Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four v. 3-6
Written by Stan Lee
Co-Plotted & Penciled by Jack Kirby
Inked by George Roussos, Chic Stone, Frank Giacoia, Vince Colletta & Joe Sinnott
Lettered by Art Simek & Sam Rosen
Color Reconstruction by Michael Kelleher & Kellustration, and Wil Glass & All Thumbs Creative
Published by Marvel Comics
I’ll be forever grateful to Marvel for putting their Marvel Masterworks series in softcover. I’ve read a few Essentials – their 500-page black & white on newsprint paper omnibuses – but I’d prefer to see these classic stories in color on a slightly better paper. The hardcover Masterworks, I told myself often, “I’ll get around to them.” But I kept not getting around.
And to give you an idea how far behind my reading pile has gotten, I sat down last week and read four consecutive volumes of classic Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Fantastic Four comics. And they’re a blast.
I can’t truthfully say that they age well. It’s not only the dated pop culture and world event references, but it’s hard to imagine a heroine today being so disrespected as Sue Storm is repeatedly throughout these stories – and most often by her two romantic suitors!
Despite these awkward, and often hilarious moments, the stories are still totally entertaining. Sure, there are a few odd plot quirks, but they’re fun, and crazy adventurous. Lee and Kirby infuse the characters with playful personalities, a little pathos, a little banter, and plenty of personality (Ben and Reed in particular). By book four, multi-issue storylines have begun, creating a broader, more intricate tapestry. In book five, Joe Sinnott becomes Kirby’s inker, creating the Fantastic Four imagery that readers remember best. Book six takes all the groundwork laid in previous books and builds one of the most cohesive and multi-threaded plots in superhero comics history.
Most of the foundation of the Marvel Universe is established in these pages. And many readers will want to see that history. But to me, I just love seeing these exciting stories for myself. The burgeoning cosmology of the series, Lee and Kirby’s playful undercutting of their own narrative conventions, the beautiful artwork (my only complaint: the garish color on the covers makes them look hideous!), the snappy dialogue, the purely fun stories. The books are a delight, and highly recommended.