Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

When I was a kid, Marvel UK would try to reprint Marvel US comicbooks in A4 - a different shaped page to what they had been intended for. This disappointed me.

Years later, they realised how much extra work they were making for themselves, and started reprinting them into the same shaped page-format. This confused me.

Today, I had no idea whatsoever that I was reading a British reprint. I wonder if that was their plan from the start...

Marvel comics seem to be pretty easy to slide back into though, even after many years of absence. Things today seem to have moved on a little from my time, but not much. For example, when I used to collect The Fantastic Four in the 80s, Reed and Sue's son Franklin was about six years old. Just old enough to start having adventures of his own. In this issue’s main strip, first published in 2002, he's seven.

Hrrrm, he knows of the Harry Potter series. If this story is therefore set when it was first published in 2002, then I guess the comics I was reading when he was about a year or so younger in the 1980s were actually set around the millennium then...

Anyway, these chapters were easy to follow, and any confusion over who the Inhumans were was clearly explained in a helpful text interlude between episodes.

Things slowed down a bit every time there was a crowd-pleasing fight, and I had to wonder whether this was down to a change in the storytelling style, or just a change in myself.

Best of all though, the lead strip was fun. It's encouraging to know that this decade’s writers (in this case Karl Kesel) are clued-up enough to balance all the serious adventure with characters who have a sense of humour...

After that there was another text piece about the origin of Marvel comics. Much of this was stuff that I already knew, but hey, if you're interested in a subject it can be quite reassuring to be told that your facts are right, right?

Actually, I've always thought that my belief that Stan "The Man" Lee's prose was overly verbose and alliterative was an exaggeration on my part. Not if this frame of his they reprinted is to be believed:

If further evidence of Smilin' Stan's spectacular style were needed, we could surely have had no better example than his next back-up strip. Reprinted from Stan's writing heyday in 1964, the title says it all: "The Fantastic "Origin Of Doctor Doom!""

No, wait, actually this next frame said it all...

I swear, you've got the whole story of little Victor von Doom's descent to the dark side all right there. Despite the twelve-side page-count, storytelling just doesn't come any more quickfire than this:

After that rollercoaster of raconteuring, it quickly became colossally clear that the incredible inner-chronology of this mighty Marvel mag was ballistically becoming titanically topsy-turvey.

After the above-mentioned 2002 and 1964 stories, we were actually taken even further back to the Fantastic Four's very first adventure from 1962. The fact that all three strips also contained flashbacks within them, didn't help matters. Chris Nolan eat your heart out. Instead of publishing three separate text histories, why didn't they give us a key to tell us what order all these pages came in? Sheesh, it's like trying to follow the Bible...

And yes, this was written by Stan too, for only he can completely change a character's resolute decision in a mere three panels:

It may sound like I seek to knock the grandaddy of comicbooks, but I don't. I love Stan Lee™. I think he's brilliant. Hey – who doesn't? His achievements in the comics-field are far too numerous to list. Even his CV is an epiphany-inducing epic.

Who can fail to be impressed by his undying conviction that whatever amazing thing is currently happening is the most awesome gobsmacking event ever in universal history? His words are so full of amazement that you just don't want him to be wrong.

And this very first Fantastic Four adventure is a prime example. Just look at the start. Mister Fantastic – the leader of the Fantastic Four in case his name didn't tip you off - fires-off the FF's flare gun in order to alert the other three to return to base immediately...

Clearly the Earth is in a pretty serious emergency – just witness how the Invisible Girl knocks people out of the way in the street to heed the urgent call...

And then there's Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, who smashes right through a doorway sooner than waste a valuable second getting through it in whatever gentler way he had presumably entered:

But that's not all, oh no, next he feverishly smashes his way up through a road, causing a crash...

And as for Johnny Storm – The Human Torch – he's in such a hurry to save the world that he actually leaves three things destroyed in his wake, starting with his very own car!

Not content to merely destroy ground-based vehicles, next it's the turn of several unfortunate nearby aircraft...

Yep, you read that right, by the time they finally all got together at HQ to answer Reed's signal, they had even accidentally caused a nuclear missile to be exploded within an (admittedly long) arm's reach of New York.

But I'm trivialising. All this wanton trail of death and destruction is a price worth paying for the urgency of the matter at hand when they do all finally get there.

Yes, Ben, pin-ups. Well actually photos that really couldn't wait.

I'm glad that someone on the team has their priorities straight.

Review of issue #2 here.

(Comic images in this post are copyright Marvel, and were used according to 'fair use' laws)


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