Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Plotter: Jim Shooter
Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Barry Windsor-Smith, Kerry Gammill, Ron Frenz, Al Milgrom, John Buscema, Marc Silvestri, Jerry Ordway
Inks: Barry Windsor-Smith, Vince Colletta, Bob Wiacek, Klaus Janson, Steve Leialoha, Joe Rubenstein, Joe Sinnott
Letterer: John Workman
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Mike Carlin
Editor In Chief: Jim Shooter

In 1986, Fantastic Four's 25th anniversary edition should have been something extra-special, yet somehow it wasn't.

I guess it's because the title had grown so much in the two-and-a-half decades since its launch in 1961. I mean growth is a usually good thing, right? Of course it is, but this double-sized spectacular celebrated by returning to the comic's roots. In other words, it's very much in the style of the way things began, before all that gradual improvement took place.

For a start, it's scripted by the original author - the ever-tremendous Stan Lee. (who, granted, has no room for improvement) Pages four to nine are a lengthy flashback to the very first issue. Pages 11-13 feature Mr Fantastic firing the FF's signal-flare again.

Then the various team-members all once more drop whatever they're doing to rush back from their real-lives. The reason turns out to be one which no-one notices wasn't really that urgent after all, again just like in that very first origin story. (reprint reviewed here)

Even the villain is a rematch against the Mole Man, although this time the guts of the tale is forgiveness. (and fighting) While all the main players have something to let be, it's ironically Ben Grimm - the Thing - who has the most to forgive. I say ironic because he's the one who's suffered the most at others' hands down the years, although I suppose that's inherent where forgiveness is concerned. Maybe it's not ironic at all.

All the same, I was kind of hoping for something of the inventiveness of more recent issues.

Still, final note should go to the final notes, which are on the inside-back cover and written by Jim Shooter and the still astounding Stan Lee. Stan particularly has something to say of relevance to those of us reading this issue 23 years later in 2009...

"I loved writing it. I hope you'll love reading it. If you do, I humbly share and accept your plaudits and accolades. But if you don't, blame it on Jim! He could'a hired Irving Forbrush!

And hey, better mark your calendar now before you forget. I'll be looking for you at our next big anniversary - the 50th!"

That's... just over a year away in 2011. So, does that mean that the one and only Stan Lee is about to write another issue of the perpetually-publishing Fantastic Four?

Now that would be fantastic!


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