Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Classics - Fantastic Four Annual #3

I'm amazed that I haven't reviewed Fantastic Four Annual #3 before now, because it is, I believe, my all-time favorite (single issue) comic book.

That doesn't mean it's the best comic book ever made, or even the best drawn.

Before you brand me a heretic for talking that way about writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, let me explain.

As I wrote in my review of Fantastic Four #43 (it's number four on my list of the "Top Ten Lee-Kirby FF Issues"), I bought this comic when it was issued in 1965, sold it almost immediately and bought another copy.

That copy I read until (years later) the cover came off, so I bought an extra copy - and that's where the above scan came from.

The event being covered is the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm - an event my 9-year-old self wasn't too interested in. But what made the issue a permanent classic is the fact that it includes virtually every single Marvel hero and villain, locked in a deadly battle and all crammed into a mere 23 pages!

It is a pure example of Stan and Jack in their prime, as the action flies fast and furious, the story is loaded with humor, and heroes battle bad guys they've never seen before. For example: the X-Men battle the Mole Man, Daredevil tackles the hordes of Hydra, Thor fights the Super-Skrull, Iron Man battles the Mad Thinker's Android - and on and on!

Now, the ending is a bit too convenient, but the gag in the final panels more than makes up for it.

Oh, the art - as always, Kirby provides incredibly dynamic action sequences that fly off the page. The problem is, the story is inked by Vince Colletta. I don't hate his inking (unlike many Kirby fans) - but while his inks were perfect on The Mighty Thor, for some reason they didn't work as well on the FF - I have no idea why. (Perhaps he was better suited to fantasy than science fiction?)

Joe Sinnott, for my money, will always be the best Kirby inker, and thankfully he had a long, glorious run on the FF.

The annual also reprints FF # 6 (the first team-up for Dr. Doom and the Sub-Mariner) and FF #11 (the first appearance of the Impossible Man). And all that for a quarter!

There are other things to rave about - Kirby uses a photo collage (his first?), that amazing cover that's crammed with characters, a guest appearance by Patsy and Hedy - you get the idea.

There are also mysteries that are never solved. Why is Kirby's drawing of Spider-Man replaced with a stat of a Steve Ditko Spidey figure? Why is the World War II-era Sgt. Fury on the cover and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD? Why is Kid Colt on the cover? Who tried to drop a safe on Hawkeye?

But none of that detracts from this fun-loving adventure. It may not be the greatest story, it may not have the best art, but it's a heck of a lot of fun from start to finish. Every time I read it I feel like a kid again. I love it!

Grade: A+


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't ask! Just buy it!
Lee and Kirby amped up the fun meter on this one. ALL the Marvel
heroes and villains (at that time)
in one place! It felt less like a life and death situation and more
like an early comic book convention
with everyone in costume!
This was truly, The Marvel Age of
Comics. And they were just getting

Sam Kujava