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Fantastic Four Epic Collection: Strange Days Paperback – June 9, 2015
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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Gutter loss is a continual problem with these larger Epics, but it doesn't override the sheer joy at seeing this material finally collected.
Overall, it's one for the dedicated FF fan, and not for the new reader. A newbie will be lost on many critical plot points (some of which didn't even make sense back in the day, to be honest) . Here's hoping Marvel release the previous volume sooner rather than later. The new-reader unfriendliness of it makes me knock it down a star, plus the fact that so many stories rely on issues not included in this collection.
The material in this volume starts out to be very entertaining but seems with each story to get worse and worse as it goes along. Towards the end it is total unreadable drek.
The format is excellent, you get 470 pages or 17 comics worth with a stiff durable cardboard cover. We get a table of contents page with the page numbers for each story but the book contains no page numbers itself. So the contents page is pretty worthless. The other Epic Collections have all had page numbers on all except Moon Knight volume one which had page numbers only for the first half of the book.
This is the first Marvel Universe Epic Collection to feature computerized coloring. Marvel purchased Malibu Comics in 1994 so that they would have access to their coloring skills. The early issues are really not to my liking , but the coloring does improve as the volume goes on. Skin tones often look quite purple.
The era after the firing of Jim Shooter and before Jim Quesada took over as Editor-in-chief are a low point in the history of Marvel Comics quality wise. Although the Marvel Knights books and a few others proved the exception.
At the time these books came out I remember reading Tom Defalco's early run on FF and found it a little wonky and very soap opera like, but fun. But at some point there I stopped actually reading them and just put them in my long boxes. All this is long winded way to say I was looking forward to reading this volume.
This is the first volume which could have really benefited from a what has gone on before recap. When the story starts we have a Fantastic Four consisting of six members. Reed Richards is considered dead and Johnny Storm is a member of Fantastic Force. Sue Storm is team leader, Ben Grim has a big kool-aid stain on one side of his head. Other members are Scott Lang , Ant-Man who has a costume which looks a little like Venom complete with a big Ant on his torso and spikes on his shoulders and gloves. Lyja, Johnny Storm's Skrull wife. Namor with his long pony tale and spike wrist gauntlets still has a crush on Sue. Rounding out the team was Mini-Doom, Kristoff the eleven year old protege and heir of Victor Von Doom.
I actually enjoyed the first two part story once I figured out who the players where . It is an Indiana Jones like tale involving a Professor named Kenneth Robeson. Kenneth Robeson was the pen name used by Lester Dent and his peers when writing the Doc Savage novels. This story lasts from FF #403 and #404 . Along the way most of our heroes turn into their own rocky versions of the Thing.
The art from Paul Ryan and Danny Bulanadi is quite good. John Lowe inked the later stories. His work was not quite as polished as Bulanadi. Carlos Pacheco took over art for the final two issues with a cruder , anime style for the final two issues of this FF run.
Fantastic Four #405 was a bridging issue in which Ben Grimm got the power to change back and forth between forms. His Kool-Aid stain was revealed to be a scar which becomes a patch of orange rocks when he is in Ben Grimm form.
Then starts Strange Days, a bloated five part epic which brings back Reed Richards. Parts of this story were fun but overall things are going down hill. Hyperstorm, the villain is awful and had that Image over rendered look to him. His powers are clear as mud and the story has no ending they just get teleported home.
FF # 410 is a rather good low key story key story exploring the double love triangles DeFalco had set up. Johnny ,Lyja, Ben and Reed, Sue, Namor. DeFalco also starts a storyline with Scott Lang's daughter and a school friend that he will never get a change to fully explore.
In FF # 411 Black Bolt goes nuts and the FF need to stop him. FF# 412 is a battle between Reed and Namor in which Namor proves he is the better man.
Fantastic Four #413 is total waste of space since it is set up by a few issues of Doom 2099 so I really don't have any idea what is going on. Then worst of all it concludes in an issue of Doom 2099. Also not included.
In FF # 414 DeFalco tries to make sense of this whole Hyperstorm saga in one issue which gets a very quick and unsatisfying ending . The ending is *****Spoiler Alert ***** Reed gets Galactus to eat his grandchild.
In the penultimate issue FF #415 things get even worse as "Onslaught " starts . Worse yet the issue ends with continued in X-Men #55. Also not included.
Fantastic Four #416 is more Onslaught trash , but features a hidden jewel .A six page story about the first meeting between Reed Richards, Ben Grimm and Victor Von Doom. Story by DeFalco , art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer.
Next up is two parts off the Onslaught storyline. If there is anything worse then having to reread Onslaught, it is having to read only parts of it. I am not sure it made sense to begin with but in this form it was uttter gibberish.
I gave up and skipped to the end which was a reprint of FF Legends, a text comic which featured panels from the great history of the book. This only reminded me of how badly the book had fallen.
Extras include House ads, trading cards and an interview with Pacheco.
Overall I give the beginning four stars , the middle three and the ending one star. Read at your own risk.
Many who read my Amazon reviews know that I am an OLD SCHOOL Marvel head, who grew up during the Bronze Age, so I have a particular fondness for Marvel comics from this era. Then came the 90s, Marvel's pre-big screen (for the most part) bankruptcy years, and an old dog like me can't tell you where the hell comics went between the clone sagas and crossover events and mega-mutant titles. In the midst of all that chaos was Marvel's first superhero comic and first family, desperately trying to find their way in an age that now seemed an ill-fit... Or vice-versa. I've always thought Tom Defalco's writing was pretty decent for the most part, and at times very enjoyable (IE... Defalco's run on THOR, AMAZING SPIDERMAN and THUNDERSTRIKE—I know many readers will disagree with me on the latter), In fact, I thought his run on Thor was so invocative of Lee/Kirby that I figured he'd be a perfect fit as an AVENGERS scribe. So when I heard that he'd be doing Fantastic Four beginning with #357 (or maybe 356—don't feel like running down in the basement to check), I couldn't contain my excitement.
STRANGE DAYS actually collects the tail end of Defalco's FF run, leading into the ONSLAUGHT and HEROES REBORN era. My critique of the Strange Days collection pretty much sums up my critique of Defalco's entire FF run: Tired, ragged, lifeless, bland, mediocre, stale. Defalco understand that at their core, this is a team of explorers and a family. He tried to maintain the idea that the FF served as the reader's guide to the uncharted regions of the Marvel Universe while doing his darndest to apply a modern-day (for the 90s) sensibility to the FF's characters. However, I feel that many of the subplots became too soapy for my personal tastes. Sure, I get that these people are a family and they're HUMAN, and there's more to them than battling super villains. We've always seen segments of the FF's romantic lives, but I think Defalco made it a point to dwell on that aspect just a tad much for my personal tastes.
The five-part Strange Days arc is touted as the primary storyline for this collection, and it was an ok read in and of itself. As the other reviewers on here pointed out, several of the stories reprinted here rely on other tales and other titles not included in this compilation. It definitely would have made sense to have included the Doom 2099 crossover issues alluded to in FF #413 and 414. I don't know if the editors just weren't sure what to include, or if some of the “missing” stories were tied up in other compilation copyrights. I guess we'll never know.
Next, I was not a fan of the art. Most of Defalco's run was penciled by Paul Ryan and inked by Danny Bulanadi, except for a couple issues inked by Bob Wiacek and John Lowe, and the two early Carlos Pacheco issues. Paul Ryan's art is not bad in and of itself. (IE... He did some nice work for DC on SUPERMAN: The Man Of Tomorrow and BATMAN: Gotham Knights.) But Ryan's style cannot render the kind of dynamic, bigger-than-life, cosmic majesty that would do proper justice to an FF adventure. And as the run dragged on, the art just kept getting flatter and flatter. Maybe much of this is the inker's fault, since the inker's tight pencils are on top. But either way, I just kept asking myself how much better the tales could have looked if they'd been inked by John Byrne, Tom Palmer, Walt Simonson, Joe Sinnott, Brett Beeding, or even Sal Buscema.
Finally, the writing itself is certainly no gem. It's ok, it's readable and mildly enjoyable, and I doubt these issues have been reprinted anywhere. But at the same time, I'd hardly consider these tales worthy of the “Epic” brand. These are not tales that I'll be rereading years down the line. Sure, the work is OKAY, but it doesn't really go beyond that. The Hyperstorm arc was pretty much the highlight of this collection. Most of this compilation is sloppy, choppy and less-than-stellar.
I just don't know if I'd recommend paying over $10 bucks for this. Even for over 400 pages, I tend to encounter many of these FF issues in fifty-cent bins in Chicago, so I guess if you're an FF die-hard or a completest, then maybe this book is for you. Not saying it's all bad, just saying it's not a stellar classic.