Essential Fantastic Four Volume 4, Published by Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc., 536 pages, $16.99.
The Fantastic Four was, for some time, Marvel Comics’ flagship book. And for good reason. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s historic work on the mag remains a measuring rod for comic book stories, even today. And the inspiration gained by fans during the Silver Age is mirrored by their modern day counterparts who are fortunate enough to uncover this sequential gem.
Volume 4 continues to showcase the explosive, burgeoning work of Jack Kirby, who, it could be argued, did more than anyone to put Marvel on the media map. It also contains significant premiers, including Psycho Man, “Him” (the character who would become Warlock), and the announcement of the Richards’ baby. Additionally, there are interesting interactions between secondary characters Black Panther and the Inhumans.
From a storyline aspect, this volume sees the property persist in the epic tradition which can be said to have truly begun with the first Galactus story, reprinted in Volume 3. Fresh encounters with quality characters such as the afore-mentioned world-devourer, the Silver Surfer, Annihilus and others aid in the upward motion of the quality of this Lee and Kirby product. This is the kind of cosmic “stuff” which helped make The Fantastic Four one of the most fondly-followed works in comics history.
One of the most attractive characteristics of this volume is the significant amount of drama swirling around the Thing. Whether being manipulated by a villain bent on destroying the F.F. from within, or buffeted by his own struggles pertaining to being a man for himself, versus a monstrous powerhouse for the team, the tragedy surrounding Ben Grimm makes for superior four-color theatre.
All this, and an entertaining parody of the goings on in the Marvel Comics offices, written and drawn by Jack Kirby, earn this volume the highest recommendation for readers of all ages. Find it at your local comics shop, or online retailers and auctions. But, try your comics shop first.