FANTASTIC FOUR: CRUSADERS & TITANS (Marvel, 2013; Softcover)
Collects Fantastic Four Nos. 164-176 (cover dates November, 1975- November, 1976)
Writer: Roy Thomas with Bill Mantlo
Artists: Rich Buckler, John Buscema, and George Perez with inking by Vince Colletta and Joe Sinnott
Marvel are the unquestioned masters of the double dip. The OCD completist faithful have been tricked into buying and rebuying the same material again and again and again. Take this book, for example. Solicited in May of 2013, it was released simultaneously with Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four Vol. 15, which ended with issue 163. Fears over the health of the Masterworks line led many to believe that the appearance of this here book signaled the end of the line, and that it would continue in softcover form with collections like this. So I bit and bought it as an insurance policy, just in case a Vol. 16 never materialized.
The bastards at Marvel then not only solicited a Vol. 16 roughly six months after this book was released, but they included all but one of the issues in this book (omitting 176) while including three more issues. Those issues themselves were a double dip from The Thing: Liberty Legion Marvel Premiere Classic hardcover released in 2011. So for shelf consistency as well as superior restoration, I have dumped both this book as well as The Thing: Liberty Legion on eBay in order to buy Vol. 16 in September. And let's not forget both of those Fantastic Four Visionaries: George Perez books from way back...
Tales of buying and rebuying aside, there are actually stories inside these books! You can read AND enjoy them. Who knew? I read this to my seven year old son and he absolutely loved this.
You have the Crusader (later Quasar, formerly Marvel Boy) and another battle with the Hulk which resulted in Ben Grimm losing his powers as the Thing. Power Man becomes a member of the team while Mister Fantastic constructed a Thing exoskeleton for Ben Grimm to wear. Power Man's (Luke Cage as the kids call him) stint lasted all of three issues. I could imagine them milking an entire crossover out of that today, complete with sidebar mini-series, one-shots, and prequel and aftermath specials.
When Galactus comes a' calling to devour Counter Earth, the High Evolutionary sets plans into motion to enlist the aid of the Fantastic Four. The outcome of this epic battle is the reintroduction of...ahhh, but that would be telling. Read it for yourself, folks!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I think that I have said enough in the first two paragraphs.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Baxter Building Bulletins from #176. (1 page)
Fantastic Four Visionaries: George Perez Vol. 1 TPB cover. (1 page)
#167 original cover art. (1 page)
#167 cover original color guide. (1 page)
#172, page 4 original art. (1 page)
#176, page 2 original art. (1 page)
Impossible Man TPB cover. (fully rendered version of the covers of #176) (1 page)
Front and back cover to this collection minus trade dress (fully rendered versions of the covers of #168 and 173). (2 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.25 out of 5. While there is some slight pixelation in a few spots as well as the occasionally washed out linework, this is a serviceable restoration job. Most folks would not notice, let alone care about, about the deficiencies here.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. The dull matte coated stock paper that Marvel uses in their collections of vintage material rules.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. I love the thick waxlike lamination that Marvel uses on their books.