The newest edition in the Epic Collection line, Fantastic Four Vol. 6: At War with Atlantis brings to a close the Lee and Kirby era on the book, collecting their final issues together (#88-102) along with the start of Stan Lee’s tenure with John Romita (#103-104). Any time you’re dealing with the legends in the game, it’s an exciting read. However, compared to the previous volumes, Fantastic Four Epic Collection Vol. 6: At War with Atlantis lacks something.
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that they had already written 80 issues prior to where this work picks up, but the stories here feel a bit repetitive. The Fantastic Four are joined by Crystal of the Inhumans in fights against Mole Man and the Mad Thinker, and there are fights against the Frightful Four and the Kree and Skrulls as well. However, there aren’t really any big introductions here. Where previous issues of Fantastic Four had introduced characters such as the Inhumans, Black Panther, and the Silver Surfer, this volume lacks any of that additional marquee value and the stories here are largely recycled plots.
Still, some stories do pop out. Fantastic Four #94 sees baby Franklin finally get his name and the Fantastic Four meet Agatha Harkness, who turns out to have some tricks of her own. It’s a somewhat spooky story, and a nice change of tone for a superhero book. And the titular War with Atlantis story (occurring across issues #102-104) closes out the main portion of the volume, providing an epic clash between the Fantastic Four, Namor, and Magneto (with a small role for Richard Nixon, as well!).
Where the volume really shines is in the supplementary material as this volume also reprints Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure. Because of the strained relationship Kirby had with Lee, and with Marvel as a whole, he left shortly after issue #102. However, there was an issue that he had partially drawn that chopped up and published as issue #108. Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure attempts to recreate that issue as Kirby had originally planned it. Additionally, we have an essay by John Morrow, editor and publisher of The Jack Kirby Collector who goes over the some of the changes that were made to Kirby’s story, providing images of Kirby’s original pencil art to the issue and contrasting it to the way the panels were used in #108. It’s a beautiful look at Kirby’s artwork and process and helps illustrate just how essential he was to the storytelling in his comics.
It’s this supplemental material that really makes the volume come together. Fantastic Four Epic Collection Vol. 6: At War with Atlantis may be lacking when it comes to stories that have become an iconic part of the Marvel Universe, but this is still creative energies of the titans of Marvel Comics. At the end of their time together at Marvel, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s relationship had fractured, and Kirby would go to DC Comics shortly after his work here. This isn’t their best work, but it’s still a decent read, with some interesting real world history holding the volume together.
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