Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 1

Published: February 25th, 2009
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, various

Marvel Comics, 265 Pages

Review:

I’ve really wanted to go back and read the earliest collaborations between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. So since I noticed that a lot of the Marvel Masterworks stuff is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers, I decided to start with the oldest comic, the Fantastic Four.

Man, this was a really cool comic to read. In the past, I had read the first Namor issue and the first appearance of Doctor Doom but reading these early stories, complete and in sequence was a real treat.

Marvel was very different in the very beginning. While the company had existed under different names before this, this was their first attempt at doing superheroes. And Stan Lee took the bull by the horns and just wrote the comic he wanted, thinking he was soon to be fired.

Luckily, this was a hit. Reading the first issue now, I can see why. I mean, there were superhero comics before Stan Lee wrote this but this was very different than what people were familiar with in the forms of Batman, Superman, Captain America and Wonder Woman.

This comic was about a team and not just a team, a team that is pretty much family. It also gave us characters with bizarre and refreshing powers. Sure, the Human Torch existed in another form in the 1940s but this team, as a complete unit, had a lot of unique tools.

These earliest issues are also interesting as you can see Stan Lee and Jack Kirby trying out things and modifying them as they go, as they hadn’t quite figured what this was. But as the series rolls on and as they released other superhero titles, things just came together like they never had with superhero comics before this.

It is these ten issues here that are the real genesis of what Marvel would become.

I love that this was way over the top and often times hokey. It showed two of the greatest creators in the history of the medium trying to develop a solid formula for visual storytelling. Plus, this has so much heart in it that it’s hard to not grin from ear to ear while reading it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Vids I Dig 055: The Attic Dwellers: Who Are The Eternals?

From The Attic Dwellers’ YouTube description: The first major post-Avengers: Endgame installment in the Marvel Comic Universe has already started casting. The Eternals is reportedly eyeing Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, and Richard Madden for starring roles. It’s even been rumored that Keanu Reeves will play the villain in the movie!!!

The Eternals are a fictional species of humanity appearing in American comic books created by Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics. They are described as an offshoot of the evolutionary process that created sentient life on Earth.

When the Celestials visited Earth five million years ago and performed genetic experiments on early proto-humanity, they created two divergent races: the long-lived Eternals, and the genetically unstable and monstrously grotesque Deviants.

Comic Review: The Eternals by Jack Kirby, Vol. 2

Published: 1976-1978
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 184 Pages

Review:

I got extra excited for this volume of The Eternals, as it featured the Hulk on the cover and I thought that we’d see the Eternals come into contact with the larger Marvel universe for the first time. However, the cover is a bit misleading as that isn’t the real Hulk. *insert sad face emoji*

Despite that trickery, this was still a damn good read, it picks up right where the first volume leaves off and it just gives us more of the stuff that made the first book great.

My only real complaint is that this volume was lacking in regards to new material for the Celestials. Sure, they appear but they aren’t as prominent and sadly, the series ends with this volume.

That being said, The Eternals ended pretty abruptly with nothing really resolved. I think that this was cancelled prematurely, maybe for lack of sales, and Jack Kirby didn’t get to give us the full story that he intended.

The Eternals sort of disappear for a bit but resurface later on in a big epic story in the Thor comic. I plan to read those soon, as I’m hoping they pick up where this left off. Plus, mixing the Eternals and the Asgardians seems like a really sweet idea. Unfortunately, that big storyline isn’t penned by the great Jack Kirby.

Anyway, this didn’t wrap up in the way that I’d hoped but this was still a damn good read and really showcased the imagination of Jack Kirby and also built up The Eternals pocket of the Marvel universe.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the first volume of this series, as well as any of Jack Kirby’s cosmic stuff at Marvel or DC.

Comic Review: The Eternals by Jack Kirby, Vol. 1

Published: 1976-1978
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 199 Pages

Review:

I have never read The Eternals. However, with it getting a movie adaptation in a few years and because I Iove when Jack Kirby does cosmic stories, I thought that delving into this was long overdue.

This was a hell of a lot of fun. I loved this first volume in the series, which serves to setup the Eternals pocket of the larger Marvel universe. Like all cosmic things by Kirby, this series has an incredibly rich mythos that just showcases how great Kirby’s imagination was.

The Eternals reads like a comic book that is truly written with love. Reading through every single panel, I could tell that Kirby was committed to this project and loving every second that he spent creating this vivid and dynamic world.

The art is so detailed and ornate. I have no idea how the man was able to put books like this out monthly, while also working on multiple projects. Everything looks pristine and perfect and this is one of the most “Kirby” creations of all-time.

In a lot of ways, this is like Marvel’s version of the Fourth World stuff that Kirby did at DC Comics just a few years earlier. However, Kirby seems to have taken what he learned from his experience on his DC books and refined that knowledge, giving The Eternals an edge over most of that stuff. Sure, there’s no Darkseid or Mister Miracle here but the overall experience of reading this just feels more fleshed out and written with greater purpose.

This reminds me a lot of what Jack Kirby did with his ten issue 2001: A Space Odyssey series. It has a lot of similarities to that but this seems less experimental and like it is building towards a real defined purpose. Maybe that’s because 2001 was essentially an anthology but I feel like this is where everything for Kirby just clicked in the right way.

I really dig this universe, I was especially blown away by the Celestials. Frankly, I can’t wait to read the second volume.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the second volume of this series, as well as any of Jack Kirby’s cosmic stuff at Marvel or DC.

Comic Review: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Issue #134 – First Appearance of Darkseid

Published: December 2nd, 1970
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Neal Adams (cover)

DC Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

Man, this was a weird ass comic book! But it was also done by Jack Kirby during his stint at DC Comic, where he did some really outside of the box stuff that led to the creation of his Fourth World universe within the larger DC Universe.

This issue of Jimmy Olsen was tied to all of that, as this is the first appearance of Darkseid, one of the greatest villains in the entire history of DC Comics.

I wanted to read this, as I’ve been reading a lot of the first appearances of some of my favorite villains. That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this comic but it was pretty insane.

This issue is trippy as hell! I’m not sure if that was normal with Jimmy Olsen but I really dug it, even if it was hard to make sense of the proceedings, as I don’t have the issues around this to give it more context.

Superman even shows up in this but he was a pretty regular fixture in this title. Sadly, we don’t get to see Supes square off with Darkseid. In fact, we only get a peek at Darkside in one panel. That’s it, his big debut was just in a single panel where he was a talking head in a TV set, giving commands to one of his minions.

This is creative, kind of nuts and it flew by. I can’t say that it’s a solid comic as a standalone issue but reading it was interesting, as it was a quick, small sample of Kirby’s earliest work at DC.

For Jack Kirby fans, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: any of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles at DC Comics.

Documentary Review: Jack Kirby: Story Teller (2007)

Release Date: June 5th, 2007
Cast: Neal Adams, Jim Lee, Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, John Romita Sr., Alex Ross, Tim Sale, Walter Simonson, Bruce Timm, Len Wein, Barry Windsor-Smith, Marv Wolfman

Marvel Studios, Sparkhill Production, 20th Century Fox, 64 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been watching through a lot of comic book documentaries on YouTube, lately. I came across this one that discusses the work and legacy of Jack Kirby.

I’m not sure if this was made as a special feature on a DVD, as it was produced by Marvel and 20th Century Fox. Maybe it was included on one of the Fantastic Four DVD releases a decade ago.

Anyway, if you appreciate and admire the great work of Jack Kirby, this is a really engaging documentary.

It is rather short, considering the long career of the man but it does cover a lot of ground. It also interviews a lot of other comic book greats that worked with Kirby or were inspired by him.

This feels like a quickly thrown together low budget fluff piece and if I’m being honest, Jack Kirby deserves a proper documentary or a real biopic. As much as this does talk about how much Jack did, I still don’t feel like it captures the real importance and scale of it all.

But this is still a worthwhile watch because there really isn’t anything better… yet.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other comic book industry biographical documentaries.

Comic Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Series)

Published: 1976-1977
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby
Based on: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick

Marvel Comics, 180 Pages

Review:

This comic book series took me a really long time to track down. There are ten issues and they’ve never been reprinted and probably never will be due to the fact that Marvel hasn’t owned the comic book publishing rights to 2001: A Space Odyssey since… well, 1977 when this series ended.

But who the hell wouldn’t want to read Jack Kirby’s version of what happened after the movie finished? And this is all Jack Kirby. He wrote it, he did the art and he had a love of the Stanley Kubrick film that was truly a masterpiece.

This comic follows up the adaptation Kirby did of the film earlier in 1976. This series sees Kirby take the concepts and ideas from the movie and apply them into new stories. This really is an anthology series in the beginning but larger, multi-part story arcs come out after the first four issues.

Now those first four issues are different versions of the same story. Each follows an ancient character that comes into contact with the Monolith. Then they flash forward to one of their descendants in the future, usually an astronaut, and show what happens when they also come into contact with the ominous Monolith. Many characters evolve into a different version of the Star Child or as Kirby refers to them, “Seeds”.

The fifth and sixth issues deal with a larger arc and starts as a bit of a superhero story featuring a heroic character named White Zero and a villain named Death Master. There are twists to the plot but this is where Kirby really finds his footing and starts turning 2001 into something closer to his work for DC Comics on The New Gods, The Forever People and Mister Miracle; collectively known as his Fourth World saga.

The seventh issue is really interesting as it follows the journey of a Seed through the cosmos, space and time. It’s bizarre, it’s cool and it’s 100 percent Jack “The King” Kirby.

In the final three issues, we get a big surprise. Well, it was at least a big surprise for me, as this three-part arc is the origin story of the character that would go on to become Machine Man in the regular Marvel Universe. Which, I guess makes Jack Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey part of Marvel canon, even though I didn’t see it that way for the first seven issues.

This was a solid series by Jack Kirby. It’s not quite a masterpiece, as it is a bit bogged down by the first four issues and their repetitiveness but once it found its footing, it was some of the best work that Jack Kirby has done.

And I can’t end this review without mentioning how dynamic and beautiful the art was. You could tell that Jack Kirby put a lot of passion into this and I’m glad, as a Kirby fan, that I now own the complete saga.

Now I just have to track down a copy of his film adaptation.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Jack Kirby works that dealt with the cosmos.