The seventh Epic Collection for Fantastic Four is out this week in comic book shops, housing stories from the early ’70s. This marked a change for the series with John Buscema joining the series, but as we now know, he crushed it even when following Jack Kirby. Running 472 pages, this is one of the most iconic eras for the series and one of the loopiest, too.
Collected here is Fantastic Four (1961) #105-125, which was the era where Human Torch and Crystal get romantic, Thing could transform into human form at will, and Galactus threatened to destroy Earth unless Silver Surfer submitted to him and his new herald Air-Walker.
There’s new stuff here, like the introduction of Over-Mind, but you can tell Stan Lee and Archie Goodwin were also playing the hits or riffing on past stories. Seeing Doctor Doom team up with the team must have been a trip at the time, or how The Watcher is used quite a bit and seems to have a lot to say. Galactus makes a return, although it’s less foreboding and centered on fights than anything else. Getting to see Thing and Hulk fight for long stretches, which was done years before, reads like a rematch for the superfan.
This is an era that’s a ton of fun with a new monster of the week to thwart in every single issue. This collection ends with two-parter, for instance, that reads like something out of The Twilight Zone. It even has a semi-happy ending that reveals he was misunderstood all along as he had a wife to get home to.
Another reason this collection is good is that the writing style is mellowing out from the more verbose earlier era of Marvel. Narration isn’t creeping into every panel, dialogue is more natural, and the stories are more complex. The melodramatic language is still there, but it’s not so over the top and unnatural that it’s hard to take seriously.
A lot of Buscema’s work here looks like he’s emulating Kirby, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Take for instance Fantastic Four #110, which uses mixed media at one point and plenty of gasping faces throughout. The gasping faces certainly die down as the series goes on, and Buscema has a way of making the six-panel layout structure zip. The use of word balloons between panels helps draw the eye as well, which helps tell the story. Buscema is joined by John Romita Sr. but only for the first issue in the collection.
The Fantastic Four between 1970 and 1972 can be yours if you pick up the Fantastic Four Epic Collection: Battle of the Behemoths collection. Its strengths lie in a near revolving door of new ideas, classics coming back for more, and plenty of melodrama. This is an era of the FF that was a lot of fun, never too complicated, and is just great sci-fi wackiness.
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