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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Essential Fantastic Four

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 7 [Marvel Comics; $16.99] reprints issues #138-159 of the book from 1973-1975, as well as the original tales from five contemporaneous specials, and a crossover with the Avengers. Most of these were written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, but you'll also find stories by Steve Englehart, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont, and even one issue written by me, finishing up an adventure begun by Conway. John Buscema and Rich Buckler did the lion's share of the pencils and/or breakdowns with Joe Sinnott doing most of the inking. This volume offers an interesting overview of Marvel in the early 1970s.

Conway's scripts aptly aim for the fantastic and he certainly delivers on that. He revived the Miracle Man from Fantastic Four #3, giving him truly miraculous powers courtesy of a tribe of ghostly Native Americans. Other adventures include the return of Annihilus (with dire consequences for Reed and Sue Richards), a very personal encounter with Doctor Doom at his nastiest, a fun romp through the past, and a globe-spanning battle with the alien Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Conway could also be silly. Too silly. There's one story in which the Thing and the Hulk swap bodies and another in which the Sub-Mariner invades New York City to bring the estranged Reed and Sue back together. That second one made my eyes roll so much they gave me a headache. And don't get me started on the three issues with Mahkizmo the Nuclear Man...even though I wrote the finale of the Conway-conceived story.

Wein and Thomas contribute some good yarns, too. From the former, we get the first appearance of Madrox the Multiple Man. From the latter, we get an exciting adventure with the Inhumans and an even more obscure villain than the Miracle Man. But Conway is the star of this volume and his work on the Fantastic Four remains some of his best.

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 7 earns a noteworthy four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony


I dearly love Chris Giarrusso's Mini-Marvels: Rock, Paper, Scissors [Marvel Comics; $9.99]. The "Mini-Marvels" are kid counterparts to super-heroes like Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Hulk, and others. For the most part, I don't much care for kid versions of adult and teen characters. However, Giarrusso won me over with stories that are not just funny, but hilariously funny.

In this 100-page manga-sized paperback, we see Peter Parker as a paper boy working for a Jonah Jameson who doesn't seem to either notice or care that Parker is Spider-Man. Various deadbeats on Peter's route include the Green Goblin and Professor Xavier (who clouds Spidey's mind to make the lad think the mutants have already paid their bill). His chief paper-boy rival is Venom. It sounds nutty, but I was laughing out loud as I read it.

The book also has a Wolverine story, Mini-Marvels versions of World War Hulk and other Marvel stories, and a wonderful tale focusing on the egotistical Tony Stark and his plan to outfit all super-heroes in Iron Man-like armor. The material is suitable for all ages, but adult Marvel fans will probably get a bigger kick out this volume than its younger readers.

I dearly love Mini-Marvels: Rock, Paper, Scissors and that's why it earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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