Andy’s Read Pile: Fantastic Four, Marvel Masterworks, Volume 8
Back to the old grindstone on this Monday, and what could be better to help us all get through it than one of Uncle Andy’s patented read pile reviews.
In honor of the triumphant news of the return to Marvel’s First family to a monthly comic book series, we’ll be looking at a ten+ issue stretch of the all time classic Lee/Kirby run on Fantastic Four collected in Volume 8 of their Marvel Masterworks series of trades. Mainly this deals with issues 72 to 81 and the 6th Annual, the latter of which is extremely important as it is the birth of Franklin Richards, which as far as I know was the first real time a superhero couple conceived and gave birth to a little one. In fact, for the most part it’s still one of the few examples of this in comics to this day, not to mention the most successful.
The main problem with children in comic books is like marriage, it automatically ages the character. Suddenly the character is no longer young, hip, and independent, thus in the minds of some writers, making the character less relatable to the key demographic for comics, males 13 to 25.
The Fantastic Four however gets a pass on this because Mr. Fantastic is never portrayed as the young swinger of the group (that’s the Human Torch), but the stern parental figure. So it’s only natural for a reader to picture him with children and a wife. Sure, that by default ages Mrs. Fantastic, who was really only supposed to a few years older that Johnny Storm, and that does cause some issues. I do believe a lot of writers as a result had a difficult time writing for the Invisible Woman, as there was no way to show her as the young vibrate lady she was at the same time as making her a mother. It really took decades until John Byrne straightened out Sue Richards before writers really started to get a handle on the character…but I digress.
Overall the story leading up to the birth of Franklin is a really great one, as due to the exposure to cosmic radiation, Sue and the baby could die during childbirth unless Reed comes up with something to counteract it. Enter this extremely great trip into the Negative Zone for some Anti matter universe shenanigans and ultimately a battle with Annihilus, the Living death that walks, in his first appearance.
Annihilus has recently became a big gun in the Marvel Universe in the wake of the space saga, Annihilation Wave, so it’s really a treat to see him here in his infancy as a character. Really he’s portrayed not exactly as evil as much as alien with his own agenda that we really can’t even begin to comprehend.
But in the end the Fantastic Three is triumphant and with some drained off energy from Annihilus’s cosmic control rod, they are able to stabilize Sue’s condition, and the baby is born with no problems. Well scratch that, as many of you know, Franklin is actually born as one of the most powerful creatures in the entire universe with vast matter manipulation mental powers. So did the cosmic control rod play a part? I’m not sure…I wouldn’t have thought of it for sure prior to reading this story though.
As a Dad it is a pretty great scene to see Reed with his son for the first time. That entire time at the hospital is actually a very special moment that drives home the fact that the Fantastic Four is really about Family. It’s the core theme of the book, one family’s trip through life, how they stick together in bad times and good. I think most of the best FF stories are written around this main theme and this one is no different.
The rest of the book is fairly good for as well, with some highlights being Crystal joining the FF in Sue’s place, making it first time that team’s line up changed. There’s also a weird donny brook of a fight between the FF and the team up of Daredevil, Thor, and Spiderman, which still doesn’t make much sense, but is a fun read. Also Thing turns back into Ben Grimm for two issues again, which is not actually a big deal given how many times in the first 100 issues they went back to that well.
I feel really the only other big story is this 4 issue story arc from issues 74 to 77 which sees the first return of Galactus searching for the Silver Surfer for whom he exiled on Earth because he’s yet to get a new herald and he’s nomming for a snack.
This becomes a problem though as the Silver Surfer decides to escape his imprisonment to one planet by miniaturizing himself and traveling into the Sub Atomic universe. The Fantastic Four then have to go get him before Galactus breaks his word and munched on Earth instead, yadda yadda. Long story short, It’s a pretty epic saga which again I had no knowledge really existed until I read this book, so I’m really glad I did, as it was nothing short of a classic page turner.
Overall, I’d highly recommend reading this book. It goes without saying that any comic fan worth a salt should read the first 100 issues the Fantastic Four, but these are definitely some issues you can look forward to reading on your way to completing that. I sure did.