By Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6294-0 (PB) : 978-0-7851-1694-3 (HB)
The monolith of Marvel truly began with the adventures of a small super-team who were as much squabbling family as coolly capable costumed champions. Everything the company produces now comes due to the quirky quartet and the groundbreaking, inspired efforts of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby…
This full-colour compendium – also available in hardcover, trade paperback and digital editions – collects Fantastic Four #72-81 plus the epic Fantastic Four Annual #6: spanning March – December 1968 with Stan & Jack outdoing themselves with every successive issue to cement their reputation as the greatest team in comics…
What You Should Already Know: maverick scientist Reed Richards, his fiancé Sue Storm, their close friend Ben Grimm – with Sue’s teenaged tag-along little brother – miraculously survived an ill-starred private space-shot after Cosmic rays penetrated their ship’s inadequate shielding and mutated them all.
Richards’ body became elastic, Sue gained the power to turn invisible and project forcefields, Johnny Storm could turn into living flame and tragic Ben devolved into a shambling, rocky freak. The they agreed to use their abilities to benefit mankind and thus was born The Fantastic Four.
Following another effusive Introduction from Lee the drama opens with the team in crisis. With a baby due Reed and Sue had resigned, leaving The Thing, Johnny and his Inhuman girlfriend Crystal to hold the fort just as cosmic calamity came calling.
In ‘Where Soars the Silver Surfer!’ the sky-born wanderer imprisoned on Earth by the world-devouring Galactus went cage-crazy and attacked humanity, forcing Reed’s return, after which FF #73 presented a classic crossover and the conclusion to a long-running Daredevil story wherein the sightless crusader is ousted from his own body by Iron Tyrant Doctor Doom.
Warning the FF of imminent attack, the Man without Fear then subsequently defeats Doom on his own but neglects to tell the heroes of his victory…
Outmatched and unable to convince them any other way, DD enlists currently de-powered Mighty Thor and the ever-eager Spider-Man in to solve the problem Marvel style – with a spectacular pointless and utterly riveting punch-up – in ‘The Flames of Battle…’…
The Surfer was back in #74 ‘When Calls Galactus’ as the planet-eater returns to Terran skies demanding that his one-time herald once more become his food-finding slave. However, despite his increasingly violent and world-shaking probing and the FF’s holding action against the ravenous invader’s robotic Punisher, Galactus cannot locate his target.
That’s because the Surfer has already – and utterly obliviously – departed for ‘World Within Worlds!’, forcing Reed, Ben and Johnny to follow to save humanity from cosmic consumption. When the pioneering micronauts are subsequently attacked by sadistic alien Psycho Man our heroes are ‘Stranded in Sub-Atomica!’
As they struggle to survive, Galactus applies ever-more pressure in ‘Shall Earth Endure?’ until the now-fully-apprised Surfer turns himself in to save Earth by finding the great Devourer an alternative snack.
His reward is to be summarily returned to his captivity here as soon as ungrateful Galactus finishes feeding (just in time to begin his own landmark series – but that’s the subject of another review, another time…)
Meanwhile, after trashing Psycho Man and getting home, Reed and the gang risk another attempt to cure Ben Grimm in FF #78. The procedure goes tragically awry in ‘The Thing No More!’, due to inopportune interference from old foe The Wizard before, in #79, the now human Ben chooses to return to his rocky state to save his friends from the bludgeoning Android Man and possibly remain ‘A Monster Forever?’.
A brief change of pace then takes the team to the Tribal Lands of old friend Wyatt Wingfoot to solve an eerie mystery and save the Indian oil fields from deadly subversion ‘Where Treads the Living Totem!’ before the sixth Annual features – at long last – the birth of Reed and Sue’s baby (known to us now as Franklin Richards).
Unfortunately, the happy event almost never happens since the transformative cosmic rays which gave the team their powers have affected the pregnancy…
Desperate for a miracle cure, Reed, Ben and Johnny scour the antimatter Negative Zone and are confronted by a monstrous creature named Annihilus whose power is the only thing that can prevent the death of Sue and her unborn child. ‘Let There Be… Life!’ is a groundbreaking 48-page epic that is as stunning to read now as it ever was, passionate, thrilling and mind-boggling in its visual intensity.
With Sue a new mother faithful Crystal then elects herself the first new official member of the Fantastic Four and promptly shows her mettle by pulverizing the incorrigible glutton-for-punishment Wizard in #81’s all-action romp ‘Enter… the Exquisite Elemental!’ to conclude this superb chronological catalogue of fabulously compelling Fights ‘n’ Tights tales.
Did I say concludes? Not quite as this book still finds room for a selection of astounding original art pencil pages of Kirby to further dazzle the senses.
Perfect comics, perfectly packaged. What are you waiting for?
© 1968, 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.