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. 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.

Comic Review: Avengers: The Once and Future Kang

Published: 1985-1986
Written by: Steve Englehart, Danny Fingeroth, Jim Shooter, Roger Stern
Art by: Mark Bright, John Buscema, Steve Ditko

Marvel Comics, 278 Pages

Review:

I hate when I buy a thick, hefty collection that is sold to me as one thing, but once I buy it I find out that the thing I bought it for is about a third of the total collection and the rest of the volume is padded with other random stories.

While the issues collected here are presented in chronological order in how they appeared in single issues of the Avengers comics, they are all tied to larger stories or continued in other comics.

It’s pretty fucking infuriating when companies do this because I just wanted to read a Kang story that I had hoped would be pretty epic based off of the page count of this large Avengers release.

Instead, I got a medium sized Kang story and then a bunch of random plot threads that were left incomplete and open ended as they tied to Secret Wars IIFantastic FourX-Men and a story about both ’80s Avengers teams playing baseball.

Had I just read the Kang story, this would’ve been great. It would’ve been even better if it was reduced to the roughly four issues that the story took place in and I was charged a lot less than what I played for this disorganized mess.

Now to be fair, I did like most of this but when you’re pulled in one direction just to be left with blue balls, it’s pretty irritating. Especially, when you’re the one paying for it.

As far as the Kang story goes, I loved it. It was one of the best I’ve read and it featured one of my favorite incarnations of the Avengers team, as I started reading this series around the same era.

Had I known that I was going to get shafted by this, I would’ve just forked out the money for the less than a handful of physical floppy issues I needed for the story I wanted.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Kang-centric stories, as well as other comics that happened around the events of Secret Wars II.

Comic Review: Avengers, Issue #8 – First Appearance of Kang the Conqueror

Published: September 9th, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

Marvel Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

This is one of the comic books that is pretty high up on my bucket list. I still don’t own it but I wanted to read the story, so I bought a digital copy on Comixology for under two bucks.

While this isn’t technically the first appearance of the character that would become Kang, this is his first appearance as Kang. Before this, he appeared as an Egyptian pharaoh-looking villain named Rama-Tut in Fantastic Four number 19 and Fantastic Four Annual number 2.

For the most part, this was a cool read. It had that great Stan Lee style to the action and dialogue and it featured art from my favorite artist of all-time: Jack Kirby.

While this isn’t the start of a big multi-part story, a lot happens in these 22 pages and you get a real sense of who Kang is and what he is capable of. It is a pretty solid Lee/Kirby era intro to one of their greatest villainous creations.

I wouldn’t consider this a must read but it will probably be enjoyed in an old Avengers collection alongside other stories from the time.

I personally love Kang, though, so I probably enjoyed this more than the average bear.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Jack Kirby era Marvel stuff, especially The Avengers and Fantastic Four.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Life Story

Published: March 20th, 2019 – August 28th, 2019
Written by: Chip Zdarsky
Art by: Mark Bagley

Marvel Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

When I first heard about this miniseries, I was pretty stoked for it.

The concept is that it starts in the ’60s when Spider-Man debuted and it follows him over the six decades he’s existed but it does that in real time. Basically, instead of Spider-Man only aging fifteen years (or so) since his debut, this story covers his entire life span, as he ages accordingly from decade to decade.

Each of the six issues represents a decade. But that is also kind of a problem with the story too.

You see, you can’t wedge a whole decade into twenty or thirty pages of a comic. So each issue just focuses on some sort of event in Spider-Man’s life from that era.

The total package of this series is really cool and interesting but it almost feels as if each decade could’ve been a miniseries of its own and that this is a comic that could have lived on for several years. And with the team of Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley, it could’ve been like a Spider-Man renaissance.

But ultimately, each chapter was pretty damn good. I only thought that the last one was a bit weak but I wasn’t too keen on how it ended. I felt like Spider-Man’s fate was kind of predictable, as this was his “life story”.

The thing is, it was hard investing into the weight of the finale, when you haven’t lived through the emergence of the massive threat that they face to end the series. And that just gets back to my feeling about there needing to be more time devoted to each decade than just single issues.

However, I’m hoping that this is just a framework or a road map and that Marvel at least has some plans to expand on this story in the future. If that’s the case, I really hope it is brought to us by Zdarsky and Bagley, once again.

If not, well… this was still one of the best comic book miniseries to come out this year.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the recent Symbiote Spider-Man miniseries by Peter David and Greg Land.

Comic Review: Infinity Wars

Published: August 1st, 2018 – December 19th, 2018
Written by: Gerry Duggan
Art by: Mike Deodato Jr.

Marvel Comics, 212 Pages

Review:

Not all Marvel mega events are created equal. In fact, the last several years have seen many come and go that were pretty forgettable. While this doesn’t do much to right the ship, it at least had some interesting ideas, was pretty ambitious and had some top notch art by Mike Deodato Jr.

If I’m being honest, I was really pleased with the first two issues of this six issue story arc. It started out with a bang but once we got mashed up heroes and Infinity Gems switching hands quicker than a potato in a game of Hot Potato, my head started spinning so fast that it nearly exploded.

Plus, apart from Sleepwalker, the tie-ins to this were terrible.

I guess someone thought that mashing up Marvel heroes was a cool idea but man, it felt gimmicky as hell and none of these new creations really worked. Well, except for the Ant-Man sized Hulk. That was actually kind of cool.

Anyway, Gamora of the Guardians of the Galaxy is the villain in this. It seems completely uncharacteristic of her and the only reasoning for her turn to the dark side seems to be the fact that she is a daughter of Thanos. Daddy issues aside, it doesn’t work for me even though I did like her new, evil look.

It should be obvious to anyone that this mega event was created in a cheap attempt to capitalize off of the release of the Infinity War movie but I doubt that really helped sales of this mediocre book.

The first issue sold out at my local comic shop but issues two through six are just sitting on the shelves still, along with all the tie-in crap.

But at least I got a Sleepwalker comic again, even if it was just four issues and sadly tied to this event.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel mega events that fell way below the hype.

Comic Review: The Infinity War

Published: April 5th, 2006
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Ron Lim

Marvel Comics, 400 Pages

Review:

I just finished up The Infinity Gauntlet mega crossover event, so naturally I wanted to jump right into The Infinity War. Plus, the next Avengers movie centers around these storylines, so I wanted to revisit them, as I haven’t read them since they were fairly current back in the early ’90s.

Like its predecessor, this tale is jam packed with more Marvel heroes and villains than can reasonably fit onto one page. There are more characters in this story than the previous one and everyone is present and accounted for, unlike the first Infinity story, which saw half of the heroes (and the universe’s population) removed from existence.

Sadly, this is not as good as its predecessor. The Infinity Gauntlet was very talkie in the first half and then just broke off into three giant comic book issues of straight up action. The Infinity War has some action but it is minuscule when compared to the previous saga.

Also, Magus was a cool idea for a villain but he didn’t even come close to having the presence and intensity of Thanos. Also, Thanos is pretty much neutered in this story and is more of a hero than a villain. I get that he is in someway atoning for his actions when he had possession of the Infinity Gauntlet but it seems like it is way too soon for him to be working with the heroes of the Marvel universe, even if the situation called for it. There certainly should have been more push back from the heroes.

Ultimately, the story was boring. It was a lot of talking… A. LOT. Hell, this story was mostly just talking and talking and more talking. The overall plot was dragged down by an extreme overabundance of dialogue.

I remember really liking all the stuff tied into this event more than the event itself. In the broader universe, Marvel characters were forced to face their evil doppelgängers. I’ll have to re-read some of the single issues I have that are spunoff from this main story arc.

I feel like this book was more of a gimmick than an attempt to really continue the Infinity saga in a way that was actually meaningful. Most of the book felt like it was just full of splash pages with as many characters as possible crammed into a large room, trying to dodge their speech balloons.

This was still a mostly fun read but it was a weak followup to the far superior Infinity Gauntlet.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other parts of the trilogy: The Infinity Gauntlet and The Infinity Crusade.