Comic Review – “Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 2”

Now that I’ve done my guest to talk you into reading the new Fantastic Four material, let me fill you in on a set that may entertain you, but likely won’t make a new fan of you.

General Information

Title: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 2
Author: Stan Lee
Illustrator(s): Jack Kirby
Original Publication Date: 1999 reprint of material first published
from 1963-1965
ISBN: 0-7851-0731-2
Cover Price: $14.95 US, $21.95 Can
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Marvel’s first family continues their early adventures.

The Issues

This collects Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #21-40, Fantastic Four Annual #2,
and selections from Strange Tales Annual #2. The issue breakdown is
as follows:
FF 21: The Hate Monger uses technology to make people hate each other.
FF 22: The Mole Man returns to exact his revenge.
FF 23: Dr. Doom recruits villains to help him defeat a fueding
Fantastic Four.
FF 24: An incredibly powerful infant alien comes to Earth and starts
causing trouble.
FF 25-26: The Fantastic Four and the Avengers try to stop a rampaging
FF 27: Namor returns just as Reed decides to propose to Sue.
FF 28: The Puppet Master and the Mad Thinker combine forces to turn
the X-Men against the Fantastic Four.
FF 29: A villain from the team’s past sets a trap for the team on
Yancy Street.
FF 30: Diablo, the master alchemist, is released from his ancient
FF Annual 2: We learn the origin of Dr. Doom just in time to see him
return to menace the team anew.
FF 31: The Mole Man takes hostages as insurance during his latest
FF 32: The Invincible Man escapes from prison and takes on the FF.
FF 33: The FF are recruited to help Namor fight against Attuma to
preserve Atlantis.
FF 34: Gideon, the billionaire, tries to destroy the team to prove his
FF 35: Diablo returns and recruits help at Reed’s alma matter.
FF 36: The Frightful Four band together to take out the FF.
FF 37: Sue Storm talks Reed and the others into a revenge mission
against the Skrulls.
FF 38: The Frightful Four return for more.
FF 39-40: Dr. Doom attempts to take over the Baxter Building.
Strange Tales Annual 2: The Human Torch tracks a seemingly criminal

High Point

FF 39-40, with the return of Doom, and a guest spot by Daredevil.

Low Point

Why exactly is Paste Pot Pete considered a threat?

The Scores

The originality was starting to slide in the early issues.
They were just another Lee/Kirby superteam for most of it. Things
start to pick up again with Fantastic Four Annual #2. I give it 4 out
of 6.

The artwork is well done, although the reproduction of
Strange Tales Annual #2 is pretty poor. The art is Kirby, so we know
it tells a story well, even if some panels don’t look great. (The guy
did have a lot to draw in this era, after all.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The stories told were mixed. The first half was the same old
stuff, but the second half, particularly the Doom and Namor
appearances, really did something new. I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization of the Thing and the Human Torch is very
good. Mr. Fantastic is less well defined (as long as the Invisible
Woman’s safe, he’s nothing more than a brain) and the Invisible Woman
is just plain drab. I should also point out that when this set, I
think of the characters as their hero alter egos, while I thought of
them as Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben while reading the first part of Mark Waid’s
. Kudos to Waid on that one; the personalities weren’t coming
through as strongly in this period. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response this produced was often minimal.
Apart from Doom and Namor, none of the villains really interested me.
I was disappointed by the Medusa appearances, but that could mainly be
because she wasn’t identified as an Inhuman yet. (I’m not even sure
the Inhumans had been conceived at this time.) The high points worked
very well though. I give it 3 out of 6.

The flow was another aspect that improved as the set went
on. The early issues would end with the heroes in one location, and
then the next issue would pick up with the Thing holding some huge
piece of equipment up while Reed was stretched out all over the lab.
The later issues started tying the end of one issue to the start of
the next one in a way that produces the kind of continuous picture
that I really like. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, the set is a nice piece of history, but it wouldn’t
be one of the first Essentials I’d buy. Still, the next volume
(already on sale) includes the coming of Galactus, so I’ll certainly
pick it up at some point, and this may be essential to understanding
aspects of their personal lives. It’s worthwhile to fill in the gap
between volumes 1 and 3, or to see some great stuff with Dr. Doom. I
give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 2 receives 28 out of 42.