Fantastic Four #5

June promises to be a productive month for me. I have launched my nigh-weekly Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales wherein I hope to dramatically decrease my Vast Accumulation of Stuff. If I manage that, I’ll be able to buy more stuff. But, please, don’t share that information with my Saintly Wife Barb.

I’m not attending any conventions in June, but I will be speaking at a private lunch of local Masons. It’s going to be a short talk, so I’ll likely concentrate on Cleveland connections to the history of comics. This is a pro bono talk because I was invited to speak by the brother-in-law of a neighbor who has helped me on the afore-mentioned garage sale.

It’s been suggested I sign up with various agencies and land some paying speaking gigs. It’s certainly something I should consider. In the meantime, feel free to recommend me to your local colleges, libraries, organizations and schools.

While I’ll still be writing several hours every day in June, my not being on the road should afford me more time to read comic books and other things. Maybe I’ll be able to catch up on all the comics-based movies and TV series on which I’m woefully behind. Maybe I’ll even watch a butt load of cheesy monster movies. Or maybe take the occasional nap. The possibilities are endless.

Summer is, traditionally, a great time to read comic books. When I was a kid, I could spend hours every day doing just that. I don’t have the kind of time as an adult, but I love reading comic books, graphic novels and books on comics history and sharing the best of those with the readers of this column.

Last week, I binged-read several issues of three different titles, two current and one going back a few years. Here’s what I thought of those comics…

If for no other reason that it changed the face of super-hero comic books as they had been known, Fantastic Four deserves to be known as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” Sure, the title has seen some weak runs in its long history, but, overall, it’s been pretty good and sometimes amazingly great. If this were a book instead of a column, I would comment on those amazingly great runs. Instead, I’ll talk on Fantastic Four #1-9 and Fantastic Four Wedding Special #1 of the current run. These issues were written by Dan Slott (with a few guest writers) and drawn by artists including Sara Pichelli, Stefano Caselli, Aaron Kuder and others.

The issues have pretty much all the stuff you would expect from any new run of Fantastic Four. There’s the family atmosphere. There’s a wedding. There’s Doctor Doom and Galactus. There are super-hero pals. There’s the “never surrender” and “always find a way” mantras that have been the heart of so many epic stories. In a sense, Slott is reinventing the wheel. I’m good with that.

Keep in mind that the original Fantastic Four wheel was invented in 1961, almost six decades ago. Many and probably most of today’s FF readers weren’t alive when that wheel hit the road. They deserve to see the basic design in action. It may be updated a bit from time to time, but, when a current creative team embraces the team’s core values, the wheel delivers an entertaining ride.

For me, it was good seeing the family back together with so little of the overwrought interpersonal drama that has marred some recent runs. We’ve seen the Four at odds with one another. Who needs any replay of that? These characters are at their best when they work together. Save the dysfunctional family crap for the cheaper seats.

The long-awaiting wedding of Alicia Masters and Ben Grimm was fun. No invasions of super-villains. No Skrulls in disguise. Just fun, albeit from a super-hero standpoint.

Really evil Doctor Doom is back and that feels very right. I got a kick out of the Infamous Iron Man redemption story, but it always felt like an alternate universe story to me. Doom’s machinations in this new run were beautifully diabolical. This is why he’s the FF’s most dangerous foe.

There have already been a couple of collections of Dan Slott’s run. Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 1: Fourever ($15.99] reprints the first four issues. Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 2: Mr. and Mrs. Grimm [$15.99] has issues #5-8 plus the wedding special. Both get my recommendation, especially for long-time fans of Fantastic Four who have been awaiting their return to glory.

Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 1: Fourever

ISBN 978-1302913496

Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 2: Mr. and Mrs. Grimm

ISBN 978-1302913502

Hawkman 1

I wrote Hawkman in the 1980s, working with the incredible Richard Howell, one of my all-time favorite artistic collaborators. It was an assignment I enjoyed and was very well received until an after-the-launch editor decided to upend my original five-year plan which had gotten me the assignment in the first place. I left the title and – here’s a big surprise – sales plummeted.

Since then, with a few notable exceptions, most of what DC has done with Hawkman is to make him unpleasant and to make his back story indecipherable. The New 52, the Death of Hawkman mini-series – talk about telegraphing the ending – and Metal made things worse. It was painful to see my old friend suffer.

Imagine my delight after reading the first ten issues of the latest Hawkman ongoing series by writer Robert Venditti and artist Bryan Hitch with its elegant solution to the continuity nightmare. While I’m not wild about the idea that Hawkman is seeking redemption for truly horrific crimes in one of his past lives, I’m always willing to give redemption stories a chance.

I’m enjoying this series. I love seeing Hawkman connect with some of his old friends in positive ways. I am thrilled by the amazing twists and turns. The writing and art are excellent. It has become one of my favorite super-hero titles.

Hawkman is my pick of the week. The first six issues are collected in the just-released Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening [$16.99]. A second volume is scheduled for December. My guess is that, after you read the first volume, you may start searching for the individual issues that follow. Highly recommended.

Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening

ISBN 978-1401291440

Hell House

My third review is for a mini-series you’ll have to work to find. In 2004 and 2005, IDW published a four-issue adaptation of Richard Matheson’s Hell House [$6.49 per issue]. Adapted by Ian Edginton, drawn by Simon Frasier, it well and truly did justice to one of the most frightening stories by one of the greatest horror writers of all time. I mention it this week because IDW (or whoever owns the rights) should put this series back into print in a collection as classy and stylish as the adaptation.

While you’re waiting for that to happen, you can find issues of the series on the secondary market. On eBay, I’ve seen the occasional single issues offered at cover price. More commonly, a set of the  entire mini-series runs $50. If you can find the series at a price you’re comfortable with, I recommend it highly.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella