Essential Fantastic Four Volume 7 by John Buscema, Joe Sinnott, Rich Buckler, Ross Andru, Bob Brown, Dick Ayers, Joe Staton, Gerry Conway, Tony Isabella, Len Wein, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont and Steve Englehart (graphic novel review).
‘Essential Fantastic Four Volume 7’ features stories from Fantastic Four # 138 through to Fantastic Four # 159 with a couple of ‘Giant-Size’ issues thrown in for good measure. Over 500 pages, as usual with ‘Essentials’, so good value at least so far as pages per pound/dollar/euro pint of yak milk or whatever currency you use goes.
Is it any good though? Well, it’s not brilliant but it’s interesting and certainly not bad. This is more seventies Marvel and, after the rapture of the sixties when it was all new and exciting, there was an inevitable feeling of anti-climax. I think the same thing happened in pop music. Even so, the new generation of writers had a slightly different take on things than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and there were subtle changes happening in the stories even as old villains were being recycled for the umpteenth time.
The old villains are Miracle Man, Annihilus, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, the Frightful Four and Doctor Doom (twice). The Hulk and Sub-Mariner aren’t really villains but they fight our heroes so they are in this context. There are variations on the old themes to be fair. The Frightful Four are given a feminist twist with Thundra, a lady from another dimension with a mission of her own. There are other feminist issues raised between Reed and Sue which lead to conflict and Johny Storm has romantic troubles of his own. New villains include Mahkizmo the Nuclear Man, Darkoth the Death-Demon, Tempus, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Madrox the Multiple Menace and Xemu, Master of the Fifth Dimension. The Inhumans feature quite a lot, too.
Along with the old villains, old art is recycled by Rich Buckler who continues to ape Kirby layouts and poses quite a lot but does break out in his own stuff more often as time passes. The Kirby style is suited to super-heroes and Buckler is not a bad artist, though Joe Sinnott can make anyone look good. The first four issues here are by John Buscema, excellent as ever, and there’s even a guest shot by Ross Andru but most of it is Buckler. Most of the writing is by Gerry Conway with odd issues by Len Wein and Tony Isabella for seasoning. Roy Thomas takes up the scripting towards the end, which is good.
Reading this was an amiable way to pass the time. If one is collecting the complete adventures of the Fantastic Four it’s a must have, obviously, and there are important developments in the private lives of the characters even if the super-villain fighting part of their existence continues as usual. Worth it for the money but don’t dive in with expectations too high. I’m looking forward to reading ‘Essential Fantastic Four Volume 8’ which is mostly by Roy Thomas and George Perez.
(pub: Marvel Comics. 568 page black and white graphic novel. Price: About £ 9.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ISBN: 978-0-78513-063-5)
check out website: www.marvel.com