Review: Essential FF Vol. 4 by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 4Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 4 by Stan Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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OK so that was a gigantic collection, spanning about 2 years of FF (67-68 I think). There’s good, there’s bad, there’s ugly.

Good: It’s fun to see Lee/Kirby original work.
Bad: Stan Lee has a great imagination, but his writing of characters was pretty stale and repetitive.
Ugly: The sexism runs rampant too often in this book, and Reed’s middle name should be changed to misogynist probable wife-beater.

I’m the first person who knows you can look at history with today’s standards, but in this case, it’s the late 60s, not 1953 or anything. Women’s rights were happening, music, love, revolution, counter-culture, and Reed Richards seems to be written as the old fuddy duddy who knows best for everyone, including keeping his wife in check. There’s insults, threats of violence, and condescending remarks all the time. I’m going to hope that it’s just the character of Reed Richards who’s supposed to be a Hank Pym-level asshole here…otherwise I think it makes you wonder about ole’ Stan the Man…

Fun things: Black Panther’s first meeting of Black Bolt (all 3 Illuminati together for the first time) and the rest of the Inhumans.
Spider-Man, Daredevil and Thor throwdown against the Y-chromosome FFers.
We see classic villains, like Galactus, the Mad Thinker, Wizard, Annihilus, and for the first time, Psycho-Man.
We get to visit the microverse for the first time.
We see Silver Surfer save Earth, after warnings from Uatu the Watcher.
We see the original Punisher (a robotic herald of Galactus, after Surfer was freed).
We see Maximus the Mad take over Black Bolt’s Inhuman kingdom.
We also see, Sue gets preggo! And the birth of the as-yet-unnamed boy.
We see Reed finally cure Ben, only for Grimmy to have to chose between life forever without powers or forever as the Thing…

Thing is bi-polar; he either talks about Clobberin’ Time or he’s mopey about how Alicia Masters won’t love him if she could see who he is…like Umm…dude? She’s blind, she’s felt the face…she knows.

Johnny likes cars, and making out with Crystal of the Inhumans.
Sue spends the majority of the book on bed rest, and Crystal sits with her and holds her hand…
Only near the end does the sensible thing happen, Crystal joins the FF in Sue’s place after the baby is born.

So that’s it in a nutshell…the stories themselves can be fun, but the dialogue is terrible. Concepts on a cosmic scale, no problem, but basic human interactions? Don’t think Stan figured out those yet…
However, we get Jack Kirby’s fantastic (pun intended!) artwork. Seeing the classics all by his hand is kinda very fun.

Sadly, it’s in black and white and on newsprint, so you lose out on a lot of the real fun.

I’d give this 4 stars for retro fun, icons of the business, and big events in FF history…I’d take away at least 1 star for the borderline misogynistic abuse that Reed throws at Sue (funny part being, Johnny isn’t that way towards Crystal, and Ben sure isn’t that way towards Alicia, so I suppose that would give more credibility to the theory that Stan wrote Reed as a gigantic douche-hole on purpose, and that he himself isn’t a terrible woman-hater).

It did drag a bit at times, and I did skim some stuff, like dialogue heavy parts, to get to the action, or the big moments, or the characters visiting…
But if you’re inclined, it’s definitely classic. (However, I think you have to be in the right mood for it…I almost put it down a few times…but it got better after the first 25% was done…)


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