My Favorite Fantastic Four Runs

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ffThe Fantastic Four is one of my favorite Marvel titles and with the company planning to relaunch them in their own book again soon, I figured it’s time to take a deep dive into the FF’s history.

Like DC’s Challengers of the Unknown, the FF is a very pulp-style concept and it lends itself to those kinds of storytelling. The family aspect of the team is also very appealing and sets them apart from other superhero groups.

So what runs are my favorites? Let’s take a gander:

9. Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo – I don’t love this run as much as others do. While I am a huge Wieringo fan, something never clicked with me during his FF run and the plots varied wildly in quality. Having said that, I actually enjoyed the mystic-centered Doom storyline and appreciated the fact that the FF’s family relationships were highlighted so strongly.

8. Chris Claremont/Salvador Larocca – Yes, it was basically the FF hanging out with all kinds of X-Men concepts but it had some great moments and it gave us Valeria, for which I will always be grateful. Besides, I liked the stuff with the Captain Britain Corps, Ronan and even Crucible. It was a fun period for the FF but it did rely too heavily upon Claremont’s mutant storylines.

7. James Robinson/Leonard Kirk – This run closed off the FF title for several years and I think that it’s mostly ignored as a result. Because so much of it dealt with the “fall” of the team, I think it’s a real shame that it ended when it did because Robinson did a great job with the various team personalities and Kirk killed it on the art. I would have liked to have seen them continue the book after the team had been reassembled. I particularly liked how Robinson handled Valeria.

6. Steve Englehart/Keith Pollard – This much-maligned run is a real guilty pleasure of mine. I always adore Englehart’s characterization and thought this run did a lot to recapture the epic scope of the FF. The team traveled all around the globe and into other dimensions, while uncovering all kinds of hidden Marvel lore. It also guest-starred Mantis, Kang, the Beyonder (they did a storyline called Secret Wars III that was, to me, absolutely wonderful) and tons more. The artwork was solid and the team dynamics — for most of the period, the squad was Ben (as leader), Johnny, Crystal and She-Thing — were a lot of fun to watch.

5. Marv Wolfman/Keith Pollard/John Byrne – The Wolfman period featured not only the greatest Reed/Doom battle of all time (issue 200) but also featured a wonderful multi-issue storyline where the FF teamed up with Nova and the Champions of Xandar to take on Galactus and The Sphinx. The throwdown between Galactus and The Sphinx remains one of my all-time favorite FF moments. As always with Wolfman, the characterization and plotting are pitch-perfect.

4. Carlos Pacheco/Jeff Loeb/Rafael Marin – First off, the art was incredible. Second, these guys actually made me enjoy two villains that had always bored the crap out of me: Diablo and Annihilus. The characterizations were great, the plots were exciting and I only wish that Pacheco could have stayed on even longer. I never hear people talking about this era but they should: it was tremendously fun!

3. Tom DeFalco/Paul Ryan – Yes, there were missteps along the way (Sue’s peekaboo costume, for instance) but there was so much great stuff, too. Even Sue’s costuming had a story explanation — Malice was influencing her, after all. I dearly wish this entire run was collected in trade. The art was solid and some of the storylines are just sheer, unadulterated fun. It really was like a Silver Age comic written with a dash of 90s sensibilities thrown in. Plus, it was one of the last times where it felt like the Fantastic Four title was a place where Important Things Happen. The “death” of Reed led to a heavy emphasis on both Kristoff and Ant-Man, which was fine by me, and I actually even enjoyed Hyperstorm.

2. John Byrne – An absolutely masterful run. Some of these stories are such absolute classics that it’s hard to limit yourself to naming just a few — the terror in a tiny town issue, the battle with Gladiator, the “everybody vs. Galactus” story, the arrival of She-Hulk to the team, etc. This period is rightfully considered one of the title’s Golden Ages and if you haven’t read it in its entirety, you haven’t read the FF.

1. Stan Lee/Jack Kirby – How can you not put this at the top? A 102 issue run (plus annuals) that set the foundation for the entire Marvel Universe. The Inhumans, Doctor Doom, Galactus, The Silver Surfer, the Kree, the Skrulls… you could go on and on. Kirby’s art was at its peak, Lee’s grandiose storytelling was never better… this is the pinnacle of the Marvel Silver Age.

What about you guys? What are your favorite FF runs?

3 comments

  1. No love for Hickman?! Though I can get that. Hickman’s FF run got me back into comics, but he’s definitely a specific flavor. I definitely love the potential of his run more than what actually happened.

    1. You know, Hickman’s run… I have so many mixed emotions over it. I love his ideas but so often the execution leaves e feeling empty. One day I’ll sit down and do a massive re-read and maybe I’ll reassess my feelings. Right now, he’d probably be # 10 if I expanded the list by one more spot.

      1. I completely agree with that assessment. I think the ideas make the run worth it, either way, but he does let them run away from his grasp. I’m actually a bigger fan of his work in the Ultimates universe, especially Ultimate Thor, and his Avengers run kept the ideas in check until the end (the Beyonder stuff… Just don’t go full metaphysical.) And his Secret Wars is just brilliant.

        Actually, I think Hickman’s best FF stuff is his opening Dark Reign tie-in. It’s small enough that the ideas can hold the story, and we get some awesome Valeria and Franklin bits.

        As a guy who hasn’t read your stuff, but has heard a lot of recs, what would you recommend I pick up? As you can tell I’m a superhero guy, and I’m trying to find works that transfer the genre well to novels. Anything you have that goes up that alley, either explicitly or in the ballpark? I’m not a stickler for reading things in order if there’s a jumping on point in your series you’d rec.

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