Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 6

Published: February 23rd, 2017
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 240 Pages

Review:

I feel like it would be hard to top the greatness that was the previous Fantastic Four – Masterworks volume but this did follow it up pretty nicely and also expanded the Marvel universe by introducing the world to Black Panther and his enemy Klaw.

The earliest arc in this collection focuses on Black Panther and his home of Wakanda. It also brings in the Inhumans, as well. While I love this story, it’s somewhat overshadowed by the epic tale of Doctor Doom stealing Silver Surfer’s powers and cosmic surfboard.

It also features some other Fantastic Four villains sprinkled in but it’s the Doom story that really takes the spotlight, here.

As is the norm for these early Fantastic Four – Masterworks editions, the stories were written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby. While I’m now sixty percent of the way through their 100 issue run, the series hasn’t gotten dull or even really tapered off. Everything is still damn solid and Kirby’s artwork seems to still improve with each volume, even if he was a long-time veteran by this point.

All in all, this is still a great collection that lives up to the hype and only serves to make me appreciate Lee and Kirby’s partnership on this title even more.

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

Comic Review: The Demon by Jack Kirby

Published: October 17th, 2017
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Mike Royer

DC Comics, 374 Pages

Review:

While I’m a much bigger fan of Jack Kirby’s cosmic stuff during his ’70s stint at DC, this is still a really cool comic that feels more like “classic horror” Marvel than a DC Comics series probably should.

That’s what I like about it, though, as it has a sort of Doctor Strange vibe but it pushes the bar and makes the hero of the story a straight up demon.

In this series, Kirby doesn’t just introduce us to Etrigan the Demon, he also debuts one of his coolest characters of all-time, Klarion the Witch Boy.

These characters are more known in modern times for their associations with the Justice League Dark team and some of the heroes that populate that group.

Overall, this is fun as hell and it’s cool seeing Kirby create something at DC outside of his Fourth World related stories and titles.

I wish he had the time to do the art in this book but Mike Royer’s illustrations do feel very Kirby-esque and they fit the tone of the writing and just contribute greatly to Kirby’s DC oeuvre.

Jack Kirby fans shouldn’t be disappointed. While it’s not his best work, even at DC, it’s still solid stuff.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Jack Kirby creations at DC Comics.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 5

Published: August 7th, 2014
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 248 Pages

Review:

This right here is the volume I’ve been waiting to get to! This is the collection of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on Fantastic Four where everything changes and the Marvel universe expands exponentially!

This edition of the Masterworks series covers issues 41 through 50, as well as the third annual.

Within this collection, we get a great Frightful Four story, the marriage between Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl, the full debut of the Inhumans, as well as the first appearances of Silver Surfer and Galactus! There are also cameos from just about every hero and villain from the Marvel universe of the 1960s! This chapter in the saga literally has everyone and everything!

What’s even better than that, is that Stan Lee is absolutely on his A-game with these stories and scripts and Jack Kirby’s art was on-point.

If you can only ever read one Fantastic Four collection, graphic novel or trade paperback, it should be this one.

This is quintessential Fantastic Four at its finest. It’s the epitome of what was so damn great about ’60s Marvel and the work of Lee and Kirby.

Just buy it, read it, read it a dozen more times and cherish it forever.

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

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 4

Published: June 5th, 2014
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 272 Pages

Review:

I’ve been blowing through these Fantastic Four – Masterworks collections pretty fast. But these represent the collaboration of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at its best while also showcasing the earliest stages of the Marvel universe, as it was still developing, taking shape and hitting its stride.

This one kicks off with the second Fantastic Four annual and then collects issues 31 through 40.

I’ve always wanted to read the second annual and man, it did not disappoint. It actually tells the origin of Doctor Doom, as well as showing him meet Rama-Tut a.k.a. Kang the Conqueror for the first time. I knew enough of what was in this massive 72-page issue but I never got to read it until now.

Beyond that, this gives us more Namor, the return of the Mole Man, as well as a great Skrull story. Probably my two favorite things come in the second half though, which sees the debut of the villainous Frightful Four, as well as the first time that the Fantastic Four meet Daredevil, which is a great story on its own.

This was a real high point for me in the overall grander Fantastic Four mythos. A lot of cool stuff happens and this just keeps building up the Marvel universe in a great way.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 3

Published: March 6th, 2014
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 247 Pages

Review:

Man, I’m really glad that I started reading Fantastic Four from the beginning. There’s just something unique and truly special about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creations and collaborations. And while these stories are hokey and not as refined as they would become, it’s really cool seeing the earliest version of the Marvel universe take shape.

Each volume in the Masterworks releases really builds off of the previous ones and expands the larger universe more and more.

Here, we get to see stories with the Avengers, as well as the X-Men, bringing several core Marvel characters together in their earliest days. I also liked that the Hulk came back for a multi-part story arc. Although, this one was lacking in Spider-Man magic. But I also just love old school Spidey and FF stories.

This brings back most of the main villains from previous issues and even introduces some new ones like The Hate-Monger. I actually own that comic in its original floppy form, so reading it here means that I don’t have to physically touch my already weathered copy.

Stan Lee really seems to be hitting his stride with these characters and these stories while Jack Kirby’s art seems a bit more fine tuned and dynamic. Granted, Kirby was one of the most dynamic comic book artists in history but his work in this collection really shows how much he’s enjoying drawing these characters. It just has this little extra flair that’s hard to describe. I guess it’s like eating a meal made with love, as opposed to eating a meal that was just made out of necessity.

Overall, this was thoroughly enjoyable and it kept moving the story forward while constructing a very young universe that would grow into something massive.

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

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 2

Published: June 24th, 2009
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

Marvel Comics, 298 Pages

Review:

While this isn’t the peak of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby 100-issue run on the Fantastic Four, they really start to slide into their grove here, as the larger Marvel universe has expanded and this is the first collection that sees the Fantastic Four meet other heroes.

In this volume, we get to see them meet the Hulk, Spider-Man, Ant-Man and Wasp for the first time in Fantastic Four titles. The Hulk issue is particularly important, as it is the first time that Stan Lee created heroes crossed over in Marvel continuity.

In addition to that, we get more stories featuring Namor, Doctor Doom, the Puppet Master, as well as new villains like the Super Skrull, the Impossible Man, Molecule Man, the Mad Thinker and Rama-Tut, who would later become Kang the Conqueror, one of Marvel’s greatest and most powerful baddies.

This is simply a fun and entertaining read. As hokey as the earliest Stan Lee era stuff can be, it’s just enjoyable as hell and pretty endearing. He was one of the greatest creatives in the comic book medium and it’s really apparent here, as he travels in a lot of different directions, from issue-to-issue and covers a lot of ground, laying the foundation for the Marvel comic book universe, as a whole.

Incorporating the heroes of other titles into this, really sets the stage for the broader continuity. We also get to see a Watcher for the first time, which kind of propels things forward in the cosmic realm for future Marvel stories.

Where the first ten issues felt kind of random and like they were trying to find their way, these ten issues (plus an annual) seem to be building towards something. While I’m not sure if Stan Lee already had Galactus in mind, the man has definitely cleared the path for that massive introduction, which wouldn’t happen for another two years.

I also have to give props to Jack Kirby, who had an incredibly consistent art style his entire career but definitely looks as if he found his grove with these characters and their world. 

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Vids I Dig 345: Comic Tropes: John Buscema: More Than a Jack Kirby Clone

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: John Buscema is one of the all-time great illustrators in Marvel Comics’ history. He worked on over 200 issues of Conan comics and had celebrated runs on Avengers under three different writers: Roy Thomas, Steve Engleheart, and Roger Stern. Yet there are critics who will say he’s simply a clone of Jack Kirby. I believe this accusation is unfair and in this episode we look at Big John’s history and techniques. We pay close attention to the evolution of his artwork including key turning points in the Silver Age and on Silver Surfer #4.

Comic Review: Super Powers by Jack Kirby

Published: 1984-1985
Written by: Jack Kirby, Joey Cavalieri, Paul Kupperberg
Art by: Jack Kirby, Mike Royer, Greg Theakston, Mike Thibodeaux

DC Comics, 268 Pages

Review:

When I was a kid and super into G.I. Joe and Transformers, my cousin Billy was super into Super Powers and Marvel’s Secret Wars action figures. In a lot of ways, those two toylines were my introduction to many of the comic book heroes and villains outside of what a six year-old would know.

Playing with Billy’s toys and playsets, I was pretty captivated by them and it is probably a major factor in what got me to read superhero comics, as opposed to just G.I. JoeTransformers and Star Wars.

I never read either of the two Super Powers miniseries, however, so I was pretty excited to pick this up. Also, since this was primarily done by the legendary Jack Kirby, I thought that reading this was long overdue and that not having read this sooner was a major crime against my own soul.

This edition collects both of the miniseries, the first being five issues and the second being six.

Overall, this is a really fun time and other than Mister Miracle, it’s my favorite stuff that Kirby has done for DC. Essentially, this is Kirby writing and drawing the Justice League. It features many of the core League members while also using some of their main villains.

I really like what Kirby did with these characters and I really would’ve liked to have seen this spin off into a Kirbyverse for DC, as his style and charm worked well with these characters. This feels very ’60sish but it works even though this is an ’80s comic.

While Frank Miller and Alan Moore would drastically alter the tone at DC, just after Kirby’s Super Powers, this is a nice contrast to what DC became synonymous with in that decade. 

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Jack Kirby’s other work at DC Comics, as well as ’80s Justice League comics.

Comic Review: Super-Villain Classics: Galactus – The Origin

Published: May, 1983
Written by: Stan Lee, Mark Gruenwald
Art by: Jack Kirby, John Byrne, Bob Layton (cover)

Marvel Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

This was one of those odd things that’s been on my bucket list for quite awhile. I finally came across one at my local comic shop, so I picked it up. Weirdly, the value has gone up in the last few years.

This is essentially a one-shot. I’m not sure if Marvel had more of these planned for other villains and then pulled the plug on them but it was a neat concept and it could’ve been used for other characters.

Basically, this is the origin of Galactus. I’m not sure how much of this was taken from earlier Fantastic Four stories, as I still haven’t completed the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby run but this is a perfect compliment to the Galactus-centric stories that those two greats produced over their 100 issue run.

The plot here is solid and I absolutely love the Kirby art, which should always go without saying.

This gives Galactus a backstory and helps to flesh him out into a character with much more context than just being a chaotic force of cosmic nature. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to read about his genesis and it made him more interesting, even though he’s already one of my favorite classic Marvel villains.

There’s a lot that I learned from this comic that I didn’t already know, which honestly, makes it well worth the price I paid for it. If you aren’t willing to pay an arm and a leg for a copy, I’m sure that it is collected in a trade paperback with other Galactus stories.

If you’re a fan of the character, I’d call this a must own.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: early Galactus and Silver Surfer stories from the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby run on Fantastic Four.