We are way overdue for more of the Fantastic Four. We will continue where we left off way back in Arcs & Runs #2 with another super run from this team and issues 52 thru issue 60.
Marvel may have temporarily ceased publication of their former flagship title, but there is enough top shelf material already printed to keep any devote Fantastic Four fan satisfied until they return. We have a lot to cover in this run so without further ado, let’s get back to the heyday of the Fantastic Four.
All of the comics in this run are brought to you by Marvel’s creative dream team: Jack Kirby art, Joe Sinnott inking, and Stan Lee does the writing.
The Fantastic Four are invited by the unknown Black Panther to visit his kingdom in Wakanda to a special hunt he has arranged in their honour. The FF accept and the Black Panther’s emissary sends the an acknowledgment back to the Wakanda via a very small transmitter (the secret is out! The Black Panther invented the Blackberry). This all turns out to be a trap of course, and the FF and Wyatt Wingfoot are the hunted and the Black Panther is the hunter. He has an assortment of traps laid out for the FF and is doing pretty well until the unaccounted for Wyatt Wingfoot uses his stealth to free the FF from said traps. The Black Panther acknowledges his defeat and is about to give the FF and explanation for his actions as this book comes to a close. This is a good story that introduces a long standing and much revered character to the Marvel universe.
The Fantastic Four are the guests of Chief of Wakanda, aka T’challa and the Black Panther. We are introduced to the source of Panthers great wealth – the metal vibranium, which is in bountiful supply in the mountains of the Wakanda’s. The Black Panther speaks of his father and how he met his death at the hand of Klaw the master of sound. Klaw wanted the vibranium for his own evil purposes. A young T’challa is the only survivor of Klaw’s deadly attack, and he fights back by getting his hands on Klaw’s sound blaster weapon. In a confrontation with Klaw, he blasts Klaws right hand for all intents and purposes off and he leaves vowing to return. This was 10 years prior and the FF and the Black Panther don’t know he in fact has returned complete with new weapons. They are in the form of a red gorilla & elephant that can repel any force used against them. They were created by Klaw in his “sound” machine. The FF take on the animals and the Panther takes on Klaw and defeats him ending the threat for now. With some encouragement from the FF the Black Panther vows to use his wealth and power for the betterment of mankind. In the last panels we see Klaw entering the sound machine vowing to come back and destroy the Black Panther. Although this book takes a little time to get going I like it even more than #52.
We join The FF, the Black Panther and Wyatt Wingfoot having the vacation in the Wakanda’s they originally thought they were going to have. Johnny Storm isn’t having much fun. He is still thinking about his lost love Crystal of the Inhumans. There story of their entrapment in a refuge, surrounded by an impenetrable dome like barrier (created by Maximus the Mad) is playing out here in this run and it averages about 2-3 pages per book through to issue #60. The story moves front and center this issue with Johnny wanting to test his flame against the great barrier once more. The Black Panther provides a ship and Wyatt comes along for the ride. On route they fall into a chasm and stumble into Prestor John (his first appearance in the Marvel universe) and the Evil Eye. We have a brief history of Prestor John and a demonstration of the Evil Eyes power. Johnny wants to borrow the powerful Evil Eye to try it against the barrier. Prestor John refuses and the desperate Johnny Storm steals the Eye. It turns out there is a massive power build up occurring in the weapon and Wyatt has to shoot the Evil Eye out of the Torch’s hands just before it explodes, and before he has a chance to use it on the barrier, leaving Johnny Storm stuck in his torment.
We begin this issue with the thing frantically trying to get in touch with his girlfriend Alicia Masters and fearing she may have found someone else. Meanwhile the Silver Surfer has returned and he already having his doubts about the sanity of the human race. He seeks out Alicia whom he met when he first arrived on earth. They begin talking just about the time the Thing arrives and of course all hell breaks loose. The rest of the book is a Donnybrook between the angry Thing and the confused Silver Surfer. It all ends well with Reed ,Sue, and Alicia straightening out the Thing, and the Silver Surfer leaving to find out more about the human race. He leaves with a bouquet of flowers for Alicia and more doubts for the Thing.
The Fantastic Three are attacked with the return of Klaw master of sound, fresh from his sound machine and complete with a new uniform. He attacks them in the Baxter building trapping Ben and Reed in a chamber. Sue is next on his list, he does fill in the blank in terms of how he survived his own sound chamber and emerged more powerful than ever (ya that story). Fantastic Three was not a typo. The Human Torch has been MIA from the FF since issue #54, as he continues his search Crystal. He and Wyatt are inching closer, they have found Lockjaw and the Inhumans are usually not far behind. He is no help to Sue in her battle with Klaw. She fights on and has given Reed and Ben time to get out and engage with Klaw. Suddenly a small rocket arrives from the sky courtesy of the Black Panther. Custom vibranium wristbands how thoughtful (work like brass knuckles only better). Reed puts them on and in short order Klaw is down for the count.
Klaw is said to be the villain in the Black Panther movie. His Hollywood origin was there in part for us to see in the recent Avengers movie when Ultron cut off his right hand while confiscating a load of vibranium from his ship. Klaw in comics follows the Black Panther to the Avengers and makes his first appearance as a member of the new Masters of Evil in Avengers #54.
Our story begins mid-battle in a state prison with the Wizard and the Sandman trying to break out of prison. Sandman does escape and the Wizard is re captured. A quick change of scene the Silver Surfer receives a request for a visit from the Monarch Doctor Doom. Intrigued the Surfer accepts the invitation to learn more about the human race. Yikes! Back to the FF. Ben is looking for the Sandman when he shows up at the Baxter building and attacks Reed and Sue. There is another spirited battle and the Sandman escapes into a time locked advanced equipment storage unit (that can’t be good). Back to Doctor Doom and the Surfer. The Surfer has displayed his many cosmic powers to Doom and he is impressed. Doctor Doom shows the Silver Surfer vastness outer space from one of his satellites. The Surfer is entranced by the scene and while he is distracted attacks the Surfer with a weapon that drains the power of the Silver Surfer into the body of Doctor Doom. Double Yikes!! Back at the Baxter building Reed and Sue await the emergence of the Sandman. Sue feels a sudden sense of dread come over her. How right she is…
This issue is basically a full on assault by the new super powered Doctor Doom. He has acquired the powers of the Silver Surfer and his surf board. Doom is like a kid in a candy store using cosmic powers no one earth has ever possessed. He toys with the Fantastic Four, enjoying every minute of it. Lockjaw has transported the Human Torch and Wyatt Wingfoot back to the Baxter building when they thought they getting closer to the Inhumans so this more bad news. Another vain attempt by the FF to stop Doom is rebuffed. Doom chooses not to destroy them. He would rather they suffer watching him destroy, while they are powerless to stop him. The mood at the end of this book is pretty bleak.
Fantastic Four #59
The carnage continues as armies swell up to attack Doctor Doom with no effect. Doctor Doom continues to wreak havoc on the populace of earth. Reed Richards is still working on a new gizmo to attack Doctor Doom. The Silver Surfer remains a helpless prisoner of Doctor Doom. All is not lost. The good news is Black Bolt and the Inhumans have finally broken free of the barrier. This story has been building a few pages at a time since issue #52 and has finally come to a resolution. Black Bolt used the power of his voice a second time to finally crack the barrier. Meanwhile as we close this issue Doctor Doom is ready to proclaim he is Master of the Earth. This book has one of my favourite FF covers.
The final issue in this four part Doctor Doom story begins with the Human Torch trying to take down Doctor Doom by himself. He try’s hard but is no match for the cosmic powered Doom. The helpless Silver Surfer is still locked in Doom’s castle and can’t even help himself let alone anyone else. The three remaining members of the FF tackle Doom next. The Thing tackles Doom head on Man a Mano. Doom loves this having been defeated by the Thing hand to hand in the past. When the battle is over he leaves the Thing stranded suspended in mid-air. The Torch and the Invisible Girl also give it shot to no avail. Doom has had enough he will rid the world of the Fantastic Four forever with his disintegrator beam. He is about to shoot when… we interrupt this story with another page and a half of the continuing story of the Inhumans (get your own book for Pete’s sake)…. Now back to the FF and their imminent destruction. Just as Doom is about to do the deed a US air force anti-cosmic flying wing swoop’s down over Doom . He is staggered by the assault but takes off after it until he hits Galactus’s barrier meant to prevent the Silver Surfer from leaving earth. The board returns empty to Doom’s castle and the Silver Surfer. What has happened to Doctor Doom no one knows and the world is safe once more.
It is a very good thing the Sandman comes equipped with his own litter box. He has been in locked in that storage unit in the Baxter building now for quite some time. He does return with a vengeance in issue #61 but that is a tale for another day.
Listed below are the prices from the 44th Overstreet price guide. The current prices realized for issue #52 are much higher than the listed guide prices here.
|Fantastic Four #52||$126||$311||$706||$1,100|
|Fantastic Four #53||$51||$117||$259||$400|
|Fantastic Four #54||$36||$80||$173||$265|
|Fantastic Four #55||$63||$147||$324||$500|
|Fantastic Four #56||$36||$79||$170||$260|
|Fantastic Four #57-60||$30||$64||$132||$200|
These books are also available in Marvel Masterworks. If you still like your comics and the thrill of the hunt, but need to do it on the cheap you can find reprints of all of these stories in Marvels Greatest Comics #39-43 and Marvel Triple Action #1-4. Most of these books feature some nice original cover art, and are a cheap alternative to the real thing.
I still feel awfully lucky to have grown up with these great books. We’ll get to some more Fantastic Four before the end of this year. Until then good luck filling the holes in your want list!