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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Both Marvel and DC Comics have been reprinting their classic tales, making them affordable and accessible to modern collectors, but Marvel deserves an extra kudos for their exceptional "Essentials" series which reprint entire runs of 20-or-so comics from Marvel's Silver Age in a black-and-white "phone book" format (no doubt inspired by Dave Sim's massive collections of "Cerebus" comics). How innovative are these first FF comics? Picture the early 1960s, where a superhero team comic meant the rather whitebread "Justice League of America" from DC...classic stories, of course, but somewhat lacking in scope and character development. Enter Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's first Marvel Comic: the heroes don't wear costumes (not until the third issue, at least), squabble and fight (not unlike a real family) and face truly hideous and grotesque monsters of true nightmare quality. Reading these stories I'm often surprised at the sheer amount of plot and action that Lee and Kirby manage to squeeze into a couple dozen pages for each story...although this is slightly before the incredibly innovative period of Kirby's blockbuster, knock-you-out layouts, there's still, for want of a better phrase, "never a dull moment." This book, and others created by Lee and Kirby and the other great artists of early Marvel, created comics that inspired a whole new wave in the industry. This isn't the single greatest Fantastic Four period--Kirby's knock-out run beginning around FF #45 and including the mind-blowing Galactus Trilogy is yet to come--but it's an absolute must-have for anyone who professes to love comics. Finally, *very* high praise for the Essentials series in and of itself: I've always wanted to read *all* these stories, not just the few that get often reprinted in other formats (FF #1, 5), and this is simply the best way to read a couple years worth of continuity at an exceptionally affordable price. Sure, these are reprinted in black and white rather than the original color, but that's a minor problem-Kirby's art is as dynamic and innovative even without colors. The "Essentials" series is a re-publishing program that is much needed, and I hope it continues (how about a collection of Ant-Man/Wasp stories? John Byrne's run on FF? Gulacy's Master of Kung Fu?). Although DC has made enormous strides in re-presenting their classic works for a modern audience in their Archives editions and the Millennium comic books, Marvel has shown that it can and will cover all ends of the market with comic book format reprints, color graphic novel compilations, their pricier color Masterworks collections, and these accessibly-priced and aptly-named Essentials. There's only one thing Marvel could do better: add a "created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby" line to every Fantastic Four comic, giving homage and credit where credit's due to not only Stan the Man but the one and only King of Comics.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
My name is Joshua Doss I am 12 years old. I loved Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Essential Fantastic Four book. Every night I would read their book. Before I read their book I had a 3rd grade reading level and I was in the 6th gread. Now that I have read it my reading level has gone back to normal. P.S. I can't wait for volume 2# to come out.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
From a historical standpoint the first twenty issues of "The Fantastic Four" are important because they were Stan Lee's first steps in creating the Marvel Universe. Before there was Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, and everybody else, there was the Thing, Mr. Fantastic, Human Torch, and Invisible Girl. I love how the cover of issue #1 proclaims that these four characters are "together for the first time in one mighty magazine," which is interesting since none of them had appeared individually in any magazine, monthly or otherwise (since Johnny Storm is not the original Human Torch).
The whole point of "The Fantastic Four" was that Stan Lee was revitalizing the sorry state of superhero comic books in the early Sixties. While testing an experimental space craft Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, and Sue and Johnny Storm are exposed to a bombardment of mysterious cosmic rays. When they return to earth they discover that they have gained fantastic abilities, which they will use to fight evil. When compared to the competition at that particular point in time, these comics are pretty good, but I cannot help but compare them to the glory days of the Fantastic Four starting around year four when Galactus, the Silver Surfer, and the Inhumans first pop up. Lee's writing certainly improved over time, but not as much as Jack Kirby's artwork. Even within this collection, which covers the first twenty issues of "The Fantastic Four" along with the first annual, you can see a significant improvement in Kirby's artwork (just pay attention to how the Thing is drawn over this period), which I think goes beyond the work of Dick Ayers as the main inker on those later comics (Note: For FF#13 you have the rare combination of pencils by Kirby being inked by Steve Ditko).
It is the character of the Thing that was the key to creating the most dysfunctional group of superheroes (before the X-Men reformed with Wolverine anyway). The pathos of a man turned into a monster, and being unaware of his fate unlike the Hulk, was another to overcome the elasticity of Mr. Fantastic, which is one of the lamest super powers, even if Reed Richards is a lot smarter than Plastic Man. Resurrecting the Human Torch as a hotheaded teenager was a good move, especially since it led to bringing back Namor the Sub-Mariner as well, but it was soon clear that Sue Storm's invisibility was no big deal and her powers were augmented with force fields.
My memory of these early issues was that there were a lot of hokey villains, but in rereading these stories I am more impressed with the gallery of super villains Lee and Kirby created in these early years. Doctor Doom is, of course, the biggest and baddest of them all, and Lee returns to him and Namor repeatedly because they are clearly heads and shoulders about the others. The Super Skrull is a good second-level supervillian and I have to admit that the Miracle Man, the Red Ghost, the Impossible Man, the Molecule Man, the Mad Thinker and, yes, even the Mole Man, were not as bad as I first thought. However, the Puppet Master is just too freaky looking for me to accept; good thing Alicia makes her first appearance in that story as well.
So I started out convinced that I was going to give the Volume 1 of "The Essential Fantastic Four" four stars, but when I went over these early issues again they were better than that; once you add in the historic significance of these comics you really have to give it five stars. But, when it comes to Lee and Kirby's work on the Fantastic Four, the best is yet to come, True Believers! (Final Note: Hey, kids! Can you spot Adlai Stevenson in one of these comics? Would it help if you knew that he was the Democratic nominee for President in both 1952 and 1956 and was the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. during the Kennedy administration? And they say comic books are not educational...)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
The most enjoyable aspect of the Essential Fantastic Four Volume I is to watch what would become the Marvel Universe begin to slowly unfold. The endless bickering (often substituting for deeper characterization) and the constant defence of Invisible Girl's rather weak abilities can get a little monotonous when all the issues are read together but Stan Lee and Jack Kirby make up for it with a great host of wonderful villains (with a very low ratio of duds), including the Silver Age introduction of the Sub-Mariner, Dr. Doom, Red Skull, the Skrulls, Puppet Master, the Thinker, Molecule Man, and Impossible Man. Also evident is the cross-polination of series with both the Hulk and the Ant-Man making memorable appearances creating a feeling of an actual, specific universe. The dazzling depths of future adventures is only just glimpsed with a Dr. Doom's story expanding into two issues and the appearance of both the Watcher and the Super-Skrull. Still, even in this somewhat embryonic stage it is easy and very exciting to see where the Fantastic Four were heading.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Every few decades, a comic emerges which changes everything in the medium. Action Comics #1 with the emergence of Superman. Frank Miller's "Batman: The Dark Night Returns". And bisecting these two milestones? Fantastic Four #1, the comic which gave birth to the Silver Age.
This legendary issue is included, along with the 19 issues of the title which followed it, and the 1st FF annual, in "Essential Fantastic Four vol. 1". Each issue is absolutely packed with some of the most innovative characters and writing ever seen in comics. Aside from the truly radical members of the FF (a superteam that bickers? This ain't the Justice League), readers are treated to the first appearances of the Sub-Mariner, the shapeshifting Skrulls, and Dr. Doom.
This is a top-drawer collection which every comics fan should own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The Essential Fantastic Four, Volume I is possibly the greatest bound volume of the Marvel Essentials. Included is the origin storyline of perhaps the greatest villain of all time, namely the brilliant and psychologically complex Doctor Doom. Prevalent throughout this work are displays of top-notch science fiction along with great characters who display unending moments of unpredictability, thus leaving the readers at the edge of their seats.

Of course, the characters that make each issue come to life are the Fantastic Four members themselves. Leading the pack is Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, who is esteemed as the most ingenious scientific mind on Earth and who possesses the ability to stretch his body over vast distances. Next in line is Ben Grimm, who comes to be known as the Thing, since his once natural, human body becomes, on the positive side, an entity that can lift heavy objects in a way comporable to the Hulk's feats, but on the negative side, has his flesh already transformed to a hideous, multilayered composition of rocks. Third is Sue Storm, who is known as the Invisible Girl and is the girlfriend (and would years down the road become the wife) of Mr. Fantastic; she possesses the power to turn invisible and in these early issues has not discovered or honed her abilities to project forcefields to protect her and her loved ones from various oncoming invaders and their weapons. And then there is Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch and brother of the Invisible Girl; he is the only member who can fly and who can turn his body into flame and project his elevated body heat to burn, melt and vaporize various objects, to say the least.

As a unit, the Fantastic Four are the most interconnected fighting team in the comic book universe. Their origins have a unifying commonality, and that is the exposure to high levels of cosmic radiation during a spaceflight that would give each member its own abilities. Collectively, they are regarded as one of the greatest superhero teams of all time, and since they were already a tightly knit unit on an interpersonal level before attaining their superpowers, the Fantastic Four arguably know one another's strengths and weaknesses at a level that not even the Justice League or The Avengers could equal.

Again, Doctor Doom is perhaps the greatest villain of all time, but he does not necessarily mop up the stage in regards to the characters posing difficult challenges for the Fantastic Four. Making their presences felt are The Mole Man, The Puppet Master, The Mad Thinker, and the emotionally complex hero/villain Namor, the SubMariner.

In all, the heroes and villains set up perplexing stages and situations that can stump many a brilliant mind. One side can, proverbially speaking, go in with the best chess moves and pieces in their arsenals and strategies only to find out that they have ended up at the poker table. The developments that ensue are enough to create discussions among those interested in game theory; it is apparent that even the renowned mathematician, John von Neumann, would have been pleased with these stories.

Along with the intellectual flashes of brilliance displayed among the characters are the scientific gadgets that, visualized almost half a century ago, are yet to be developed and that would seem impressive and advanced even by early twenty-first-century standards if their existence came to fruition.

All in all, this bound volume was created during the space race and the Cold War against Russia, and the first man had yet to land on the moon. It is quite apparent that people had a faith in technology that modernizing civilizations could improve living standards and make societies happier, as well as more progressive and peaceful. Indeed, one today now wonders where everything seems to have gone wrong with what apparently amounts to a RAM and ROM cesspool.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is an excellent collection of the earliest adventures of the Fantastic Four. Every reader, whether they are just discovering the FF or are a long time fan, will enjoy this book. Although the adventures are a bit campy, they accurately reflect the state of comic art and storytelling during the 1960s. Long time fans are likely to discover new facts about the team that are not well known. For example, Reed Richards fought in World War II and Susan Storm had not yet manifested her force field power during this early period. As expected, this book contains the origin story of the FF. Just as entertaining, however, are the origin and first appearances of such villains as the Mole Man, the Skrulls, and Dr. Doom. The Fantastic Four was also used by Marvel Comics as a venue to re-discover the Sub Mariner from the 1940s and `50s. In addition to the stories, this book provides a window into the past. Some of the dialogue and fashion would clearly be out of place today. For example, not too many teenagers, like Johnny Storm, would go on a date wearing a fedora. The only down side is the lack of color. The comics are printed in black and white. This shortcoming, however, is easily overlooked by the reader once they begin an adventure. Bottom line, this book is a great look through time at both the origin of the FF and the world of the 1960s. Flame On!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2003
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I was watching a Stan Lee interview on TV. And saw in the back ground some comics with the word's ESSENTIAL. So I looked them up on Amazon.com.
Way cool! In the early 60's as a kid I was a chronic comic book reader. Into the 70's discovering Rock 'N' Roll I tended to drift away from them. Sold them all to the local "used book" store, to stock up on Deep Purple,Alice Cooper,Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath lp's. Tryin' figure?
When I read they were only in Black and White, no color. I'd get a couple to check them out, know what I mean?
20 issues for under $, not bad for a check out,lol.
Half way into the first story, you don't even notice the color being there or not. Remember, your imagination is what powered these story's in the first place,right?
So now I've gotten THOR,X-MEN,HULK,DR.STRANGE,IRON MAN,AVENGERS,SILVER SURFER and SPIDERMAN. Vol.1's of course.
I intend to get alot more in the future.
But the bottom line is this. If you want to follow the all important story's as they intertwine with each other. You need to start right here, right now! THE FANTASTIC FOUR are the greatest fighting team of all time!!
I'm watching to see what issue THE THING first said "It's Clobbering Time!"
**Side note** I looked up the value of the comics I had. And I could buy my house twice!
So I only gave this 4 stars because lack of color. But the price makes up for it. So it is 5 star's.
Would have been interesting if they left the advertising in for some laugh's. But they didn't so it is packed with the adventure you crave and lust for.
These are my new collection now. So please don't buy any,okay }:-)
I don't want them to run out or raise the price,do to supply and demand };-)
There I go sounding like Dr. Doom, I'm sorry,lmao!!
Go ahead and get them, okay? Great x-mas or Father's daygift for Dad if he's in his 40's+
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
I've been a huge fan of the Fantastic Four for many, many years. Even before I knew how to read, I had comic books. I was already familiar with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and the Hulk, but there was one comic with some "fantastic" characters that I knew nothing about. There was some guy who looked like he was made out of orange rocks about to punch some guy in a blue suit who was jumping out of the water. Once I learned how to read, I discovered the Thing, Sub-Mariner, Mr. Fantastic, Human Torch, Invisible Girl (back then), Dr. Doom and a whole cast of characters. So, I've had a 'thing' for the FF for a long time. (pun intended.)

I recently turned 39 and decided I would tread myself to one of the Essential comics, since I hadn't purchased any yet. It was a toss up between the Essential Fantastic Four and Essential Marvel Two-in-One (being the Thing fan I am.) Essential FF finally won out, mainly because I already have several of the original Marvel 2 in 1 issues, but mainly because I doubt I'll ever be able to afford the first 20 issues of FF.

Enough of the stroll down memory lane, this is supposed to be a review...

To call this volume "Essential" is not hyperbole. If you're interested in the Marvel Universe of today, or if you're interested in the history of comics, this is 'essential' for your understanding. In this volume, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby lay the foundations of the entire Marvel Universe, and one could argue every comic out on the market today.

It's hard to see it now, but FF was a radical departure from what super-hero comics were supposed to be up until then. Super-heroes who didn't disguise their identities? Who lived in a know address that anyone could see? Who didn't wear typical costumes, but something more like work coveralls? (I've heard Stan Lee say he didn't want them to have costumes at all, but bowed to editorial pressure by issue #3). And a super-hero who didn't want to be a super-hero? Radical! The great thing about these stories is that they're still as exciting today as they were when they were first published.

Before this turns into a gush fest, I will let you know that there are several goofy moments in here. Such as the story where the FF go bankrupt, get an offer to star in a film in Hollywood, and have to hitchhike cross-country to get to California! Hey, all the ideas can't be pearls.

But think of all the later Marvel characters that the FF spawned! Exploring the Hero or Monster theme that he started with the Thing, Stan Lee created the Hulk. If the re-introduction of the Sub-Mariner hadn't gone over so well, would they have brought back Captain America? If this new approach to comic characters had tanked, would Marvel have taken the chance on Spider-Man or X-Men?

Yep, I think "Essential" sums it up pretty well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Like many comic fans I've probably read the first 2 or 3 issues of Fantastic Four dozens of times in various reprints, but never seemed to find issues beyond that without paying an outrageous sum of money. This book collects issues 1-20 plus Annual #1 in an inexpensive format with the only drawback being they're all black & white. Having read hundreds of B&W comics over the years I didn't find this to be a distraction at all and actually gained a greater appreciation for Kirby's artwork; watching the evolution from early issues towards his now recognizable style. You can start to see how Lee and Kirby are getting into a groove with the later issues in this book, building toward what would become a 100 issue run. These volumes are designed for people who want to read and enjoy classic comic stories without having to file for a second mortgage, and I highly recommend them. I have since purchased volumes, 2, 3 and 5 with plans to get 4 completing the Lee/Kirby issues of Fantastic Four.
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