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Fantastic Four, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks) Paperback – March 11, 2009
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Marvel’s welcome initiative to put their Masterworks collections into affordable paperback format follows up a beautiful new edition of Amazing Spider-Man, v.1 with this collection of their very first foray into the superhero genre. Squabbling over each other’s personal foibles while facing a breathless barrage of B-movie, sf concepts, the Fantastic Four flew in the face of Silver Age industry-leader DC’s shiny, no-nonsense authority figures. Lee’s subversively revolutionary concept of the superhero as regular Joe was typified in the pathos of the monstrous Thing, whose dark emotions are direct progenitors of the modern-day realism found in the likes of Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. Kirby’s art was still evolving toward his more angular, bombastic style, but the clay-like forms and textures here give a sense of raw power that make it easy to miss Kirby’s mastery of expressive faces and heightened emotion. These first 10 issues present mainstays Doctor Doom, the Sub-Mariner, and the Skrulls (pivotal to Marvel’s recent Secret Invasion event), and display for the jaded and uninitiated readers alike that they are among the most historically significant examples of the form (highlighted by an array of historical back matter) and some of the most engaging and thrilling comics ever produced. Grades 4-12. --Jesse Karp
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These serve as a point of nostalgia for me, not that I was a kid when these were originally in stores (I'm only 25), but nostalgia in the form that it reminds me of the days when I was a kid first reading comics as I'm sure many people felt reading these very issues when they were kids.
To me, the stories are good old Stan Lee style storytelling, full of action and cosmic adventures. I'll admit, there seemed to be a need (as with all the older marvel works) to have each character say a paragraph and fill each panel full of word balloons. This detracts a bit from the story, but not to the extent that you would not want to continue reading. Just try reading issue by issue and pacing yourself if you feel overburdened with word balloons.
Overall, having never read the old fantastic four stories, I enjoyed them very much. I still like the old Spidey stories better, but these are the next best in my opinion.