Classic Comic Fridays: Fantastic Four #45

Like every Friday, I will review a classic comic from my personal collection. For this week, I managed to find a decent-quality copy of a comic at my local comic store. I absolutely loved the story and art, so I figured that I should review it.

Fantastic Four #45

The comic, if you haven’t read the title already, is Fantastic Four #45 from December of 1965. It’s a classic, and one which was the first appearance of the Inhumans! Yes, Black Bolt, Crystal, Lockjaw, Triton and Karnak all get their first appearance in this early issue of F4. And you better believe that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were the two on the helm for writing and penciling credits, while Joe Sinnott was on-board for inking. Needless to say, this is a classic comic done by the legendary comic artists which we all revere today, and I’m absolutely excited to have read it and to be reviewing it now.

Titled, “Among Us Hide the Inhumans,” the book opens up with the F4 minus Sue, trapped under rubble. After a battle with Dragon Man, the three were defeated, and Dragon Man kidnapped Sue. Johnny goes after her and confronts Dragon Man. Sue realizes that Dragon Man has child-like mind and tries to get Johnny to stop his attack. However, Johnny uses his Nova Flame power, and knocks out Dragon Man, saving Sue.

After defeat, Sue tames Dragon Man, working with his child-like mind and convincing him that the F4 were just scared and would not actually hurt him. Convinced, the three, Johnny, Sue and Dragon Man, return back to the Baxter Building to meet Reed and Grimm. They all decide to keep Dragon Man in the building for the time being, so they make him a room.

Johnny takes a break and calls his girlfriend, Dorrie Evans. Because of Johnny always putting her second for the Fantastic Four team, she says she already has another date that night and cannot go out. Upset, Johnny goes for a walk and finds some red-haired woman hunkered in an alley. Perturbed by her, Johnny walks in to see what she is doing when all of a sudden a huge gust of wind lifts him up in the air. By the time he drops down, she is gone.

Johnny returns to the Baxter Building to see that the rest of the team are having a tough time trying to get Dragon Man to sleep. Sue ends up sedating him, while Ben reflects hard on himself on how he is a monster, too. Poor Ben.

Air-Jet Cycle

Johnny decides to go back out and hunt for the red-haired woman – which he finds with ease (somehow). However, she tries to escape, stating he wouldn’t understand her world. Johnny then turns on his powers, prompting the woman to realize she may not be alone. Lockjaw appears behind Johnny, somewhat startling him, and takes both him, and the now revealed woman to an underground base under Manhattan.

The woman reveals herself as Crystal, and introduced Johnny to Karnak, followed by Triton and Crystal’s sister, Medusa. Johnny, scared, knowing Medusa was part of the Frightful Four (and meeting in an earlier F4 comic), and Karnak accusing Johnny of tricking Crystal, Johnny panics and escapes, creating a “4” signal in flames in the sky.

The rest of the team join up with Johnny – arriving by the F4’s Air-Jet Cycle (being its first appearance) – and they are attacked by Karnak from behind. Ready to fight, the book ends with Black Bolt literally crashing down onto the scene.

There is definitely a lot going on in this one comic, yet it does not feel rushed. Actually, by the end of the book, I was asking myself, “it’s over already?” Lee’s great dialogue and character development creates a world on its own. Tied in with Kirby’s brilliant art and Sinnott’s inks, the book to me felt ahead of its time. Of course, that was arguably put Marvel ahead of most comic companies. Rich character development mixed with brilliant art.

Black Bolt's First Appearance

The cover of the issue, also done by Kirby and Sinnott, even seems menacing looking. There’s great dread right on the cover. I love Sinnott’s ink on the F4 directly. The Thing’s body is greatly drawn with shading accenting his body. I love it.

Another great thing about this comic – which is outside of the story – is the M.M.M.S., the Merry Marvel Marching Society which Stan Lee invented for Marvel fans. Gone are the times where fans would have pages dedicated to letters, and a box-out for newer members – one even from my home province of Ontario.

Of course, Stan’s Soapbox was placed in the comic as well. In it, he made a prediction too. He said that he knew the Inhumans would take off with a life of their own. He was excited to give the readers their backstories, and was thrilled to continue writing with them.

All-in-all, the book itself was brilliant. Albeit, one moment in the dialogue, Reed snaps at Sue and says to “stop sounding like a wife,” which to me was a shock to see in comics back then. But I mean, that’s how these characters are to develop!

Grade: 10/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Advertisements

Classic Comic Fridays: Uncanny X-Men #134

Every Friday, I will review a classic comic from my personal collection.

For my classic comic feature this week, I’ve decided on a personal-favourite of mine, Uncanny X-Men #134 from June of 1980. It was written by the man who arguably made the X-Men who they are today, Chris Claremont. It was also co-written by artist John Byrne, the legend who drew the X-Men for their re-conception in the 70’s and 80’s. Needless to say, this was the X-Men’s A-Team. This is also the issue which gives readers the first appearance to Dark Phoenix!

UXM134

What’s fantastic about this issue – or at least, what stands out for me – are two things. First is the excitement from panel-to-panel with the ensuing battle between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club. And second is the building up of Dark Phoenix.

The story actually trails issues before this one, where Jean Grey has been getting random dreams and flashes of being a queen with a man named Jason Wyngarde. After so many issues, Grey is fully tricked into being a queen and is brought to the Hellfire Club, where, along with Sebastian Shaw, Donald Pierce, Jason Wyngarde, and Harry Leland, she becomes the Black Queen.

The X-Men in a few issues prior, go to save Jean, but are all captured. Luckily, Wolverine had eluded capture earlier and breaks in to save the day – only to be stopped by Jean under Wyngarde’s control. All seems lost, but Jean removes a helmet Cyclops was forced to wear to withhold his powers, and he blasts the X-Men free. It seems as if Jean was able to beat Wyngarde’s control. . .

With the X-Men free, they begin battle against the Hellfire Club with awesome panels drawn by Byrne. Colossus takes on Pierce and rips off one of his robot arms, while Leland takes on Wolverine and loses, of course.

Cyclops and Shaw battle it out. Although Shaw could absorb Cyclops’ blasts, Summers plays it smart and blows out the floor beneath Shaw, forcing him to fall.

Storm and Nightcrawler take on Shaw from the lower level, where Storm tries freezing the Black King. Shaw grabs Nightcrawler and throws him at Storm preventing a full-freeze. Defeated, Shaw escapes with Pierce and Leland into a secret passage within the club.

As the story winds down, we see that Wyngarde was not who he was – but instead Mastermind, generating queen illusion to Jean, as well as making the fake image of Jason Wyngarde. Mastermind tries to figure out how he lost, and the readers discover that it was not Jean Grey at all. In fact, Mastermind was playing mind-games with the Phoenix force itself!
MastermindDestroyed

Angry for being tricked for so long by Mastermind, Phoenix decides to destroy him for what he has done. In result, the fake-Jean opened his mind into all the feelings and sensations the Phoenix felt around the universe. Unable to handle such immense power in his mind, Mastermind fell into a coma.

Escaping the club, the X-Men regroup to the Blackbird and begin to leave. Cyclops tries to figure out what was wrong with Jean as she also seemed to be short with him on their way to the jet. After a few moments of gathering themselves, the X-Men turn around to see Jean floating in a red costume proclaiming, “No longer am I the woman you knew! I am fire! And life incarnate! Now and forever, I am Phoenix!”

And then the Blackbird blew up.

What a way to end a story, eh?

Claremont’s build up to such a dramatic story could not have been any better. No one, whether in the X-Men or the Hellfire Club could have known this was coming. Not even the readers knew, or were hinted at, that Jean Grey was not who she was. It came as a complete shock to all players for the comic.

Afterward, the Dark Phoenix Saga begins for a few issues, followed by the inevitable death of Jean Grey in issue #137, entitled “Phoenix Must Die!” I’m sure you’ve all seen the awesome cover. It’s also my profile picture on WordPress here.

One thing to definitely discuss is Bryne’s brilliant art throughout the comic. Panel-to-panel, the X-Men have to battle the Hellfire Club, and we have to see how each individual’s power affects the story. Wolverine versus Leland’s power to increase gravity to the people around him ended in failure as Wolverine jumped on Leland. Given his only was to generate weight, they both crashed through the floor, Leland obviously defeated.

Pierce’s battle with Colossus shows how Pierce just relies on brute strength rather than technique. The snapping of Pierce’s arm by Colossus’s technique brings one of those, “hell yes” moments to the page. Byrne’s great for that.

As for how X-men comics go, this was definitely one of the strongest X-Men comics I’ve ever read. X-Men, I’d argue, is my forté, so when I say this, I do mean it. Overall, this story – filled with plenty of surprises and great action – make obvious to why Claremont and Byrne’s run on the X-Men was so successful.

Grade: 9/10

Keep on Space Truckin’.