Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Classics - Fantastic Four #52

This issue of The Fantastic Four was smack in the middle of the long run that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby enjoyed on this series.

And by this point, both creators were at the peak of their powers. They had just wrapped up a long series of connected stories that introduced the Inhumans, brought Galactus and the Silver Surfer to the Earth for the first time, and this issue marked the first appearance of the Black Panther.

Cover dated July 1966, the Panther seems to be the villain in this issue. He lures the Fantastic Four to Wakanda, his kingdom in Africa, where they find themselves in an amazing, futuristic setting.

The Panther appears and attacks the team, quickly separating them and defeating the
heroes one at a time. Each battle is a pure delight, as the Panther triggers special traps and uses his own skills to overcome Marvel's "First Family."

If there's a weakness in this comic, I can't find it. The action is inventive, the story rockets along at top speed, there's plenty of humor (The Thing is one of the few heroes who can be funny even while he's losing a fight), the dialogue is terrific, the characters are memorable, and the ending is a real surprise.

This story is memorable for another reason - it's the first to feature a black super-hero. I don't remember feeling any kind of surprise about that - it makes sense that an African Prince would be black, after all. But it was a ground-breaking event - though of course Gabe Jones, as a member of Sgt. Fury's Howling Commandos, was also a black hero, just a non-powered one.

It's always a delight when a creative team really starts to click, and Lee and Kirby were on fire by this point in their careers. Lee's wordsmithing was never better, and Kirby was at the peak of his skills (ably assisted here by the great Joe Sinnott on inks - in my opinion, Joe is the all-time best Kirby inker).

Each issue seemed better than the last - just an amazing achievement in comics. As a 10-year-old, by this point the FF was my favorite comic book of them all - and it would hold the title for years.

Grade: A+


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was pretty young then and those
Lee/Kirby comics were tough to get
into. Dense plots, so many characters and storylines that flowed from one issue to the next.
I got introduced to The Fantastic
Four by reading their early reprints in MARVEL COLLECTOR'S ITEM CLASSICS.
After a few issues of that put me
in the know, I started buying the
regular monthly title, and Chuck,
you are SO right. The BEST comic
by two men at the TOP of their profession!

Sam Kujava