Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Battle #7 [March, 1952] came out in December, 1951, which, as you
are doubtless tired of reading, was the month of my birth.  I did
think about going with a Valentine’s Day opening of some sort, but
since love is a battlefield...

There aren’t too many certain credits for this issue.  Atlas Tales
suggests Carl Burgos as the cover artist and he did do many covers
for Marvel during the 1950s.  There are four stories:

“P.O.W.” (6 pages, drawn by Al Hartley);

“The Sniper” (6 pages, probably drawn by Bill Savage, a great name
for a comic-book artist);

“Over the Hill” (5 pages, probably drawn by Bill LaCava); and,

“Cavalry Charge” (6 pages, drawn by Joe Maneely).

I haven’t read any of these stories, but it’s only matter of time
before some obscenely wealthy Tony Isabella fan decides to
buy me every comic published in the month of my birth.  I think
Cupid’s arrow is lodged in my brain.  The one above my neck.


This is Fantastic Four Month on my master “catching up with Marvel”
plan.  I read a bunch of FF mini-series and special and didn’t care
for most of them.  But a few of them were pretty good and worth a
comment or two.

Steve Englehart’s Fantastic Four: Big Town [2001] had a very cool
premise.  How would New York and the rest of the world have changed
if Reed Richards had made his advanced technology available to all?
Pencilled by Mike McKone, the answer unfolded in four issues that,
near as I can tell, have never been collected in trade paperback.
That’s too bad because this is fun stuff driven by serious thought
and featuring dozens of heroes and villains.

SPOILER WARNING. If I have any quibble with this mini-series - and
I just have one - it’s that the original X-Men are featured as some
sort of street gang.  Even without the guidance of Professor X, I
can’t completely buy the notion that these five kids went all rebel
on the world.  Bobby Drake and Hank McCoy came from decent middle-
class families.  So did Jean Grey.  Warren Worthington might have
come from wealth, but his family looked pretty solid, too.  Maybe
Scott Summers would have had a rough go of it, but even that one’s
a stretch for me.  It’s too bad there wasn’t a follow-up series to
delve into the mutants.  SPOILER ENDS.

Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure [2008] is a terrific comic book,
if only from a fascinating historical perspective.  It collects two
stories.  One is “The Menace of the Mega-Men,” the lost adventure
of the title.  Scripted by Stan Lee decades after it was originally
drawn by Jack Kirby, it is an amazing reconstruction of a tale from
just before Kirby left Marvel to create New Gods and other titles
for DC.  It’s backed up by “The Monstrous Menace of the Nega-Man,”
a story which included several pages of art from the earlier tale.

Neither story is particularly memorable, though both are far more
readable than many recent Marvel comics.  The first version holds
together better, but it seems lightweight for an FF adventure.  The
second version ups the ante, but you can see the seams.  Quibbles
aside, I enjoyed the heck out of this issue.  With one exception.

Between the two stories we get a text feature by John Morrow, the
publisher/editor of The Jack Kirby Collector and publisher of some
other terrific comics magazines.  Sad to say, the feature comes off
as sort of snotty, belittling the efforts of every one who worked
on Fantastic Four who wasn’t Jack Kirby.  I doubt that was Morrow’s
intent, but that’s how it read to me.  Tom Brevoort, the one-shot’s
fair-minded editor, is to be commended for including this feature,
but, were I in his place, I would have sent it back for a rewrite.

Fantastic Four: The End [2007] is a six-issue mini-series written
and drawn by Alan Davis with inks by Mark Farmer.  Set in a future
some years after the tragic deaths of Franklin and Val Richards, it
shows us a world of tremendous achievement and unspeakable personal
tragedy.  The Four have gone their separate ways, but their heroism
has led to a better and more peaceful world.  Which is not to say
it will remain peaceful. 

Other than to tell you this is an immensely enjoyable, satisfying
series, I don’t want to say too much about it.  I want you to read
it.  It’s been reprinted in a trade paperback collection in 2008,
but the original comics shouldn’t be too hard to track down either.

However, there is one question I must ask of Davis:
Why is Luke Cage still wearing that golden tiara?  In the future?
Man, that’s just embarrassing!

My thoughts on the more recent Fantastic Four and FF issues written
by Jonathan Hickman will be coming soon.


Wolverine is my side “catching up on Marvel” project of the moment.
I sort of read issues from 1999-2001 last weekend.  I say “sort of”
because I ended up doing more skimming than actual reading.  Those
issues didn’t even rise to the level of mediocre.  Poorly written.
Pointless slugfests.  Brutality for brutality’s sake.  Some decent
art here and there, but wasted on the material.  Wolverine may be
the best there is at what he does, but these issues definitely do
not show the character at his best.

On a more modern note...

Having received another box from the friend who lends me his comics
after he reads them, I am now current with Invincible Iron Man and
the canceled Iron Man 2.0

Invincible Iron Man #509-512 again failed to entertain or impress
me.  A tiresome “Fear Itself” issue followed by more boring stuff
with the Mandarin and his underlings doing more terrible things and
killing many innocent people.  Writer Matt Fraction has gone stale
on this book.  It needs new ideas, new villains, and perhaps even
a new writer.

Iron Man 2.0 #10-12 finally wraps up the Palmer Addley storyline.
It’s a decent finish to a too-long serial.  Though I like Rhodey as
a character, this title wasn’t a good venue for him.  It’s time for
him to be something more than “that other Iron Man.”  He deserves
the chance to be a star on his own terms.      
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. My appreciation for both Jack and Stan has really grown over the last several years.

    Like most collaborators, each brought their own strengths to their joint projects.

    And on the projects each did without the other, some hits and misses.

    I do tend to find myself enjoying a lot more of Jack's later solo work than Stan's. But that is just personal preference and not meant to slight either creator's contributions.

    Thankfully, each man has left a large volume of work that can be enjoyed for a very long time!