Fantastic Four #21 (12/10/1963)

untitled1.pngFantastic Four # 21 contains the story, “The Hate Monger,” which is about the villainous Hate Monger dousing the Fantastic Four with his H-Ray and having them fight against each other. Naturally, the Hate Monger also wants to take over the world. This issue also happens to be the first appearance the Hate Monger, as well as featuring an appearance of Sgt. Fury.

This issue is clearly a product of it’s time, which in this case would be the early 1960s. This time frame was a period of civil unrest in America, and Fantastic Four #21 is clearly a commentary on these issues. The Hate Monger has a H-Ray, which amplifies racial, class, and religious hatred of whoever it is fired upon. It is also pretty clear that Kirby was influenced by the Ku Klux Klan’s outfits when it came to designing the Hate Monger.

Admittedly, how Fantastic Four #21 tackles those issues is pretty tame, but I have to give them credit for at least attempting to within the pages of a comic book. The real identity of the Hate Monger is a pretty choice, which makes sense given the backgrounds of Kirby and Lee. Also, this issue is significant in that this is the first time there is a character to actually die on panel in a Fantastic Four comic, rather than their fate being assumed off panel and not shown, such as with the Puppet Master tripping and falling out the window.

Overall the theme of Fantastic Four #21 really doesn’t lend itself to feeling like a Fantastic Four story. However, this story is worth checking out just to see Kirby and Lee’s views on the unrest of the 1960s that was going on around them.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: George Roussos
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Fantastic Four #19 (10/10/1963)

detail27Fantastic Four #19 features the story, “Prisoners of the Pharaoh,” which features the first appearance of Rama-Tut. “Prisoners of the Pharaoh,” centers around Reed Richards discovering on a trip to the museum that it appears that a pharaoh had discovered a way to restore blindness. Naturally this leads the Fantastic Four traveling back to ancient Egypt to find it to cure Alicia’s blindness.

I foundPrisoners of the Pharaoh,” to be an interesting story, mainly because it turns out that Rama-Tut is really a time-traveler from the years 3000 and had gone back in time to become pharaoh. The fact that Rama-Tut went back in time because he was bored of the utopia of his time was also an interesting tidbit. Also interesting is his ship was the sphinx. In addition, Rama-Tut has technology (Ultra-Diode Ray) that was able to sap the Fantastic Four’s powers.

On the flipside, a downside to the story is how the Fantastic Four end up traveling back in time. Apparently, Dr. Doom’s time machine has just been left in perfect working at his old hideout, which makes me wonder why someone wouldn’t have tried to get that technology before now, especially since it’s an actual time machine. In addition, the fact that there was a container labeledoptic nerve restorative” that Fantastic Four was kind of ludicrous. Also, I don’t remember the time machine not being able to transport radioactive material being mentioned in the previous issue featuring it.

In the end Fantastic Four #19 is a fun issue that captures the spirit of what makes for a good Fantastic Four story. In addition, it also does a good job of linking to previous events in the series, such as with Dr. Doom’s time machine.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists: Stan Goldberg
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Avengers #1 (09/10/1963)

mmAvengers #1 tells the tale of how the Avengers came to be, although how that story unfolds might come off as a bit of a surprise and then a disappointment to most people, because this story has all kinds of problems going on with it. This issue opens up with a very familiar way, which is namely Loki, yet again, looking for revenge on Thor from afar. If the opening is familiar, the panels depicting  Loki’s eyes floating across the Earth in search of a way to threaten Thor was pretty cool. Eventually, Loki spots the Hulk and it is short work for the god of mischief to create an incident that causes the Hulk to be painted in bad light. Up to this point, while being overly familiar, the Hulk rampaging would be a pretty significant threat to Thor.

However, the scene shifts to the Teen Brigade, who sends out a call via ham radio to the Fantastic Four to help. The Teen Brigade is just a little bit too much Silver Age cheesiness for their own good. Hopefully they don’t make too many more appearance. Anyways, eventually the Teen Brigade’s call reaches the ears of Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, while the Fantastic Four decided to pass on it, based on the fact that Mr. Fantastic somehow knows the call will be answered by others. Eventually they all converge on the Teen Brigades headquarters, I guess? Although Thor is soon tricked into going back to Asgard to confront Loki.

The issue the cuts to the Hulk pretending to be a robot dressed as a clown juggling circus animals in a circus. First of, not only is this is just beyond goofy, but just plain comes out to nowhere. This also highlights the problem with the early Hulk, which is what kind of Hulk are we getting? Hulk with Banner’s mind? Dumb Hulk? Hulk that changes during day and night? I couldn’t say because this issue doesn’t make it clear, although the fact that he was able to come with a plan to hide suggests there is some Banner present. Eventually, the reader is treated to a confrontation between Hulk and Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp, as well as a confrontation between Thor and Loki and some trolls. Both of these battles are pretty cool and are definitely a positive for this issue.

Unfortunately, the battles aren’t enough to make up for the weak conclusion of this issue. First off, it’s starting to become apparent that Lee has a hard time wrapping up a battle in a satisfactory way. In addition, there is a complete lack of rationale for the heroes to form a team. It’s almost like Lee forgot to lay the ground work for why the heroes would want to team up until the last couple of panels of the issue. Also, the Wasp is not treated well in this issue at all and is the target of a lot of sexist comments from Ant-Man. Still, this issue is worth checking out just for the historical significance of the issue. Beyond that and the battles there isn’t much to recommend about this issue.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors:

 

Fantastic Four Annual #1 (07/02/1963)

untitledFantastic Four Annual #1: Sub-Mariner Versus the Human Race opens with Namor, having finally located his people, receiving his coronation as the rightful emperor of the Atlantis Empire. In addition, we’re introduced to Lady Dorma, who sees Namor as her true love, and Warlord Krang. who was previously promised Lady Dorma and would be in line for the throne. Meanwhile, Namor immediately continues his war against the humans by proclaiming that seven seas and the skies above them are off limits to humans and any kind of trespassing would lead to war.

Boy did this issue have so much potential, which it sadly never lives up to. At the beginning, with the introduction of Lady Dorma and Namor, there are hints of subplots introduced, such a potential love triangle and Krang trying to usurp Namor’s throne and trying to win back Lady Dorma. Unfortunately none of those things materialize at all. In addition, the pacing of this issue is just plain awful as things move at a break neck speed and the invasion is pretty much over in a couple of pages. Lame.

In fact, I think more time is spent on exploring the concurrent development of Homo mermanus alongside homo sapiens than there is to the actual invasion. However, I thought that this disposition was interesting. In addition, the technology and sea monsters are also excellently designed. Unfortunately there are also a lot of spares panel featuring no sort of background, which makes the characters feel like they are existing in a background.

In the end, this issue promises so much potential in its first couple of pages, but is unfortunately bogged down by pacing issues and a lack of fleshed out panels. In addition, there are about twenty pages(!!) of filler dedicated to villain bios and retelling of Spider-Man’s first encounter with the Fantastic Four. These pages could have gone a long way in improving the Namor story. This issue is also notable for being the first appearance of Warlord Krang and the first silver age appearance of Lady Dorma.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists: Glynis Wein (Oliver)
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

 

 

 

Strange Tales #112 (09/10/1963)

detail.jpgStrange Tales #112 once again features a solo Human Torch story. In this issue, the Human Torch finds himself under assault via TV personality, Ted Braddock, who is accusing the Human Torch of being a hot head and a show bout who wants attention. Naturally, the Human Torch is insulted by this, even though previously he had went out of his way to try to get everyone’s attention by doing tricks in the sky, which basically reinforces Braddock’s accusations. While it’s obvious that Lee is trying to set the Human Torch as being misunderstood hero, but that setup doesn’t really work when you show the individual doing exactly what he’s being accused of.

Meanwhile, the story shifts to the Eel, breaking into Charles Lawson’s laboratory via a helicopter and running off with basically a mini nuke. This again basically continues Lee’s trope of unsecured laboratories containing incredibly powerful weapons. Also, what is the deal with this villain? I mean his motivations are unknown, which is fine, but his powers are pretty lame. Basically he has a slippery electrified suit.

On top of issues with the villain, the story has some serious problems beyond this point. First off, the whole concept of an atomic bomb that explodes after an hour of being removed from the bag unless a button is pressed. First, this plot vehicle is just plain ridiculous, even for a Silver Age comic. Beyond that, it’s clear from events in the comic that there is no way all of that happened within an hour. While this challenge that the Human Torch is supposed to overcome makes no sense, I do like the idea that the Eel is portrayed as being in way over his head.

Unfortunately, the issue is further dragged down by Lee’s overreliance on a character developing a gizmo to track down an individual based on vague explanations. In addition, the outcome of this issue just doesn’t work, because the idea of a noble sacrifice was pretty much negated by failing to fully demonstrated what happened to the Human Torch and also my mentioning a magical restorative ray being available. Still, if you can look beyond these flaws, this is one of the better Human Torch stories in this series.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

 

 

Amazing Spider-Man #5 (10/10/1963)

detailnThis issue of Amazing Spider-Man is interesting in that it’s the first issue to feature a villain that is not a traditional Spider-Man villain, namely Dr. Doom. In addition, this is an early example of the formation of a broader Marvel Universe, in which the various series are not in isolation from one another. This issue sees Dr. Doom zero in on Spider-Man as a possible ally to help him take down the Fantastic Four, which is a nice departure from a typical villain who wants to take over the city or world motivation. In addition, Dr. Doom’s motivations for targeting Spider-Man makes sense, as watching media it’s unsure if Spider-Man is a good guy or not and he is certainly an outcast.

However the whole hacking into Spider-Man’s spider signal by Dr. Doom as a way to move the plot forward was a bit hockey. This initial encounter between Dr. Doom and Spider-Man was extremely well-done and really highlighted both Dr. Doom’s arrogance and Spider-Man’s tendency for the quip. Also, it pokes at Lee’s overreliance on the trap door as a source of danger for the heroes, which was a nice touch. Spider-Man’s rejection of Doom’s offer for partnership and Doom’s displeasure at being rejected is an effective way to move the plot along, because the fact that Spider-Man is an unwilling pawn and Dr. Doom’s desire to be in control definitely fits his character. Thus Dr. Doom sets to work on a device to track down Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Flash Thompson decides to dress up like Spider-Man and scare Peter Parker by jumping out at him in costume. Unfortunately for Flash, Dr. Doom tracks down Spider-Man right as he dresses up and Peter Parker is walking by him, which naturally leads Dr. Doom to capture Flash and hold him hostage until the Fantastic Four surrender to him. While not the best plot device, the whole mistaken identity actually works in this case, given the comments made earlier in the issue and is actually a subtle use of foreshadow for once. Although the whole Liz calling Peter to tell him Flash is missing makes absolutely zero sense in regards to the characters’ relationship.

The ensuing encounter between Spider-Man and Dr. Doom is actually even better than the previous one and it really highlights just how dangerous Dr. Doom really is. In addition, the conflict between the two resolves in a way that actually makes sense from a story perspective. Also, this issue does a good job furthering Peter’s relationship with several supporting characters, such as Aunt May and Betty Brant, which has always been a strong point of this series.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Fantastic Four #18 (09/10/1963)

detail26.jpgFantastic Four #18 contains the story, “A Skrull Walks Among Us.” This issue is also the first appearance of the Super Skrull. “A Skrull Walks Among Us” centers around the Skrull empire seeking revenge on the Fantastic Four for foiling their previous invasion attempt by sending an enhanced skrull with all of their powers after them.

“A Skrull Walks Among Us” is a fun story that does a good job of presenting the Super Skrull as a real threat to the Fantastic Four. This issue also has the Fantastic Four working as a team versus the typical style of having them attack a villain one at a time. In addition, once again Kirby’s artwork delivers solid action panels and the battle between the Super Skrull and the Fantastic Four is just gorgeous. Also the cover to this issue is also well-down and gives a real good sense of how much of a threat the Super Skrull is.

There are a few downsides to this issue. One of them would be the ending to the issue, which seems to me is a very unheroic ending when you think about the consequences of it. Also, I just had to laugh at the remote control public address system as a means to challenging the Super Skrull–ah the times before cellphones, huh?

Overall, Fantastic Four #18 contains the first appearance of a classic Fantastic Four villain in the Super Skrull, combined with fantastic fight panels and a fun story and you have an issue that everyone should read.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists: Stan Goldberg
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee