Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Comic Book Review: Dr. Doom and Daredevil Guest-Star!
The Fantastic Four Fight the Hulk and Sub-Mariner, Plus Dr. Doom's Origin!
The Fantastic Four rocked the comic-book world when it debuted in 1961, with writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby introducing more characterization and realism into superhero comics than existed previously. In the stories collected in this volume, Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 2, Lee and Kirby take the series beyond its early introductory issues and into even more character-driven territory.
This book reprints Fantastic Four No. 21-40, Fantastic Four Annual No. 2 and Strange Tales Annual No. 2 (the Human Torch meets Spider-Man!). Please note that some reviews on Amazon say the book also contains Fantastic Four 20, but if that edition exists I haven't seen it and it's not the book I hold in my hands.
The Marvel Essential series of books, each topping several hundred pages, contain the original stories in black & white rather than color.
Deeper Stories as Invisible Girl Chooses Between Mr. Fantastic and the Sub-Mariner!
Plus the Hulk, Avengers, Medusa, Dr. Doom and Much More!
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used this run of issues to explore the characters in the Fantastic Four world in more depth than most comics at the time, and it is great to be able to read the developments all at once. Reed Richards and Sue Storm (Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl) move closer to the altar, getting engaged after she works out her feelings for the Sub-Mariner.
The Sub-Mariner still comes across as a hot-headed egotist, but he is taken down a peg by the fact that a surface woman would spurn him. He is much deeper than many comic book characters of that time.
Sue and Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) reunite with their father, and the superhero foursome have to deal with their loss of powers at one point.
But Lee and Kirby don't skimp on the action: This book contains several battles with Dr. Doom, the return of such bad guys as the Mole Man and the Red Ghost and the introduction of such new villains as El Diablo, the Hate-Monger and Medusa (who issues later turns out not to be so bad after all).
This edition also includes what I've always considered the best Thing-Hulk fight, a two-parter that guest-starred the early Avengers.
Not every story was spectacular. ''The Infant Terrible'' from issue No. 24 was just plain silly, and ''A House Divided'' from issue 34 wasn't very interesting. But overall this is a very solid collection of stories, and well worth checking out!
The issue to the right is the earliest Fantastic Four I own (no. 22), included in this volume. The comic bag still has the original price I paid for it back in the late 1970s -- $8 (marked down from $25)!
Buy Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Volume 2 on Amazon!
Dr. Doom, Marvel's Greatest Villain!
Exploring The Tortured Life of Victor Von Doom!
Dr. Doom first appeared in Fantastic Four No. 5, and almost immediately became the top villain for the Fantastic Four. In his debut it is mentioned that he was a university classmate of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). But his full origin wasn't told at the time.
Instead, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby explored the Gypsy history of Dr. Doom in a 12-page separate story that appeared two years later in Fantastic Four Annual No. 2. It's a wonderful tale that highlights the villain's major flaw: his arrogance.
In addition to the origin tale, Dr. Doom appears in three battles against the Fantastic Four in this volume. So if you are a fan of this diabolical villain, you will be happy with this collection!
This close-up of Dr. Doom is from the cover of Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Volume 2.
The Fantastic Four: Powerless Before Dr. Doom
But Daredevil Comes to the Rescue!
There's a great two-part adventure against Dr. Doom at the end of the 20 issues of the Fantastic Four that are reprinted here. Issue No. 39 has the Fantastic Four, stripped of their powers during fight with the Frightful Four, returning home only to be forced to confront their greatest adversary, Dr. Doom!
Fortunately, Daredevil joins the fray and helps stall the bad guy's victory long enough for the Fantastic Four to regain their powers in issue No. 40. The Thing is the eventual hero in a dramatic scene!
One interesting note to this two-parter is the art on the Daredevil character. In some panels it looks like he wasn't drawn by Jack Kirby, the regular artist, but by Wally Wood, who was the artist on the Daredevil comics. There's just enough of a contrast of style to make me wonder if either Wood was called in to touch up some panels, or Kirby consciously tried to make Daredevil look like he did in his own comic series.
The cover of Fantastic Four 39 is from my collection.
Fantastic Four Comics for Sale
If you aren't interested in these black & white collections, you can always buy the original comics. There's usually a good selection on eBay any day of the week. Just a reminder: you should make sure you understand what the total price will be (including shipping) before you buy, and check out the condition of any comic you are considering!
Human Torch on the trail of Spider-Man!
From the Human Torch's Solo Series!
Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 2 ends with a tale featuring the Human Torch, who had a solo series in the comic book Strange Tales starting with issue 101. The story here is from Strange Tales Annual No. 2, with Spider-Man as the guest star.
The villain is pretty run-of-the-mill, but the story is cool because it establishes the long-running teenage rivalry between Spider-Man and the Human Torch. It also includes the first time they meet on the top of the Statue of Liberty (which would become their regular meeting place in years to come).
The most interesting aspect of the story is the art. It's famously known that Stan Lee chose Steve Ditko to be Spider-Man's regular artist because he thought Jack Kirby's version was too super-heroic. And whenever I read a Jack Kirby-drawn story from the early days that guest-stars Spider-Man I can see exactly why Lee made the decision. He was absolutely right -- Kirby does draw Spider-Man as too big, too muscular. Check it out for yourself: this is the splash panel of the story, reproduced from the Marvel Essential book. It's much different than Steve Ditko's look.
The Human Torch in Strange Tales - A solo series worth checking out!
The comic book Strange Tales had been around for years when it became the showcase for a solo series of the Human Torch in issue 101. It was an odd little series because it had the Human Torch living in a suburb with his sister, going to high school and hiding his secret identity (in contrast with the Fantastic Four comic book, where he lived in the group's headquarters and his identity was known).
The Thing became a co-star of the series in issue No. 123. The Human Torch series was dropped after issue No. 134, replaced by Nick Fury, Agent of Shield.
The Marvel Essential Series
Reprints at a low price!
The Marvel Essential series reprints many of Marvel Comics' stories from the 1960s on in large volumes that usually top several hundred pages. The series began in 1997 with the publication of the Essential X-Men No. 1 and The Essential Spider-Man No. 1.
Many of the volumes have been printed more than once, with different covers on some of them, so don't let that throw you off when buying. Carefully check to make sure which volume number you are considering.
The huge advantage to these volumes is cost: a reader can get 30 or more stories for about what a half dozen new comic books cost, and the old stories have more pages of action per issue. The Essential books are much more cost-effective than buying all the original comics as well.
Are Marvel Essentials Worthwhile?
Some say the Essential series is a great way for fans to read all their favorite series without having to scout down the old comics and spend a great deal of money. Others say the books just aren't worthwhile because the reprints are in black & white and losing the original colors of the art makes everything look drab.
I agree the colors are a major part of enjoying a comic, but I do think the Essential books are a great deal. I no longer have to go through my collection and pull the original comic out of its protective bag to enjoy an old story. Now, they can sit in a handy volume on my bookcase for me to dip into whenever I want!
Is the Marvel Essentials series worth collecting?
Are You Invisible?
Invisible Girl Grows Up!
Invisible Girl started out in the early Fantastic Four comics as the weakest member, with writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby struggling to find ways that her power of invisibility could help the team. As the years went by they and other creators added to her powers, giving her the ability to project powerful fields of invisible psionic energy that she uses to attack and defend.
Her increased abilities has led her to be seen as one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe. Writer/artist John Byrne changed the name of the character to Invisible Woman during the 1980s to highlight that fact.
This T-shirt is available in various sizes and styles. Just click through to see the variety available!
Marvel Essential Series - Start Your Collection Today!
There are more than 200 Marvel Essential volumes to choose from, ranging over more than four decades of Marvel Comics' history. So there should be at one for every comic fan's taste!
Comic Book Heaven in Baltimore!
Geppi's Entertainment Museum
If you are in Baltimore you should make time to go to Geppi's Entertainment Museum, located near the baseball stadium near the Inner Harbor. The museum, founded by the head of Diamond Comics Distributors, has one of the best comic-book collections on display I have ever seen. I wrote a review of the museum that you can check out in the following lens. The place is definitely worth a visit!
Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore: A Tourist's Guide to Comic Book Heaven!
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Of Comic Books and Family Vacations
For more information about who we are and what we write about please see:
Of Comic Books and Family Vacations: Who is GoldenRuleComics?
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I've told you my opinion of Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Volume 2, as well as the stories and characters in it. What's your opinion? Please share what you think of the book, the Fantastic Four, this lens or comics in general. Thanks!