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Fantastic Four Masterworks Vol. 5
Regular Edition Cover

Vol. 25: Fantastic Four
Variant Edition Cover

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Original 27

  • First print: 10/93
  • "ReMasterworks"

  • Second Edition, First print: 1/24/04
    Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four Volume 5

    Reprints: Fantastic Four #41-50 and Annual #3

    (Vol. 25 in the Marvel Masterworks Library)

    Most Recent Print Edition: Second Edition, Second Print
    Release Date: September 19, 2007

    REGULAR EDITION ISBN: 978-0-7851-1184-9 • List Price: $54.99
    VARIANT EDITION ISBN: 978-0-7851-1291-4 • List Price: $54.99

    240 Pages

    Scripted by Stan Lee

    Penciled by Jack Kirby

    Foreword by Stan Lee


    Welcome to the heart of the Marvel Universe.

    Visit our illustrious message boards and you’ll hear this question repeated; "If you could only own one Masterwork, what would it be?" With all due respect to all the other amazing, mighty, uncanny, incredible and invincible books out there, here’s your answer. Every promise Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made for the Marvel Universe is fulfilled in this volume. Both men were interested in changing the status quo but here it where they set an entirely new one, one that the comics industry is still trying to match.

    Perhaps the most important event in the book is the wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm. Most super-heroes have flirted with this idea in imaginary stories but few have ever had the guts to follow through on it. If they do, you can be pretty sure that writers will break the couple up and reconcile them time and time again (Peter and Mary Jane, anyone?) Reed and Sue have remained to this day possibly the only happily married couple in the Marvel universe, forty years and counting. Sure, there's the occasional dustup over Reed staying in his lab too long working on some Iconometric Frammistat, or a donnybrook over Sue doing her hair while the rest of the team is preparing for pitched battle, but these kinds of differences are what makes the FF a family, isn't it?

    The wedding issue, in Annual #3, is the mother of all annual issues. Stan and Jack tried to cram as many of Marvel's stable of super-heroes and villains into its 23 pages as possible, and even found time to include themselves into the mix! The light-hearted tone of the Annual shows that its creators were just as gleeful and ebullient about the nuptials of Reed and Sue as any of the characters in the comic. If you're looking for evidence that the Marvel Age of Comics was in part about humanizing comics, this is a great place to find it. But if you think the rest of the volume is the lark that the Annual tale is, you couldn't be more wrong.

    In stark contrast to the Annual, the rest of this Masterworks is drenched in heavy drama. The Frightful Four return, but it’s not just a retread of their last epic tale. This tale finds the FF planning their next move and finding a strange and unexpected surprise fall into their lap- the Thing! With Stan pushing the Thing to a low ebb of self-esteem, he is ripe for having his will sucked out and twisted by the Wizard's ID Machine. Next thing comics fandom knows, the Thing is a member of the Frightful Four!

    After the conclusion of this three-part story, it becomes apparent that Stan has seen something different in Medusa, something which blows the Marvel Universe wide open when we meet the Inhumans. Taking creative license with someone who could have settled into the routine of being another of the FF's rogues gallery, they went a different direction with her, casting her as a runaway from a secret culture of super-powered "Inhumans." Seeing Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Lockjaw, Karnak and Gorgon for the first time, it’s clear they were unlike any costumed heroes that came before. Doing the mutants one better, the Inhumans were an entire race that had their own society and culture, which they hid from the rest of humanity. They don’t worry about secret identities or leaving the crooks for the police; instead, their abilities and outfits were truly an extension of their souls, and their story seems to be born perhaps of epic poetry, with its long and secret history echoing the Greek tragedies and great myths. The Inhumans are representative of the kind of idea that fired Jack Kirby’s imagination, coming to fruition in his "Fourth World" series for DC years later, and further refined with Marvel's Eternals in the late 70s.

    Oh, and then they fight God. (Well, a demi-god, at least!) After the Inhhumans story, which ran four complete issues and brimmed over into the first seven pages of FF #48, comics fans were hardly given a breath to compose themselves! What they got next is quite possibly the greatest comic story ever drawn, with the first appearance of Galactus and the Silver Surfer. (Stop me if you’ve heard of these guys!) As Stan says in his introduction, they were looking for a concept to raise the bar on the "villain trying to take over the world" motif. Well, they found it! The roving cosmic giant Galactus has come to Earth...to eat it?!?!?! That's different all right! And against the foil of the herald Silver Surfer, Stan got to flesh out some humanistic ideals of man's treatment of humanity, and the perspective of the individual soul against our perception of the power cosmos, and all other kinds of weighty issues kids lapped up while eating their Frosted Flakes. (Of special note in the Galactus story is the scene when the FF arrive back in New York after meeting the Inhumans. The "fire in the sky" sequence is really creepy, and gives an urgent sense of impending doom.)

    And the art! Jack finally finds a long-term inker on the book with Joe Sinnott. Joe first inked the Fantastic Four with issue #5 (the first Dr. Doom story) and it’s a mystery why it took him so long to come back. With issue #44 however, he’s in for the long haul, staying almost a decade longer than Kirby would! In fact, the house style for these characters would be Sinnott’s until John Byrne comes along in the early 1980’s.

    Sinnott, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, was the perfect match for Kirby. His clean, clear lines make the character stand out and bring to light all the power, action and unique style of Kirby’s imagination. But Sinnott’s style, honed by comic strips and romance comics, would also soften Jack’s rougher edges. The heroes become more handsome and virtuous, even in an extreme crisis. And look how pretty Sue becomes from Sinnott’s first issue on!

    At the same time, Kirby was going wild! All his signature touches come to fruition in this book. Wild, looping mechanical devices, explosions filled with dots and negative images, photo collages, characters that strain the very panel borders- they’re all here. This wild imagination is the reason every comic artist looks up to Jack Kirby, forty years after he drew these pages.

    As you read these issues you may find yourself conflicted. On the one hand, you’ll want to gaze deeply into the beauty, imagination and originality of the artwork. But at the same time, events are moving so fast you’ll barely have time to breathe while you’re flying through the pages!

    Either way, you’ve little time for this introduction so let’s get started!

    -- by Jonathan Clark, aka doesitmatter, with Gormuu

    Issues Reprinted
    Fantastic Four #41-50 and Annual #3

    Click on cover image to learn more about each issue.


    FF #41

    FF #42

    FF #43

    Ann #3

    FF #44

    FF #45

    FF #46

    FF #47

    FF #48

    FF #49

    FF #50


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