The 23rd Fantastic Four Epic Collection is out this week featuring several ’90s stories. Spinning out of “This Flame, This Fury”, this collection features a 20-something Franklin from the future, Reed Richards being zapped out of existence, and plenty of drama between Lyja and Human Torch. This is primo melodrama for the First Family as well as an era that had gloriously detailed art, much of which was by Paul Ryan.
This collection is written by Tom DeFalco, Paul Ryan, Mike Lackey, Mark Gruenwald, and Len Kaminski with Paul Ryan doing the brunt of the artwork along with Geof Isherwod and Mike Gustovich. Nobody Gets Out Alive encapsulates an era where each issue feels jam-packed with melodrama between characters, strange alien threats, and iconic moments for these characters. It’s kind of amazing how much DeFalco stuffed into this series as there are single issues that have more content than many modern superhero arcs.
Collected here are Fantastic Four (1961) #377-392, Fantastic Four Annual (1963) #27, Namor the Sub-Mariner (1990) #47-48, and Fantastic Four Ashcan Edition (1994) #1. This collection opens with Invisible Woman not accepting a 20-something Franklin as her son. She’s furious, especially since Franklin, her little boy, was zapped away in the last Epic Collection. Geared up with future tech, Franklin is present for mysterious reasons, but eventually reveals he’s there to vanquish his own mother! If that’s not melodramatic enough, just wait.
This is an era of Fantastic Four when Thing’s face was ruined by Wolverine and he’s reeling from his ugly mug, hiding it under a helmet. This is an era where Lyja is hiding the fact that her baby is Human Torch’s. Wait until Human Torch realizes his baby is an egg, or when he finds out another major truth about the baby. This is an era where the Fantastic Four become the Fantastic Three — and by the end of this collection, the Fantastic One. There always seems to be some new threat, new family squabble, or some new revelation to throw everything on its head. It’s highly entertaining, if a little overdone.
The latter is evident when Human Torch is jerked around by Lyja one too many times. When read in one sitting it’s fairly obvious the creative team wrote themselves into a corner and need to juke appropriately. The same can be said of Franklin, who wants Invisible Woman to call him “son”, but then later seems completely evil and hellbent on killing her. Readers at the time got to read these for a little over a year, but when read in one sitting it can be laughable how melodramatic things get.
Namor gets two issues collected here. This section feels like a bit of a sidestep for the series but makes sense since he eventually runs into the Fantastic Four. It’s not much of a crossover, but completists will love it. Clearly, Namor was brought into the narrative due to Reed being zipped off and Namor’s love of Invisible Woman playing a part in the drama.
Speaking of, the lead-up to Reed Richards exiting the series is an exciting story that’s hard to put down. A strange alien threat is attacking Latvaria, who was lured to earth by Dr. Doom. He’s of course outmatched, but his ego and constant excuses are fun to observe. Enter the Fantastic Four, who are seeking out Thing after he rushed to Latveria to get some revenge. Even though the alien is rather nondescript and a one-off, it’s an exciting sequence of action and teamwork. This leads to Mr. Fantastic trusting Dr. Doom, foolishly, and it leads to one of the most epic exits for a superhero from his own book. Readers at the time wouldn’t see Reed Richards return for 25 issues. This is the start of that.
Fantastic Four Epic Collection: Nobody Gets Out Alive is an iconic era for the Fantastic Four and it stands the test of time. Sure, it’s overly melodramatic, but that’s part of the charm of this series. Always has been. It’s also an era that took big swings with the exit of Reed Richards from the line and the idea of aging up Franklin Richards from the future.
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