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Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 63 (June 1967) July 28, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews, Flashback.
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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

Sweet, two weeks in a row of Stan and Jack goodness (don’t blame me for this week, it was chosen randomly). Unlike our last venture into the Silver Age of comics (or the Marvel Age, as Stan would have called it), this one is, for the most part, entertaining. FF 63 features the first appearance of Blastaar. I’ve heard of this character, but fittingly enough this was my first time actually seeing him in a comic. First off, I appreciate the many contributions that Jack Kirby made to the world of comic book art, and I usually thoroughly enjoy his work, but what was up with his tendency to make villains hairy? Blastaar is no different as he looks like a purple gorilla. Mehh, oh well. Blastaar’s apish look and Sandman’s goofy costume aside, he maintained his wonderful storytelling abilities, as well as his signature looks for each of the Four.

Stan Lee’s story appears to be a continuation of the previous issue (which I haven’t read) as the issue starts out with a bang (quite literally) with the recently-escaped-from-the-Negative-Zone Blastaar attacking the Baxter Building. Somehow, the Sandman has also found him, and is serving as his guide on Earth. (I’m assuming he is doing this in exchange for spoils or something.) After knocking Reed unconscious, Blastaar moves through the streets of Manhattan, and eventually Johnny and Crystal, who are sharing a date, run into him. The rest of the issue is mostly a big fight scene between the pair of Blastaar and Sandman against the Fantastic Four and Crystal. During this fight, we mostly get cool displays of powers from all the parties involved, and in the end, it is Reed’s smarts (along with one of his inventions and help from the rest of the Four) that saves the day. So while this issue may not be important in the grand scheme of things with the exception of being the first appearance of an N-Zone baddie, it was a good example of an entertaining Silver Age book. So if you ever get the opportunity to read it, go ahead, but no need to go out of your way to find it.

Next week: Amazing Spider-Man 222

-LOTRKing

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Flashback: Review of The Silver Surfer Graphic Novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (1978) July 21, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews, Flashback.
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In Flashback, LOTRKing normally reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history. In this special edition, he has not chosen rondomly and will be reviewing a rare non-canon graphic novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

For those who know nothing about this graphic novel (I didn’t until reading it), it is a retelling of the Silver Surfer character by his two creators. Instead of throwing him into the Marvel Universe populated with superheroes, they tried to introduce him to the “real” world. Did they succeed? I’d say so. While this book may be a bit dated, it is definitely a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby tale. Stan Lee maintains his slightly quirky writing and occasionally flawed logic, yet he hits the soul of the Silver Surfer perfectly. Like his two part Silver Surfer: Parable tale of the eighties (I’ll get around to doing that on Flashback one of these days) this is an introspective and interesting look at humanity from the eyes of a noble non-human character.

Like his original appearance in the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer is here the herald of Galactus, devourer of worlds. After finding Earth, he realizes that it is much like his old home Zenn-La, which causes him to regain much of his conscience. Refusing to allow Galactus to destroy a world populated by such a young and thriving race, he confronts Galactus and after an almost-futile battle, Galactus spares Earth, but exiles Norrin there. As Norrin learns about his new home and its natives, we get the earlier mentioned look and the good and bad aspects of humanity.

Aside from our own morals and foibles, it is through Galactus that Lee tries to define what exactly establishes good from evil, if the two even exist at all. Eventually, Galactus realizes that he needs the Silver Surfer, and the usually neutral entity must examine both his good and evil qualities as he decides what will make the Silver Surfer return to him. What follows in an entertaining and poignant story which ultimately ends in the Silver Surfer making a large sacrifice on behalf of humanity.

It must also be mentioned that while the comic book art of the seventies is nothing like today, Jack Kirby is nonetheless an impressive visual storyteller. Whether it is emotion, action, or even just scenery, it is easy to see why he was considered one of the greats of his time. Together, the story and art make this an enjoyable philosophical read. If you are a fan of the Silver Surfer, Stan Lee, or Jack Kirby and you can ever find it for a decent price, I’d highly recommend getting it.

Next week: Fantastic Four 63

-LOTRKing

Review of Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure February 26, 2008

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fflost.jpg

First off, I’m not giving this review a certain amount of stars simply because of what this book is. Not only is it the Lost Adventure of the FF by Lee and Kirby, but is also a comic from a completely different era, and should therefore be rated with a different system of ratings, therefore, I’m exempting this one from getting stars. For once, I’m not going to go through the story. I’ll explain at the end.

One thing that cracks me up about Stan’s writing is how it still sounds so similar all these years later. Given, some pages were reincorporated from the flashback in 108 verbatim, but even the pages that weren’t were still written in Stan “The Man’s” same old style (which is a praise, not a complaint). Of course he could have done this on purpose to ensure the dialogue flowed, but either way, the writing was very smooth and read like it really was written back in the 70s. Well, except for two “hiccups” that were perhaps my only complaint. Once Stan Lee mentions a digital camera and later a D.S.L. line. While I realize with the whole time scheme of comics problem makes it so that issue really could have taken place ten-ish years ago, I personally would have liked it if this issue really sounded like it was completely written in the 70s, instead of only partially. But those are my only two small complaints, other than that, Stan Lee’s writing was flawless.

Kirby’s art was also perfect for the story, it is a shame he never got to see this issue published in full. Compliments to Ron Frenz are also required for where he had to finish penciling, as his work fit in seamlessly and I can’t tell which is his and which is Kirby’s. Some people may not appreciate this “old school” comic art, but even if it is radically different from modern art, Kirby’s story telling is perfect, there is never confusion as to what is happening. That said, for those who do appreciate said art, this book is Kirby at his usual best.

My final comments: buy this book! It will be some of the best $5 you ever spend. Not only is it the last ever chance that you will have to read “new” material from Lee/Kirby, but it is a piece of comic book history, one that deserves appreciation. As for why I did not go into the specifics of the story, well now you don’t know anything about what happens, so what better way to find out than by buying the book? 😉

-LOTRKing