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 #20 (11/10/1963)

detail28.jpgFantastic Four #20 features the story, “The Mysterious Molecule Man,” which features the first appearance of the Molecule Man. “The Mysterious Molecule Man,” centers around, as the name would suggest, the origins of the Molecule Man, who gains the powers to manipulate inorganic molecules when he is in an accident. This issue also features the Watcher, who is the one that actually warns the Fantastic Four of the impending danger.

“The Mysterious Molecule Man” is a fun origin story of a villain with interesting powers. Clearly, the Molecule Man is a threat worthy of the Fantastic Four. In addition, Kirby’s artwork does a good job of capturing the powers of the Molecule Man. The fight panels between the Molecule Man and the Fantastic Four are also well done. I also thought it was humorous that the Thing ended up being rescued by the dastardly Yancy Street Gang.

However this issue does have some downsides. Probably the biggest one is really the motivations of the Molecule Man. He’s upset that no one notices him, but somehow that leads him to wanting to conquer the world? I would think he’d rather just show off his powers or something. Also, I’m not quite sure if his powers are in the wand or if he just channels it through the wand, I’m thinking the later because the wand is deemed no longer dangerous.

Final Fantasy #20 is another classic Fantastic Four story that fans of the series or of Marvel Comics in general will enjoy.

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

Strange Tales #114 (11/10/1963)

detailStrange Tales #114, as the cover shows, features the return of Captain America or at least it would seem so to the reader back in 1963. However, pretty much every modern reader would know that Captain America made his reappearance in Avengers #4, which is still a few months off. Also, why would you open a story by basically stating that there is a twist coming at the end? That was just plain stupid. Anyways, our tale opens with the Human Torch doing his still incredibly goofy looking training when it is soon interrupted by his friends, who are excited to inform him that Captain America is coming to town. Naturally, the Human Torch was a big fan of Captain America back in the day and is curious to see what he’s been up to for all these years.

Unfortunately, that’s where the decent part of the story ends. Soon, the story descends quickly into that pure Silver Age cheese. It all begins with a pair of car thieves deciding that parade is the best time to steal a car, and that a tommy gun was also apparently necessary. Anyways, this clumsy event is used to have the Human Torch run into Captain America as they both leap into action to stop the criminals. This leads to Captain America informs the Human Torch that he’s getting in his way and to stay out of it. Naturally, this causes the Human Torch to become butt hurt.

The next scene is where the story comes completely off the wheels, with Captain America breaking out the criminals so that they can be decoys while he robs the bank. Now, why wouldn’t he had just done that the first time around? It seriously makes zero sense. In addition, as is way to common in this series, the Human Torch’s powers are way too inconsistent. For example, he’s taken out by a mop, but a few panels latter he’s able to basically blow out the seams of an asbestos lined truck? And don’t get me started on that truck as a plot device.

In the end, the main thing going for this story was its surprise surrounding the apparent return of Captain America, which unfortunately is no longer available to hold this story up. Take that away and you basically have story that is pretty pointless and adds nothing to the Human Torch as a character or any new elements to his story.

This issue also sees the return of Dr. Strange, as he once again must battle the dreaded Baron Mordo. The story opens with Dr. Strange being called by someone claiming to be Lord Bentley in need of help. Naturally, Dr. Strange leaps to action to give assistance and quickly springs a trap laid by Baron Mordo. What ensues is an interesting mystic art battle that has a number of gaping holes. Probably the biggest one is Baron Mordo goes straight up Bond villain and decides to leave the room so that Dr. Strange can escape the trap. In addition, the ending just made zero sense and makes what proceeded it make zero sense. Still, this story is definitely better than the Human Torch story.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • 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 Annual #2 (10/10/1963)

mm.jpgThis issue demonstrates Lee’s habit of forgetting events from the previous issues. In this case, in the last issue Lee spent the issue trying to show that the Human Torch wasn’t a hot-head and didn’t relish the spotlight. However in this issue we see the Human Torch basically throwing a tantrum and whining about how Spider-Man is getting too much media coverage and is stealing his spotlight. Really, the Human Torch just comes off as bratty. Also, it’s a shame that the Invisible Girl has basically just been turned into the Human Torch’s mother in this series.

Soon after Human Torch’s temper tantrum, the issue turns to an art museum that is displaying a previously unknown Da Vinci work of art and it is here that we are introduced to the story’s villain, the Fox, an art thief. The Fox eventually hatches a plan, which is suitable enough, and steals the not only the painting, but also frames Spider-Man in the process. The rational of doing that just to keep the police off his trail makes sense and is a welcome change of pace in the typical motivations of villains up to this point.

The scene then shifts to a well drawn distant shot of Spider-Man standing on top of a skyscraper overlooking the city. It is here that the story breaks down a little bit, as Spider-Man’s rational for wanting to team-up with the Human Torch basically boils down to him also being a teenager, which is just silly. Anyways, upon seeking out the Human Torch, naturally they end up having to fight each other at first because Lee loves to lean on that very, very tired trope of an encounter between superheroes must always lead to a misunderstanding a fight. Yawn.

Eventually the heroes workout their differences and decide to team up to track down the Fox. Unfortunately the Fox, while a perfectly serviceable, if not generic villain, also represents Lee’s tendency to have his villains really reflect their namesake. Thus the Fox is naturally tricky and has his secret hideouts all underground, basically like a borrow. Although, I did enjoy the exchange between him, as an old lady, and Spider-Man. That was just funny.

In the end, Strange Tales Annual #2 is a perfectly serviceable, well-paced issue that features some nice art and an ultimately forgettable story and villain.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: