MARVEL MASTERWORKS: FANTASTIC FOUR VOL. 14 (Marvel, 2012; Hardcover)
Collects Fantastic Four #142-150, Giant-Size Super-Stars #1, Giant-Size Fantastic Four #2, and Avengers #127 (cover dates January- September, 1974)
Writers: Gerry Conway and Steve Engelhart (Avengers #127)
Artists: Rich Buckler, Ross Andru, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Joe Sinnott, Frank Giacoia, Chic Stone, and Joe Staton
Godzilla bless the 1970s. Bronze Age comics are so much fun, case in point the first issue collected in this book, #142. The drama within the team has caused them to splinter. The Thing journeys to Europe because his girlfriend, the blind Alicia Masters, is approached out of the blue by some mysterious doctor with the promise of an experimental surgery to restore her sight. It results in the Thing fighting Darkoth The Death Demon, one of those silly faux-demonic 1970s monsters that I love so. Of course the doctor in Europe is none other than Doctor Doom. It ends up bringing the team back together in time to fight another monster, the Seeker. None of this makes the slightest bit of sense, but I'll be darned if it's not the most fun that I've had in ages.
Another monster, Ternak of a race of snowmen in the Himalayas, occupies most of the team for #145 and 146. 147-149 deals with the Sub-Mariner and Medusa working to reconcile Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Girl's marriage. In the middle of this arc the team mops up the Frightful Four, which is cool because the last time they tangled (Vol. 13) they made the FF look like a bunch of pikers. #150 is part two of a crossover with Avengers #127 featuring the return of Ultron. I have always been a sucker for Ultron, as he was everywhere in 1984 and 1985. I am pumped about seeing him on the big screen this spring in the second Avengers movie.
There are also two of Marvel's short-lived specials, Giant-Size Super-Stars #1, which features another Thing vs. Hulk showdown, and the retitled Giant-Size Fantastic Four #2, which upped the page count from 48 to 64 page and a price increase of .35 to .50. Inflation was a thing in the '70s. Comics went from .15 in 1970 to .40 by the end of the decade. Compare it to the 2000s, where comics went from $1.99 to $2.99 by decade's end. Of course this decade will tell a different tale, as $3.99 seems to be giving way to $4.99.
Medusa of the Inhumans is an unofficial member of the team during this era, which adds a different flavor to the proceedings since the team is not used to working with her. The Invisible Girl will of course resume her role in the team, but that will happen in the next volume. These comics are a lot of fun. Plenty of action, plenty of story and character development in each issue, solid writing and artwork...what's not to love?
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- While the character pin-ups from Giant-Size Super-Stars #1 are omitted because they were originally in Fantastic Four Annual #1 I feel that they should have been included because they updated the list of the character's appearances. The back-up story from Giant-Size Fantastic Four #2 was omitted because it was a reprint of FF #13.
Linework and Color restoration: Think of the post-2007 Masterworks as definitive Blu-Ray editions, with painstakingly restored linework and a color palette that is 100% faithful to the source material.
Paper stock: Thick coated semi-glossy coated stock that has that sweet, sweet smell that all Chinese manufactured books have. I theorize that this delectable aroma is caused by the toxic stew of broken asbestos tiles, lead paint chips, heavy metal industrial waste, and mercury from recalled thermometers combined with the blood, sweat, and tears of the Chinese children working the sweatshop printing presses. The frosting on this delicious cake scent is the paper which is likely sourced from virgin Amazon rainforests.
Binding: Rounded book casing and Smyth sewn binding allow this book to lay completely flat in one hand as Godzilla intended.
Hardback notes: Faux leather grain texture with foil stamping. Dustjacket has spot varnishing. The next step in my OCD evolution is going to be putting Brodart sleeves on all of my dustjackets.