Comic Review – “Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 1”

The first comics that made people stand up and notice the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby team have been rereleased in the excellent Essential line from Marvel. Care to see how the whole thing started?

General Information

Title: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 1
Credited to: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Original Publication Date: 2001 reprint of material originally
published from 1961-1964
ISBN: 0-7851-0666-9
Cover Price: $14.95US, $21.95Can
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Four friends get trapped in a cosmic ray storm and develop an unusual
set of abilities.

The Issues

This reprints Fantastic Four
Issue 1: Origin of the team and the battle with Mole Man.
Issue 2: The first Skrull invasion
Issue 3: The Miracle Man
Issue 4: The return of the Sub-Mariner
Issue 5: Introduction of Doctor Doom
Issue 6: Doctor Doom and Sub-Mariner team up
Issue 7: Prisoners of Kurrgo, Master of Planet X
Issue 8: First appearance of the Puppet Master
Issue 9: The Sub-Mariner makes a Fantastic Four movie
Issue 10: Doctor Doom switches bodies with Mr. Fantastic
Issue 11: The Impossible Man arrives
Issue 12: The FF is enlisted to take on the Hulk
Issue 13: The FF try to beat the Russians to the moon, and meet the
Issue 14: The Sub-Mariner is recruited by the Puppet Master
Issue 15: The Mad Thinker tries to take over the Baxter Building and
the rest of the world.
Issues 16-17: Doctor Doom returns with a shrinking ray.
Issue 18: The Super Skrull appears
Issue 19: They face a pharoh from the future when they go back to
ancient Egypt
Issue 20: They face the Molecule Man.
Annual 1: The Sub-Mariner finds Atlantis and declares war on the
surface world.

High Point

The original introduction of the team. The idea of having them
“emerge” from the populace rather than see the origin directly was a
very effective dramatic tool.

Low Point

The resolution of the war in the annual. I doubt Reed would have done
that, even in times of war.

The Scores

These issues seem original now, even when compared to other
stories in other Essential volumes. I can see why they would have
been so popular then. Sure, the next 40 years of the title may have
just been rehashing this stuff, but it was new in this batch. I give
it 6 out of 6.

The artwork became great by the end. The character models
seem to have changed a bit in the early issues, though, as the look of
the characters was adjusted and modified. I give it 5 out of 6.

The stories were, well, the kind of “aliens invading” stories
that Stan Lee seemed to love. Some issues had great ideas that could
be wonderful in multiple issues, but others (like the Impossible Man)
were amazingly immature. I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization of the heroes was excellent. They are
quickly distinguished, and consistently written. Unfortunately, the
villains are often trite, predictable, and indistinguishable by
personality alone. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response generated was mostly curiosity. A lot
of these characters have become foundations in the Marvel universe.
The last time I heard, the Sub-Mariner was a member of the Avengers,
and yet here he’s always a villain. It held my interest, but rarely
had me in suspense. (Of course, things might be different if I didn’t
know that these characters are about the same as they are here in the
comics being published today.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow was the same as it almost always in in Stan Lee
issues; these characters talk entirely too much for the action
alloted. I give it 3 out of 6.

Overall, this is one of the better Essential books I’ve
read. It’s about as good as that era can get. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 1 received 31 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

Up next: Essential X-Men Vol. 3. After that: check out this list and
let me know what you want to see.