My Favorite Fantastic Four Runs

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?

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-in-One # 5

mtio5I feel like I’m a bit of a broken record here but this was another amazing issue. This trek into an alternate universe reminds me of old What If? or Exiles comics and that’s not a bad thing at all. The ongoing mystery about Ben and Johnny’s failing powers continues and we get to see a nice reminder of how important the FF should be in the Marvel Universe. When they swing into action here, it’s nice to see other heroes being visibly excited to have them back. Hopefully when Dan Slott revives the actual FF series, we’ll get to see more of this there.

The artwork is solid and while I’m a little annoyed that Dr. Doom is along for the ride (and seems key to saving the day), I think this continues to be one hell of a fun series. If you love the Fantastic Four or just love a good adventure comic, please give this one a try.

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-in-One # 4

mtio4Another amazing issue! The art and story combine for a terrific story… and the cliffhanger was a really good one. It left me really excited for the next issue. Overall, this has been a great series so far with fun new characters, wonderful homages to classic Fantastic Four tales from the past and a nice mixture of nostalgia and forward-thinking events.

There was a twist with our doctor character this issue that makes me wonder what’s up with her…

I’m not 100% certain WHY Ben and Johnny are in this alternate universe, though. Is their plan really to just locate *a* Reed Richards and see if he can help them? That’s kinda… weird. Having said that, I like this universe so I’m not gonna complain.

The art was very, very good. I think I’m gonna like this guy.

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-in-One # 3

mtio3My new favorite title continues to roll along – though this time we have a new artist for the ride. I was disappointed at first because I’ve been really digging Cheung’s work on the book but the art by Schiti was actually pretty good and by the end of the story, I was fine with the switch-up.

Ben and Johnny continue to hunt for Reed and the rest of the FF family… and Ben’s still lying to Johnny about what he does (and doesn’t) know. In this issue they work with Hercules to locate someone that can hopefully restore the Torch’s powers… and it just so happens that said person is the girl that Ben flirted with in issue one. A big coincidence but I’m fine with it. I really like this new character and I’m pleased that it seems she’s going to be around for awhile.

I wasn’t too thrilled with the portrayal of the Mad Thinker for most of the issue – he seemed like even more of a loser than usual… but the twist at the very end has me very, very intrigued. Kinda a new riff on the Frightful Four? Could be cool.

Hydro-Man! One of my favorite lame villains. He has a good showing here.

The revelation about how the Fantastic Four are linked together… I like that a lot. Can’t believe nobody’s done anything like that before.

Another stellar issue!

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-in-One # 2

Another fantastic issue – Chip Zdarsky totally nails Ben Grimm’s voice and he straddles the line perfectly between nostalgia for the Fantastic Four and keeping things firmly grounded in the modern Marvel Universe. He even makes me like the current take on Doctor Doom!

Some fun elements here for longtime FF fans: Alicia shows up, we return to Monster Island for some hilarious election humor involving the Mole Man and Doctor Doom and at the end we see a great flashback to Ben and Reed’s college days.

All in all, this is by far my favorite new series from Marvel in a long time!

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-In-One # 1

img_9423Everyone knows I love the Fantastic Four – but it’s been several years since Marvel has published a series starring Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben. The Marvel Universe hasn’t been the same without them.

Now Chip Zdarsky and Jim Cheung have revived Johnny and Ben in a series using the title of the Thing’s old team-up series. I’m gonna review the series in anticipation of a hopeful Fantastic Four revival.

So how did they do, overall? The art is GORGEOUS but I had no fears about that – I’ve loved Cheung since his old Crossgen days.

Zdarsky nails the characterizations for both Ben and Johnny. He captures their melancholy perfectly and he even makes me feel okay about Doom’s current status quo, which is impressive given my lack of enthusiasm for “hero” Doom.

I’m excited to see where this goes – this issue is mostly setup and character stuff so it is definitely written for the trade but I saw enough here to make me think that Zdarsky has a real love and passion for the FF.

BTW, I loved the Wizard reference – the Frightful Four are some of my favorite FF villains so I hope to see them in this book soon.

I give it 4 stars out of 4!