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The Fantastic Four in the 1970s: The Hulk and the Avengers Guest Star!
The stories in Marvel Essential Fantastic Four 7 first appeared in 1973 through 1975, when I was a preteen who read just about every comic book I could find. The Amazing Spider-Man was Marvel Comics' top-selling comic, but the Fantastic Four had kicked off the Marvel Age and was still the one at the top of the Marvel Universe.
And it's easy to see why when these stories are revisited. In the course of the 27 issues collected in this volume, the Fantastic Four have a wide range of adventures, fighting earthly villains and extra-dimensional invaders with the help of plenty of guest stars.
Highlights include a battle between the Fantastic Four's Thing and the Incredible Hulk, and a two-part tale in which the Avengers' Quicksilver marries the Inhumans' Crystal. The wedding was a big deal at the time, because Crystal had been a long-time girlfriend of the Fantastic Four's Human Torch.
One subplot through all these issues was rather adult for the times. The two married members of the Fantastic Four -- Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl -- were having marital issues and eventually separated. This was pretty amazing to me as a young reader because it seemed so true to life. I just hadn't expected anything like that with superheros. Granted some of the actions that drove them apart were the stuff of comic books: Mr. Fantastic alienated her when he was forced to "shut down" their son's mind before the cosmic rays building up in him destroyed the Earth.
Even so, it was really sad when divorce papers were issued to Mr. Fantastic and it really looked like he lost the Invisible Girl forever. Obviously, anyone who follows comics know they got back together, and she rejoined the team in the last issue of this volume. Writer Gerry Conway, and later Roy Thomas, really did a great job exploring the relationship between the two characters.
A word about the art in this collection. Most of it is by Rich Buckler, a very competent artist but not one who is particularly memorable. John Buscema, a better artist, handles some of the chores, while others also pitch in. In general, though, this isn't a collection of great art.
I think this is a great collection for any Fantastic Four fan.
Who is Your Favorite Member of the Fantastic Four?
The Marvel Essential series is a great way to read all the old issues of Marvel Comics at a reasonable price. Each volume contains hundreds of pages of adventure.
The reason why Marvel Comics can collect so many issues in each volume is that cheaper-quality paper is used, and the comics are reprinted in black and white. So the Essential series is great fun for reading, but maybe not for looking at the art.
Here are the three volumes that precede Essential Fantastic Four 7 in case you are interested.