Essential Fantastic Four Volume 3, Published by Marvel Comics, 520 pages, $16.99.
Simon and Garfunkel. Burns and Allen. Conway and Knotts. Sonny and Cher. Abbot and Costello. What do these duos have in common? They produced a lot of entertainment, for a lot of people, which will be remembered for a long time. Of course, we can add many more to such a list, but the duo this column is concerned with is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, as the look back on their classic work on comics’ premiere family continues.
Quick facts for the detail-oriented: Volume three of Essential Fantastic Four boasts some important firsts: The first appearances of the Silver Surfer, Galactus, the Inhumans, Blastaar, the Black Panther and Wyatt Wingfoot, as well as the discovery of the Negative Zone. By themselves, these accomplishments testify to the fact that Lee and Kirby were “in the zone” as much as any time in their respective careers. As if that weren’t enough, the humor, drama, intensity and complexity of the plots reached a fever-pitch in this collection, with no sign of diminishing.
Additionally, if it can be stated when Jack Kirby’s artwork became archetypal in its power and design, my vote is for this point in comics history. If volume two of Essential FF (mentioned in the last column) saw Kirby’s style developing into that oft-imitated approach, then volume three is witness to its birth. Here, it is immense, audacious, innovative, and barely contained by the comics page. THIS is Jack Kirby.
Not that any more incentive for acquisition is needed, but let me point out that this body of work also contains Johnny Storm’s initial encounter with the Human Torch of comics’ Golden Age – a significant occurrence for fans and historians alike.
Essential Fantastic Four Volume 3 is a wonderful example of the best the medium of comics has to offer, and is recommended for everyone. Find it at your local comics shop, or online auctions and retailers.
(But, try the comics shop first.)