Friday, August 9, 2013

Review- MARVEL MASTERWORKS: FANTASTIC FOUR VOL. 6


MARVEL MASTERWORKS: FANTASTIC FOUR VOL. 6 (Marvel, Second Edition, Second Printing, 2007; Hardcover)

Collects Fantastic Four Nos. 51-60 and Fantastic Four Annual No. 4 (cover dates June, 1966- March, 1967)

Writer: Stan Lee

Artists: Jack Kirby (Penciler) and Joe Sinnott (Inker)

Buyer beware: Only the Fantastic Four Omnibus Vol. 2 Hardcover, this particular printing of the Masterwork hardcover, and the 2011 (and forward) softcover printings have this superior, “high def” presentation. There is a second printing of the Fantastic Four Omnibus Vol. 2 Hardcover coming later this year. There are also economical black and white phone books called Essentials for those on a budget. No matter which way you read it, the Lee/Kirby era of Fantastic Four is essential reading for any serious comic book fan.


Issue 51's This Man...This Monster! is a powerful story about a scientist named Ricardo Jones who uses his Duplication Apparatus to steal the Thing's rocky hide and powers while turning the Thing back into ordinary Ben Grimm. He did so so that he may infiltrate the Fantastic Four and destroy Reed Richards, a man of whom he is insanely jealous of because of his accomplishments. Issue 52 introduces the Black Panther, the first black superhero in comic books. The thing that I love about the character is that he was introduced near the height of the civil rights movement, and his native country, the mythological Wakanda, was wealthier and more technologically advanced than the United States. That took balls in 1966. 

One issue before the Black Panther was introduced Johnny Storm was at the Kozy Kampus Koffee Shop where had a run-in with Whitey. KKK...Whitey?? Oy.

The Fantastic Four had a great supporting cast in this era. The Silver Surfer, the Inhumans, and Wyatt Wingfoot are all recurring characters. Some long-term villains are introduced, such as Klaw and the sentient computer Quasimodo (Quasi-Motivational Destruct Organ). It was introduced in Annual No. 4, which also features the Mad Thinker, who revives the original android Human Torch, whom Ultron would go on to revive as the Vision. 


Stan Lee's writing may be a tad dated for today's so-called sophisticated readers, but his characterization was great. The then-newlywed Reed and Sue dynamic being a prime example. Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic) was basically a neglectful asshole to his blushing bride. The Johnny Storm (Human Torch) pining away for Crystal plotline was also great, even if it seems silly that he could be so obsessed with a girl that he barely knew...at least what we saw “on screen”. I'm sure that some hack has gone into way too much detail over what really happened over the years.



The highlight of this book is Doctor Doom stealing the Silver Surfer's power in issues 57-60. Kirby's Doctor Doom is second to none. No one can draw Doom as great as The King did. 


The Inhumans escape from the Great Refuge during these issues when Blackbolt finally speaks. This is just great stuff, and holds up well on the re-read. I read these issues in the Omnibus, which I cashed in on when it was out of print and going for stupid money. I sold that off and bought the softcover Masterwork for Vol. 4 (the hardcover has inferior restoration), and the 2007 printings of Vols. 5 and 6, all of which used the same state-of-the-art restoration as the Omnibus, pocketing a hundred or more bucks after buying those.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This era of US made Masterworks were okay but aren't as nice as the 2008-on Chinese made ones.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Jack Kirby's first costume design for the Black Panther (1 page) and unused cover art for issue 52 by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott (1 page).
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.75 out of 5. This printing uses the same color and linework restoration as the Fantastic Four Omnibus Vol. 2. It is excellent except for a page or two in issue 55, specifically Page 4 (page 88 of the book), which has visible pixelation on panel 3. Still, one or two pages out of 232 is not bad at all. Most folks wouldn't even notice or know what the Hell I rant about anyways. Your mileage may vary.
There is a softcover version of this book available, but I am uncertain if it has had any upgrades in terms of restoration. Some of the softcover Marvel Masterworks have had additional spit shining, even after being remastered a third time for the Omnibus.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. They used a really nice, thick coated stock with a slight sheen at this time. The paper has since gotten thinner.
Binding rating: 4.25 out of 5. While the binding is sewn, there is way too much glue used in the casing. It's stiff when compared to a Chinese made Masterwork.



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