Review: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 5; by Stan & Jack (& the Johns)

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

FACK!!!! I just deleted a whole DAY of review/summary on this. GODDAMNIT!!!!

SHIT FUCK HELL BALLS!

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Anyhow…we see all the villains, from Doom to Annihilus.
We see Inhumans.
Space, Negative Zone, finally naming the baby.
Thing gets turned back into Ben Grimm, but quits the team and breaks up with Alicia Masters!!!!
Johnny loses Crystal, who has to return to the Inhumans or die from Earth pollution.
There’s a Magneto/Namor team up against the FF!
100th issue extravaganza!
Kirby leaves after nearly 10 YEARS!!!!and over 100 issues.
Romita Sr. and John Buscema take over, and I love what they do. Buscema’s facial work is great! almost as good as Lono’s at the Strip Club! BOOM!
Lots of cliffhangers, the womenfolk gain a whole lot more respect, and the characters all grow.

Most importantly, Reed transforms from a misogynyst bully dictator into a quasi-pacificst scientific genius family man. This means, I hope, that Stan Lee either grew up, or wrote Reed’s character to change with the times, as the later we get in the FF, the more that Stan’s writing reflects real life worries (space, Cold War, treatment of people who are different, Nuclear Apocalypse, Family life and concerns). Stan grew a lot between the 4 years covered here from Vol 4-5.

This is truly essential. Worth it. Even if you only skim it Mike.

Oh well, my other review was too long anyhow.

Adding cool pics from the book to Shallow Reader’s Group!

I had a bigger review but oh well…concise is better I think.


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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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Review: Marvel Knights 4 – Vol. 1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Marvel Knights 4, Volume 1: Wolf at the DoorMarvel Knights 4, Volume 1: Wolf at the Door by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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OK so issues 1-4 = 5 Stars. 5-7 = 3 stars…ergo, 4 stars. (3.5 really, but I enjoyed the first half a fair bit)

This premise could have fallen on it’s face and been played for laughs, but instead it focuses on the family, the bonds, the connection, and the reality of what can happen to anyone.

The FF goes broke, in the wake of the US gov’t stopping all science funding to the Baxter Building, and on top of that, one of their accountants stole their savings (also Tony Stark, Hammerhead, and some others). So they’re literally destitute.

They move into a dive hotel in Manhattan, and they realize they need to get jobs. Sue, the rational one, is first to get one, as an English teacher at a High School (thanks to Alicia Masters, Thing’s on again off again GF). Thing gets a construction job after saving some workers from a falling slab of concrete. Johnny and Reed are a little slower on the uptake…

Johnny realizes he can’t act, his agent doesn’t want him, and his airhead supermodel girlfriend is now seeing Keanu Reeves instead…(there’s a few Keanu jokes). It takes him a while, but he has an epiphany, and ends up seriously training and studying to join the FDNY…which is a cool idea.

Reed is so lost he doesn’t know what to do, and tries to think himself out of the problem…only issue is, he forgets to pick Franklin up from school and Sue chews him out for it, telling him he needs to accept the situation, and do something about it.

He finally does, and goes to the Unemployment office and has some eye opening chats with other recent people to lose jobs, and has the clerk about to close the office when he’s next in line…but of course, she was saved by the FF in the past, and so she gets him a job…

As an IT Temp for a Law Firm. Yup. You think your IT is slumming it, when they show up in their Assassin’s Creed Hoodie and Big Gulp and fix everything in 10 minutes? Yup.
So they’re all settling into lives as they are now, and after initial reservations and worries, they of course realize that it’s making them closer as a family and that’s all that matters.

I have to admit, I am turning into a sucker for the emotional stuff in comics, when it’s done well. Case in point: Reed walking to work one day, and there’s a crowd because some jumper is about to do it…so Reed stretches himself up and just talks to him (actually lets him talk mostly). Finds out that the man’s teenage son died in a car crash, his wife divorced him 6 months later, and he recently began coughing up blood, only to discover that he had advanced throat cancer and was going to die.
Reed asked if he was afraid of dying, and he said no, just dying alone, because he had no one…
Of course, Reed puts himself in the man’s shoes, thinks about Franklin dying, Sue leaving him, and being alone…then tells him he won’t be alone, and pulls out a scrap of paper and writes his number on it for the man. Tells him to call when he thinks he’s near the end, and Reed will be there to hold his hand. (Even if he’s in the middle of fighting Doom he tells the man).
OK I blubbered, it’s very dusty in here…allergens and such…(Anne, you really shouldn’t have fapped all the Kleenex away).

The second half of the book is about aliens in the backwoods of New Jersey…kinda lame, but there’s decent stuff about Reed trusting in Ben and Sue and so he doesn’t have to worry. Other than that, not much.


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Review: Fantastic Four Volume 5- Forever; by Jonathan Hickman, art by Steve Epting

Fantastic Four, Volume 5Fantastic Four, Volume 5 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK Hickman, your convoluted and cosmos-spanning storylines finally come to a head here. It was just about worth all the headaches so that I knew what the F*** was going on.

There were quite a few HOLY S*** moments, when I was actually like:

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I feel like a lot of people don’t like Hickman because he operates on a cosmic scale, multiverses, layered stories that take a while for the payoff, and I’m usually not interested in a story taking THAT much effort (but I’m not going to say if there’s more than a couple words with 3+ syllables that I’ll stop reading…I mean I am somewhat edu-mah-kay-ted), but this was actually worth the effort.

(Shallow Reading friends, I can’t help but notice not many people have read this one/arc. If you could get all 5 volumes together at once, I think it might be worth, but I think I’ve read this over 2 years or so…)

Long story short: The Earth is being attacked on multiple fronts: The Kree, Annihilus, Multiverse Reed Richards(es?). The FF is without Johnny, who died stopping the Negative Zone forces of Annihilus from attacking Earth; and he’s been replaced by Spider-Man. (I like this because Hickman reminds people that Spidey isn’t just a punchline machine; he’s actually a brain to rival the likes of Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank Pym, Bruce Banner, et al.)

If you look at the cover, you’ll note…Johnny is on the cover.
So….HE’S SOMEHOW NOT GOING TO BE DEAD LONG!!!

Which is a shame, as his death/sacrifice was done very well. This would fully support Sam’s belief that character deaths in comics now are pointless. I’d have to agree, but this explanation didn’t take a year-18 months to get to…we pretty much had it less than a few months later.

So here’s the deal: Galactus tells Reed that there’s an evil coming that’s so powerful it’s bigger than him. Sue suggests this might just be Galactus tricking them…Big G-Unit says nope, if this evil arrives, the universe dies…just a lot faster than if he’s in-charge. I like the little detail like that, which acknowledges that Galactus still does what he does. Big G-Unit gives RR a device sorta like a pager for when shit hits the fan.

Meanwhile, the FF-Kids transport the Baxter Building out of NYC, where the attack is coming (one of these days, I swear, it’s going to be in Toledo, Ohio or Bumfk, Iowa. – It almost makes me go back and give the Siege Event more stars because things happened in small town Oklahoma and not NYC.)

Reed sends Spidey to go check on the wee ones…he runs into Annihilus fanatics trying to open the gate the the Negative Zone…and…it opens…UHOH!!!

But then, who should be standing on the other side of the gate?

Johnny freakin’ Storm.

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We then get a whole issue+ setting up what happened to Johnny, and how we ended up where we are. (I appreciate the explanation, which actually helps to prevent it from feeling cheap with his ‘death’). Suffice it to say, Johnny is in pretty decent shape…(view spoiler)

The fight between the Kree and Johnny’s Storm-mada (You like that one? I just invented it) isn’t going well, and there’s all kinds of space wreckage going to hit Earth, so not looking good…Reed and Sue go summon Galactus, as they think this was the Evil/death he spoke of…turns out, it wasn’t…

Someone summons the Celestials (Gigantic Super-Gods), and just as Big G-Unit is telling everyone that shit hasn’t hit the fan yet, he’s like, oh nevermind, my bad…

Galactus defeats one of the Celestials, but they they go all Voltron/Super-Power-Ranger/Ultimate Optimus Prime Transformer, and merge into a gigantic one. Even Big G-Unit can’t handle that…

There’s no chance to defeat Super-Mega-Power Celestial, except that…oh wait…there is. Remember that Council of Reeds? The Reed Richardses from all the multiverses, they got together and figured out this would happen, and prepared mega-weapon on every Earth. It’s time for this one’s turn…good thing Reed’s Dad Nathaniel is there to tell him to let loose…They get a great hit in…but, that ain’t gonna cut it.

The only thing keeping the destruction at bay is Sue…who shields Reed and everyone (oh the whole EARTH I mean…she’s a badass lady…no wonder Namor loves her (see corny line on page 2 or 3)) just in time for the cavalry to arrive…and the cavalry isn’t who you’d expect…unless you paid attention to everything in the previous volumes.

The payoff is stellar. The revelations are astounding. There’s a sweet life lesson (family is more important than anything…awww Mr. Hickman). This finale is so good, it really is.

I won’t ruin it for those of you who will actually go and read it (You should. All in one shot. 5 Volumes. It will make you appreciate Hickman’s scale and scope of his projects.)

But for those of you who want to know: (view spoiler)

But is it just Franklin? No…turns out, the pocket universe is used to summon Franklin’s herald…a fellow you may know, by the name of Galactus.

WHAT!!!?!?!?!?! Yes. In this version, Galactus is the one and only herald of Franklin Richards. Together, Franklin, and Galactus infused with the consumed life of an entire pocket UNIVERSE (not just a planet) has the power to defeat the Celestials. Then we have some nice father/son moments. (hide spoiler)]

Yup. A stellar ending. I am a sucker for Father-Son relationships, they always get me emotional. Hickman, who’s all about cosmic level universe expanding, crazy convoluted stories, boils it down to the love of a father for his son, and visa versa, as the saving grace of the world.

Well done. (There seems to be something in my eye…)

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