts came to comics. As Superman waged a never-ending battle against the forces of evil, Lois Lane waged a never-ending battle to get Superman to marry her. This happened in the comics and on TV but all turned out to be a dream. Those annoying wake up calls didn't stop Lois. She even got her own comicbook in 1958 that pursued that goal.

It was mostly playful stuff right of a sitcom with Lois Lane much like Sisyphus constantly rolling a stone uphill only to have it roll back down saw her schemes go awry.

The Fantastic Marriage

In 1960s, the Superhero world changed for with the introduction of the Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four were first and foremost a family team from the beginning. They had amazing superpowers but they were real people as well. Like any family, they fought and had personality conflicts but beneath it all, they cared for each other. The team was made of Reed Richards, his girlfriend Sue Storm and her brother Johnny, as well as ex-football star and pilot Ben Grimm. They are hit with Cosmic rays and become (respectively): Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl (later Invisible Woman), The Human Torch,and the Thing.

While Sue's affections wavered during the course of their adventures with her crushing on Sub-mariner and Ant Man, she did end up marrying Reed in Fantastic Four Annual #3.

Lee had really captured the need for human companionship and marriage even among superheroes and he used it a lot in his work. It also occurred in the FF as Ben Grimm's rock hard personality is softened by the loving blind woman Alicia Masters. Not every romance story worked as well.

Other Superhero nuptials occurred in the 1960s including the Flash to Iris West in 1968, and another two superhero wedding between Marvel characters Yellow Jacket (aka Hank Pym) and the Wasp (1969).

However, as Stan Lee took a break from the torrid pace of writing, one character who had been on the road to matrimony was thrown off of it. Marvel killed off Spider-man's love interest Gwen Stacy because they didn't know what to do with the relationship other than marriage, which they weren't ready to pursue.

Other marriages weren't made to last as Superhero divorces started to occur. Hank Pym struck his wife in anger culminating a series of events that had him drummed out of the Avengers and leading to his divorce from the Wasp.

Other marriages broke up, but just as in the real world, marriages continued to happen. After years of heartache, heartbreak and frustration, Spider-man proposed to Mary Jane Watson leading to the marriage in Spider-man Annual #21, a marriage that fans would come to love and one editor at Marvel would come to hate. (More on that in the next post.)

Finally, Superman himself got married. There had been Superman marriages before but in the twisted continuities of multiple alternate Earths and various characters on Earth One and Earth Two in the pre-Crisis DC Universe, it really is hard to track who was married to who.

The series tracked with Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman which was built on the growing relationship between the two characters. In the TV series, Clark was portrayed as a virgin who saved himself for marriage. While a lot of crazy stuff went wrong in the TV show, one has to admire their dogged determination to get married despite clones, witches, and all these sorts of obstacles.

There are three big superheroes that have the highest name recognition: Superman, Batman, and Spider-man. By the mid-1990s, whatever craziness happened in the rest of the Superhero world, two were quite happily married in the comic books. However, that wouldn't last for long.

To be Continued....
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Published on November 12, 2012 08:59 Tags: aquaman, fantastic-four, marriage, spider-man, superhero, superman

Review: The Essential Fantastic Four, Volume 1

Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 1 Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 1 by Stan Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This volume of the Fantastic Four is a must-read not only for fans of classic superheroes but for fans of classic science fiction. There's so much to love about this book and these characters as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. This collection includes the first twenty monthly issues of Fantastic Four as well as Annual #1 and spans from November 1961 into 1963.

There's so much to love about this collection and these characters. Lets go ahead and break it down.

Concept: The Fantastic Four are often easily lumped in with Marvel's superheroes. This is somewhat apt because: a) they inhabit the same world and b).they've shared adventures with them. However, they're different.

The Fantastic Four are far more adventurers, explorers and guardians rather than crime fighters. They don't go out on patrol. If they stop a common bank robber, it's just because they're good guys and happen to be in the neighborhood, not because because that's their deal.

Their world is space travel, the microverse, alternate dimensions, and all that stuff that makes Sci Fi geeks giddy. You love Star Trek and Lost in Space, then the Fantastic Four are your people.

The Heroes: In a superhero world full of loners and alliances of conveniences, what Lee and Kirby managed to create in this pre-X-men, pre-Avengers world is a true family of heroes. Lee said that the Fantastic Four came out of a conversation with someone at DC on the golf course talking about the success of the Justice League. I've read a few early Justice League stories and (with all due respect), Lee and Kirby easily cleared that bar.

The characters are interesting as individuals. My favorite was Ben Grimm (the Thing.) While everyone else was quite happy with their new powers, he'd been left looking like a big brick monster even though he was the strongest person mortal in the Marvel Universe outside of the Hulk. He was understandably bitter and angry. At a couple points, he turned on his team mates. However, in a believable character arch, the Thing became more good natured and had a marked improvement with the introduction of girlfriend Alicia Masters in what remains one of the sweetest love stories in comics.

Mr. Fantastic is the responsible one and the one with the powers that allow the most creative uses and Jack Kirby's art work puts good use to that. Johnny Storm is the typical teenager and his clashes with the Thing (both light and serious) have been a hallmark of the series.

The one character that really did have some problems was Sue Storm. In early issues, she seemed to be in constant need of rescuing. In one issue with the Hulk, Reed Richards even suggested that her primary contribution was aesthetic.

This led to fan complaints and suggestions she wasn't contributing to the Fantastic Four and suggestion that she be thrown out. Lee and Kirby addressed this in typical fashion doing a letters column where the Fantastic Four responded to fan letters, including complaints about Sue in an actual comic book form. The criticism was portrayed as really hurting her feelings and her teammates stuck for her.

As much as superhero teammate support surely helped., Lee and Kirby worked to make the character tougher. In one issue, she delivers a key knockout blow to Dr. Doom where the others had failed. While other enhancements that would make it clear that Sue was an equal part of the team such as giving her a forecefield that could protect others in battle, Lee and Kriby actually made some nice moves.

There is some romantic tension in the story as well because while she was engaged to Reed prior to the accident, she is smitten by the Fantastic Four antagonist Sub-mariner and guest hero Ant Man. For those who grew up watching a married Sue and Reed, the marriage won't be until Fantastic Four Annual #3 which is in the third Essentials volume.

What's remarkable is that this group slowly gels and becomes a real family that works well together despite differences and cares about each other.

The Antagonists: The Antagonists were also fantastic. Lee and Kirby were smart. They knew when they found a good solid antagonist. Dr. Doom and Sub-mariner both worked and about half of the issues feature them. Two adventures each feature the Puppet Master and the Skrull race. The rest are classic sci-fi villains.

This book introduces Dr. Doom who is practically Marvel's universal super villain. While the Fantastic Four are his main rivals, he's also fought Spider-man, the X-men, and even the Hulk. He's the type of perfectly cast powerful and intelligent villain every hero needs.

The Sub-mariner works well here as a bit of an anti-hero. The undersea prince of the deep who first appeared in comics the month before Batman appeared in detective comics was re-introduced early on and makes war on the surface dwellers who he blames for the disappearance of his Atlantean kingdom. This makes the character compelling because he's not entirely evil. He has noble instincts, a code of honor, and even falls in love with Sue Storm and even makes a great sacrifice for her.

Artwork: Simply put, the artwork here was superb. I actually prefer these black and white additions, particularly when Kirby's doing the pencils. My favorite story in here is the Annual which includes an epic 40 page battle between the FF and Sub-mariner. It's simply wonderful and Kirby's artwork made it so.

Flaws: There are few flaws in the book other than the Sue problem. The epic annual included the first meeting between Spider-man and the Fantastic Four and Spidey acted poorly. Also in the same annual, Reed says the same line three times about Sub-mariner loving Sue as much as the Four do in his own way.

But that's a nitpicky point for a book that launched the Marvel Age of Comics reflects the best of early science fiction. This one is simply must-read.

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Published on November 30, 2012 20:45 Tags: fantastic-four

Book Review: Fantastic Four/Spider-Man Classic

Fantastic Four/Spider-Man Classic Fantastic Four/Spider-Man Classic by Stan Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Fantastic Four and Spider-man: They were the two most popular comics in the Marvel Age of the 1960s. This book collects stories of Spider-man and the Fantastic Four together in stories from the 1960s, 80s, and 90s (well sort of.) The trade paperback draws from Amazing Spider-man #1, Spectacular Spider-man #42, Fantastic Four #218, Marvel Team Up #100, #132, and #133, and the 1996 Untold Tales of Spider-man Annual.

Amazing Spider-man #1 includes the Fantastic Four and Spider-man's first meeting as Spidey attempts to join the Fantastic Four to support his family and decides to give himself a tryout. It's a classic and puts the relationship between the two Marvel icons to a rocky start. Still, it's a classic must-read. Though the version that appeared in Fantastic Four Annual #1 may have been a better choice as it had an expanded battle scene without the extraneous story of Spider-man chasing down the Chameleon. Grade: B+

Spectacular Spider-man #42/Fantastic Four #218 is a 1980 story that shows the Frightful Four trying to destroy Spider-man and the FF in one fell swoop. Again, that's the type of epic battle you're looking for. Grade: A

Marvel Team Up #100 features Spider-man and the Fantastic Four is written by Chris Claremont of X-Men fame wrote this issue from December 1980 which features the FF and Spidey facing dangerous mutants who can take control of Spidey and members of the Fantastic Five. Superb writing on this one. Grade: A+

Marvel Team up #132 and #133 is a 1983 two part story that has Mr. Fantastic and Spidey having to battle the almost undefeatable Everyman, the son of a friend of Reed's and then Reed moves on to face Dr. Faustus, the master of the mind in Issue #133 in a story that has a lot of twists and turns. Big downside is Reed and Spidey's constant emphasis on the rightness of Everyman's general point, but otherwise a strong story. Grade: A-

Untold Tales of Spider-man Annual: The Spidey-Torch relationship has been one of the most interesting non-romantic stories in Marveldom. This tale takes place in the 1960s before Reed and Sue had tied the knot. Torch intentionally steals the spotlight from Spider-man on patrol. Spider-man decides to try and get under Torch's skin by inviting Sue on a date. However, when the neglected Sue accepts, the hot headed torch heads to Atlantis and gets Namor to go after Spider-man by telling him Spidey actually kidnapped Sue. A lighter story with a great payoff. Grade: A

Overall, these are some great stories. We could have used at least one story where the Thing figured prominently. And it has to be said that at $17, it was originally over-priced for a 152-page paperback book. However, if you can pick it up cheap on Amazon, this actually a great read.

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Published on November 26, 2013 18:20 Tags: fantastic-four, spider-man

Book Review: Essential Fantastic Four, Volume 2

Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 2 Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 2 by Stan Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After a Fantastic run that was chronicled in Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 1, this book begins off strong with Issue 21 featuring the first appearance of Nick Fury after World War II. Up to this time, he'd only been seen fighting with his Howling Commandos as they battle the Hate Monger turning the FF against each other.

Issues 22 and 23 were pretty weak despite featuring Mole Man and Dr. Doom and Issue 24 was silly with an alien infant wreaking havoc.

Issue 25 features a great Thing v. Hulk battle, but is continued in a less than stellar entry which featured the Avengers. The two groups of heroes incessantly got in each other's way in a not so satisfying comic book.

Issue 27 featured the return of the Sub-mariner and guest starred Doctor Strange as he once again attempts to woo Sue Storm via kidnapping. The Strange cameo works quite well.

Then Issue 29 features the Fantastic Four's return to Yancy Street and facing off against the Red Ghost in a surprise return appearance. Things really pick up with Issue 30 when Diablo is introduced and takes control of thing.

Dr. Doom returns and triumphs (or so he thinks) in Fantastic Four Annual #2 which also includes a solid 12-page origin story for the bad doctor.

Issue 31 features a much better Mole Man story and also an injury to Sue that brings a surprise visitor. Issue 32 features Sue and Johnny's father acting strangely and escaping from prison to emerge with all the FF's powers. What's really going on?

Issue 33 features the Fantastic Four fighting on the side of the Sub-mariner in a well-done story set in Atlantis. Issue 34 is another Fantastic Four turns against each other battle, but Lee and Kirby put a little different spin on the reason.

Issue 35 tells the most "okay" story in this book with Diablo's return and Reed Richards finally popping the question. Then in Issue 36, we're introduced to the Frightful Four, a great villain team to battle the FF. In Issue 37, after having fought the Skrull numerous times, the FF take the fight to the Skrull themselves to settle a score. Issue 38 features the FF's defeat at the hands of the Frightful Four, costing them their powers and setting up a two part battle with Doctor Doom with an assist from guest star Daredevil in Issues 39 and 40.

My first edition copy also contained a Spidey-Human Torch meet up in Strange Tales Annual #2 which features Spidey needing the Torch's help to clear the name while the Torch is determined to bring Spidey to justice because he envies Spider-man's media coverage.

Volume 1 was easily an overall 5.0 rating. This book is a little bit more of a mixed bag. If you can get by with weak stories in FF #22-24, and 26 and the more okay stories like X-men crossover in #28, this is a great book that I'd give a 4.5 rating to. These are some great adventures and in addition to featuring the Richards-Storm engagement, we also see Susan develop her invisible forcefield power which makes her perhaps the FF's most powerful member after struggling with reader acceptance in the past.

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Published on December 02, 2013 17:56 Tags: fantastic-four

Book Review: Essential Fantastic Four, Volume 3

Essential Fantastic Four vol.3 Essential Fantastic Four vol.3 by Stan Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has so many awesome things it. The best things in this book are better than Five Stars on any scale. At any rate, let's get to the nitty gritty:

Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 2 had ended with Ben Grimm forced to become the Thing to save the Fantastic Four from Dr. Doom and Ben announced he was leaving again.

The story picks up here with Ben making good on it. Ben is quickly captured by the Frightful Four who brainwash him into turning against his former teammates. This is a great storyline with some pretty good twists that lasts from Issue 41-43.

After that, we have the wedding issue. To be clear, the wedding was not as earth-shattering as some Marvelites indicate given that Aquaman had tied the knot the previous year but this wedding was particularly noteworthy as Dr. Doom used mind control to create an epic attack by nearly every villain in the Marvel Universe to ruin the wedding and the heroes all joined in the attack. Something for the guys here as Thor, Spidey, Iron Man, and everyone dukes it out. Once every settles down, two gatecrashers named Kirby and Lee are turned away by Nick Fury. Classic.

After the wedding, our focus turns to the Inhumans, a superpowered family that thinks of itself as a separate species with characters like Medusa (who is no longer a Frightful Four member), Gorgan, Triton, Lockjaw, and the strong silent type himself, Black Bolt from Issue 44-47.

Then Issue 48-50 feature one of the most important Marvel storylines: the first coming of Galactus, the devourer of worlds. He wants to dine on the Earth. Yet Ben's girl Alicia gets the Silver Surfer to feel compassion for humanity even if it means defying Galactus, who is the most powerful foe the FF have ever faced. The Watcher, a Marvel character who is pledged to observe without interfering breaks the pledge to try and stop and Galactus.

The Lee/Kirby duo had been running on brilliant since at least Issue 29 after a slump between #22 and #28. This featured another one. In some ways, it began in issue 50 where they announced that Johnny would be going to college away from the other three. They introduced Wyatt Wingfoot in Issue #50 as one of Johnny's college classmates. I think they were trying to push the racial diversity envelope but Wyatt was a really boring character.

The Inhumans had become trapped in their own refuge and even though they didn't impact the main plot, beginning in Issue 51, Lee and Kirby took time to explain what was happening with the Inhuman even if they were still just trapped and nothing at all.

I'd assign a mini-slump to Kirby and Lee from #51-#54 and it's a small one. Issue #51 actually had a pretty big emotional payoff as a mad scientist found away to become the Thing while returning Ben Grimm to normal. His plan was to use the power to defeat Reed Richards, but he learns a lot about Reed and about himself. And Ben gets a moment of clarity regarding the love the others feel for him.

Issue #52 and #53 introduce the Black Panther, so again they're not really bad. But this version of the Panther is a little more cheesy and less well-developed than I've come to expect. Just a rich African guy with a ton of money based on vibranium. And then there was Wyatt Wingfoot sucking up oxygen in the story.

Issue #54 is the worst issue in the whole book. Johnny's "love" for Crystal of the Inhumans was the result of a chance meeting that ends in "being in love." The type of thing you see in a Broadway show. Johnny and Wyatt set out to travel the world to find a way into the refuge of the Inhumans with Johnny nearly destroying the world before Wyatt Wingfoot can blandly save the day.

Issue #55 shows a turning point. It's not a great moment for Ben Grimm when he gets so stupidly jealous that he attacks the Silver Surfer but it makes for a great fight.

Then in Issue #56, they get a rematch with Klaw, the Master of Sound and I think the second battle was better than the first one that occurred three issues previous.

Annual #4 is dominated Johnny Storm battling the original Human Torch and is solid

Issues #57-#60 are epic as Dr. Doom deceives Silver Surfer and steals his comic power and uses it against the Fantastic Four. Really, it doesn't get any better than this. Courageous action by every male member of the FF makes for an awesome battle with Torch taking his power to new levels.

Issue #61 sees the return of the Sandman, this time in a suit that looks like it was designed by the Wizard. Really don't like this look on the Sandman who should be a more blue collar villain. Other than that, the story's good. Richards can only defeat the new and improved sandman by putting him into the negative zone, and Reed falls through himself.

Issues #62 and #63 focus on efforts to get Reed out and then to defeat Blastar, the deadly villain who gets out along with Reed. Here the Inhumans at least begin to justify all of the digressions that have occurred in this volume on their behalf.

Additional thoughts:

Positives: Beyond the normal story synopsis, I have to say this book includes a lot of great Kirby artwork including some fine full page drawings particularly in the Galactus and negative zone stories. The book is also amazing in the concepts it introduced that would be so crucial to Marveldom to this very day.

Negatives: The biggest negative in the book is the treatment of Sue Richards. In the stories in #21-#40, Lee and Kirby really worked to solidify the idea that Sue belonged in the team. In these issues, she's relegated to hostage and bit player. In addition, in some of the issues right around the time of the wedding, Reed is almost contemptuous of her calling her, "Woman!" Sue deserved better.

Still, as bad a negative as it is, with all of the surpassing trailblazing positives of this book, it's still a five star collection.

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Published on December 03, 2013 20:12 Tags: fantastic-four

Book Review: What If? Classic Volume 1

What If? Classic, Vol. 1 What If? Classic, Vol. 1 by Roy Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Gold and Silver Ages, DC had imaginary stories. One off adventures that if ever seriously treated as real would fundamentally shake up the DC universe.

Instead imaginary stories had no impact. In his introduction, Author Roy Thomas wants to be clear that What If was no imaginary story.

The premise of What If is that the events DID happen, however they occurred in an alternate universe. The Watcher serves as our guide. As I read the comic, I imagined him as almost a TV host introducing the stories. The concept of the series was solid. And this no doubt played into DC's creation of similarly themed "elseworlds."

The execution could be a little inconsistent. Lets break down the six stories contained herein:

1) What if Spider-man joined the Fantastic Four? In Amazing Spider-man #1, Peter Parker was desperate for money to help his Aunt May. He decided to put on an exhibition against the Fantastic Four to earn a position on the team and some money. Spidey proves his mettle by the FF isn't interested, so Spidey swings away. In What if #1, we see that and then we see what would have happened if he had joined and how it would have altered the lives of both teams. It was okay but spent too much time explaining how individual issues and criminals would have gone differently rather than telling a greater macro story. Rating: B-

2) What if Hulk always had Bruce Banner's brain?: Another solid concept answered fairly well. It did tell a very story of Bruce Banner,the Hulk, his enemies, and his allies. The nice thing is that they acknowledged that the lack of the Savage Hulk could have a negative impact on history. An interesting story, though perhaps a little fatalistic at the end. Grade: B

3) What if the Avengers had never been? In mainstream continuity, Earth's mightiest heroes went after a combination of the Hulk and Namor in Avengers #3 as they'd been chasing the Hulk after he'd quit as an avenger in the second issue. In this story, Thor as well as Giant Man and Wasp quit. Iron Man however carries on and tries to counter the great threat represented by the two superhumans. Rarely has Iron Man ever been so heroic than in an alternate universe that brought him to an ultimate test. A very powerful story Grade: A-

4) What if the Invaders Had Stayed Together After World War II?: Roy Thomas said this could be considered more a "Why not?" story as it's possible that the Invaders did stay together and that there was a replacement Captain America in Marvel's now hopelessly confused Captain America timeframe. Good solid story. Grade: B+

5) What if Captain America and Bucky had both survived World War II?: In mainstream continuity, Bucky died at the end of the War and Cap was frozen to be thawed out by the Avengers. In this story, we see both Captain America and Bucky live through the war like normal. The only thing that remains somewhat unclear in the story is why Nick Fury ends up dying in Korea in this story and never becomes director of S.H.I.E.L.D. which is a key plot point. However, that little problem aside, this is a great story about patriotism, love, and brotherhood between Captain American and Bucky. Grade: A

6) What if the Fantastic Four had different Superpowers?: A look at how the Comic rays might have reacted differently. An okay story and nice to see Ben Grimm getting some powers he would enjoy as Dragon Fly. Grade: B

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Published on January 10, 2014 16:17 Tags: avengers, fantastic-four, marvel, spider-man, what-if

Book Review: Essential Fantastic Four Volume 4

Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 4 Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 4 by Stan Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This volume collects Issues 64-83, and Annuals #5 and #6 of Marvel's first family. The book has some good issues, some odd ones, but overall comes out ahead.

Issues 64 and 65 classically introduce to the Kree Empire, first through a Sentry robot and then through Ronan the Accuser, a key moment in Marvel history.

Issue 66 and 67 are a somewhat so-so story about under earth people kidnapping Alicia for nefarious purposes. Not a great story.

Fantastic Four Annual #5 is a great annual. It's a 30 page story with the FF, the Inhumans, and Black Panther teaming up to find Pyschoman and some other villains plus a special announcement that Sue and Reed are expecting. It also includes a 12-page solo story for the Silver Surfer as he matches up with the vilainous Quasimodo.

Issues 68-71 are classic. While there have been other "Ben Grimm" turns evil stories, this was perhaps the most epic with a lot of twists and emotional tension.

After Issue 71, Reed and Sue decide to cut out on the FF but that's cut short when the Watcher has to summon them as the Silver Surfer has decided to start blowing things up to start world peace and the FF has stop in Issue 72.

Issue 73 is fun but somewhat gratuitous. Doctor has tricked the FF into fighting Daredevil and Spidey comes in along with Thor to even the odds. So it's a nice exhibition that's actually pretty pointless.

Issues 74-77 has Galactus returning to Earth to get the Silver to help him find a planet to eat and if he can't be found, Galactus will break his word and eat Earth. This forces the FF to go into a microscopic world to find the Surfer. It's a fun plot though to long-term Marveldom, it remains pretty inconsequential at the end.

Issues 78 and 79 are probably the definitive Grimm becomes human again stories. Ben regains his human form but has to make a tough decision when lives are on the line in Issue 79.

Issue 80 is a somewhat blah issue with the return of Wyatt Wingfoot as the FF deal with criminal trying to take advantage of Native American superstition. Haven't seen THAT story a thousand times.

This leads into the absolutely phenomenal Fantastic Four Annual #6 in which Reed levels with Ben and Johnny. Both Sue and the Baby are in danger because of the cosmic rays and the only to be found is in the negative zone and a battle with Annihlus. The nearly fifty page story is really an epic with emotion, awesome action, some fantastic splash pages, and one of Lee's greatest stories as we truly expand the Richards family.

To round out the book, Issue 81 has Crystal proving her worth to be on the FF and then heading back to her family to get them to sign off, only to find out Maximums has taken over the Inhumans. My big complaint with this one is that the FF had little to do with the efforts to remove Maximus as they were imprisoned for most of Issue 83.

Overall though this collection is just as good as the first three. It had fewer of the epic stories like Doctor Doom taking over the Silver Surfer's power and there were a few stories that were lame.

However, the story of the pregnancy of Sue Richards really trumps that. The "family" part of Marvel's First Family really stands out. Reed who, after getting married, seemed like a jerk to sue is much better as a father-to-be, dedicated to the survival and safety of wife and son.

And there's this great sense of love and loyalty as Reed and Johnny go into the breach, risking their lives in the Negative Zone. And Ben's decision to remain the thing is moving.

Speaking of moving, Jack Kirby has some great art here. The full spread picture of Sue and Reed is perhaps the most emotional, but some of them are also beautiful action spots like Reed, Johnny, and Ben travelling through the Negative Zone and several thrilling battle shots.

The collection isn't without its flaws. In addition to the weak issues I've already mentioned, I still don't have a sense of Crystal as a character and her powers are used so infrequently, it's hard to even remember what exactly they are.

Still, for its portrayal of the original FF and their strong family ties, this book is a must read.

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Published on March 19, 2014 18:24 Tags: fantastic-four

Comic Reviews: Fantastic Four, What The, Doc Savage, Mr. T, Peter Cannon, Star Trek

Fantastic Four: Volume 1, Issue 87:

Issue 87 brings to an end the four part storyline featuring Doctor Doom capturing the Fantastic Four. While the story isn't without its charms and good moments, it highlighted the big problems with the story arch.

It was padded and it gave a truly anti-climatic end to the arch facilitated by an all too convenient Nazi. The book featured some nice art by Jack Kirby but a few full dubious full page spreads including one of Doctor Doom at a dinner table with detailed drawings of what's on the table.

Clearly the great Kirby/Lee run appears to be past its peak. Whether it recovers in the next 15 issues that Kirby drew for it, or the next 28 issue that Lee wrote remains to be seen for me anyway.

Rating: 1.50 out of 5.0

What-The? #3:

This issue of What The? skewers the world of comics in the late 1980s and early 1990s with great humor and without being cynical. It pokes fun at the classic Kraven's Last Hunt, the X-men, and more. The one part parodying DC and Batman was hilarious and I loved the one page story where a poor comic book reader goes into buy a copy of the Avengers and gets horribly confused because there are too many titles and then asks for a copy of the X-men. Poor guy.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.0

Doc Savage #1:

This book isn't horrible, but it just really isn't Doc Savage. Having experienced Savage through the 1970s Marvel comics, an '80s radio series, and a couple novels, I have to say that the comic book's portrayal of Doc is really weak. Doc Savage is the type of big hulking guy who stands out nearly anywhere with his bronze skin and golden eyes that make him look almost alien. In this book, Doc Savage is just a white guy in a suit.

All of Doc's assistants are there also decked like Ham Brooks (the team dandy) was in charge of dressing them, though maybe it was just the Brooks Brothers.

The Adventure isn't bad, but it doesn't seem to fit or even lay the groundwork for the type of epic adventures that Doc Savage was legendary for.. Apparently for 1933, they couldn't think of anything better.

The cover by Alex Ross was the best part of this book. Here's hoping future stories are better.

Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0

Mr. T and the T Force #3:

An okay issue of Mr. T and the T force with quite a bit less action. It also dealt with the issue of car jacking which was a little bit less emotional than the previous issue's topic. The last page of the book is the most interesting of the book and it gives a hint that we'll have a more action packed story in Issue 4.

Still Mr. T continues to be a very strong likable character with heart and that makes the book worth a read. Also fun fact from the letter's page: Mr. T actually read every line of dialogue in the book to make sure it sounded genuine to him.

Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0

Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1:

This is a strong premier issue for Dynamite take on Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, an old Charlton comic character. The book could end up being a series I love but also could go the heavy handed route. The story establishes much of Cannon's backstory: how he saved the Earth from a dangerous monster and how he revealed his secret identity against all his better judgment to save others who were being harassed as potentially being Thunderbolt. This has brought unsought celebrity which has made him powerful enemies, plus he's keeping a secret. All great stuff to establish in your first issue.

What makes the book worth viewing is the artwork. This first issue features eight different covers, all of them pretty eyecatching and appeal plus the interior art is great. In addition, readers get to experience a lost Peter Cannon story. While working at DC, Mark Waid had gotten the right to do a Peter Cannon story for Secret Origins but the title was cancelled before it could run, and this book features the first publication. It's a very solid origin story that's published for the first time here.

This issue is dynamite. While there are some hints that the book might not keep up its high standards in future issues, the first issue is good and makes you want to read more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Star Trek (1967 series) #34:

The Enterprise Crew on an away team meet a group of powerful crystal based aliens who have amazing powers and think they don't need science, only poetry and arts. They determine the Enterprise Crew must die. Overall, this not a whole lot outstanding about this story good or bad. It just is. Unlike early issues, they have the character drawings right but I can't say much more for this story.

Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0
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Published on May 26, 2014 12:55 Tags: doc-savage, fantastic-four, mr-t, peter-cannon, star-trek

Comic Reviews: Silver Age Fantastic Four, World's Finest, Superman, Batman Beyond, Superman Beyond, Doc Savage

Fantastic Four, Volume 1, #88:

With the five members of the Fantastic Four back together (the original plus Crystal who was replacing the Invisible Woman at this point), the FF move from taking on Doctor Doom to a truly daunting task: house hunting. They've concluded that the Baxter Building isn't the safest place to raise a new baby and have decided they need something that'll not be such a target for their enemies and head out to look out at a mysterious property that meets their specifications. However, everyone begins to get a strong foreboding about the new property and Lee and Kirby build up a lot of suspense and tension before telling us why in a very solid first part of this story.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.0

World's Finest #6

With the five members of the Fantastic Four back together (the original plus Crystal who was replacing the Invisible Woman at this point), the FF move from taking on Doctor Doom to a truly daunting task: house hunting. They've concluded that the Baxter Building isn't the safest place to raise a new baby and have decided they need something that'll not be such a target for their enemies and head out to look out at a mysterious property that meets their specifications. However, everyone begins to get a strong foreboding about the new property and Lee and Kirby build up a lot of suspense and tension before telling us why in a very solid first part of this story.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5.0

Superman Adventures #45

This was the first of the four post-Mark Millar issues of Superman Adventures that I actually enjoyed. The plot centers around three precocious girls who have left the suburbs to go to Metropolis and find a husband for their mom and the focus centers on Clark Kent and then later Lex Luthor. What becomes clear from the girls' conversation is that they also want a dad in their lives. On the surface, some of their hopes are selfish, but Grubb clearly brings out some deeper needs. An emotional fun story that's more about the girls and the Superman cast, but Superman is able to do some pretty awesome things in the end.

This wasn't a perfect comic with a little stereotypical dialogue. And maybe we could have used a little more of Superman, But overall this is an enjoyable and heart warming read.

Rating: 3.75 ouf of 5.00

Batman Beyond #23 (2012-13);

After Issue 22, I thought I knew where the story was going, but kudos to Adam Beechen on adding some interesting twists as we learned that the technology used by the rebel was from old superhero/supervillain hideouts and we're left wondering where this came from as the issue ends.

The downside is that an entirely unnecessary scene is included in which Dick Grayson wakes up in a bed with a woman he's not married to and has a conversation. Not only was this unnecessary but this comic rated for nine year old kids. Also too much credence is given to the hopelessness of the Rebel.

Still some great action and a good mystery still make this a fun read

Rating: 3.75 ouf of 5.0

Heroes Against Hunger (1986 Live Aid One Shot);

Really could have been heroes and villain against Hunger as this book is a three way team up between Batman, Superman, and Lex Luthor. The book has a big problem: It's message (as delivered by a very annoying character) is that this isn't the type of problem that can be solved by comic book heroes but then most of the story is spent involving a fight against the typical comic book villain, the Master (not to be confused with the Doctor Who villain of the same name) who feeds on entropy.

The more interesting part is the reaction of Luthor, who in his pre-Crisis incarnation had a soft spot. Despite being an evil supervillain, he was moved to tears by the whole situation just as Doctor Doom would be in the Spider-man issue after 9/11. It's not a bad read and certainly was well-intentioned.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5.0

Doc Savage #3

he art on this book is amazing right from the beautiful cover to the Interior art work. The story was horrible and part of me wanted to give this issue 1 star but the art was too good for that.

The book begins in 1961 as Doc announces he's found the Panacea, medicine that would allow everyone to live forever. However, a madman is determined to stop him because he's evil and he runs a pharmaceutical company.

This issue is the point at which I really begin to wonder if the author gets Doc Savage. Doc is the swashbuckling man of bronze with stories that are full of action, adventure, and intrigue. What Roberson gives us is a story that has an almost impossible scientific discovery that's in jeopardy because (apparently) Doc failed to write it down and this story ends on a very down note for Doc Savage.

The art through flashbacks captures some scenes of Doc on an adventure and that's what belongs in a Doc Savage comic book. What Roberson seems to be doing is a Doc Savage version of John Byrne's Superman-Batman Generations, only with Doc Savage (with each issue jumping forward about fifteen years). While I didn't like Generations, it had more point than this joyless book does.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.0

Superman Beyond #20:

I'm left with real mixed feelings because this isn't a bad book, but it's kind of mediocre end to the series. There's a good ticking time bomb that's resolved but the key to giving us a feeling of a positive ending is having Superman deliver a cliche-ridden speech. I mean if you're going to give a speech, make it a good one.

This book signaled the end of Superman Beyond and that was a shame. Superman is a great character and this book highlighted his timeless character and the type of person he is, even if not all the concepts were explored fully.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5.0
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Published on June 16, 2014 17:21 Tags: batman-beyond, doc-savage, fantastic-four, superman-beyond

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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