Please Don’t Hate Me As I Scrutinize The Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and The Inhumans

Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Volume 5

Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Volume 5

Many of your know that I’ve been reading Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s epic run of Fantastic Four #1-102 by way of the Marvel Masterworks series. I finished it a few weeks ago and although I had a few problems with the early stories I have come to realize that Stan and Jack were just getting the Marvel Universe off and running and the characters themselves had yet to come into their own. The best of the FF was came in Volume Five where the team met The Inhumans, The Black Panther and Galactus and his herald, The Silver Surfer. The latter half of the run where – again, while great – had a few bumps in the road. The stories seemed forced with too much bickering between Johnny Storm, The Human Torch and Ben Grimm, The Thing. Sue Storm (Invisible Girl) was still the lady-in-waiting even though she was married to Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). Always the clod, Reed treated his three extended family members like has-beens. Going into the run I had always disliked The Thing for his self-loathing, but I have now come to have no respect for Reed. Empty promises and lies to Ben, giving no credit for Johnny for saving Earth from Galactus and being a terrible husband to Sue. Even in the pages of Fantastic Four in comic shops right today, Reed is a liar and self-absorbed. And that will always be his problem – not trusting in his fellow team members or family. Shame on him. It also didn’t help that one of the Fantastic Fours greatest adversary Namor, The Sub-Mariner, did not appear between #33 and #102.

But it was Fantastic Four #98, May 1970, that had me the most dumbfounded. This issue celebrates the Apollo 11 moon landing from July 1969 (you must forego any continuity to real world time). With all his brilliance; with all his scientific know-how; with all his “I must help and save the human race”, it seems that Reed has never bothered to share his achievements with the US government or more specifically, NASA! We as readers know that the Fantastic Four had already traveled to the moon on more than one occasion to visit The Watcher. We also know that the Earth has been visited by alien species (the Kree and The Skrulls) and the Human Torch and The Thing has traveled half way across the cosmos on separate occasions! But noooooo, Reed has some sort or Prime Directive with his own planet and thus gives no tech or guidance to the astronaut crew. The ending makes it seem that Neil Armstrong is the first man on the moon, however we know Reed was first — in April 1963 (oh and the human villain The Red Ghost was also on the moon.

Marvel Masterworks Silver Surfer Volume 1

Marvel Masterworks Silver Surfer Volume 1

But now that my FF is done I went ahead and picked up Stan and Jack’s other creation in Masterwork form – The Silver Surfer Volumes 1-2 (this time with pencils by John Buscema). Collected here is the full run of #1-18 from August 1986 – September 1970. It was not a lighthearted read by any stretch. The premise is a sequel to The Galactus Trilogy (Fantastic Four #48-50, March – May 1966) and deals with the Surfer’s exile on Earth. Most of all it’s a prison story. The Silver Surfer is confined to Earth and some space above our planet, but how far out is never told. It is here that we learn more about the man Norrin Radd. Every comic is that of despair. He longs for space travel and to see his beloved Shalla-Bal from his home planet of Zenn-La. The Silver Surfer, is good-hearted and forgiving even though he keeps running into diabolical humans, monsters, witches, and super villains like Doctor Doom who have it in for him. He even fights with Thor, Human Torch, and Spider-Man for no real good reason. It’s upsetting to see that the Silver Surfer’s faith in humanity fades with every turn of the page. In the pages of #17 it looks like Mephisto may finally get his way with him. Transporting Shalla-Bal to Earth, he and makes a deal with the Surfer that if he destroys Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. he will be free and be with his woman forever more. However Mephisto places Shalla-Bal in S.H.I.EL.D. HQ in hopes that the Silver Surfer will kill her too by mistake, and thus go bat-shit crazy and destroy the Earth leaving Mephisto ruler of a dead world. The plan is thwarted but Mephisto may have gotten closer to his master plan without even realizing it. In #18 we meet the Silver Surfer in mid-fight with The Inhumans! How he got there we do not know, but it’s good to see Jack Kirby back on the pencils. At the end, our “hero” is so enraged at the human race that he vows to finally take matters in his own hands. This is what Mephisto wanted all along. Unfortunately the series abruptly ends and we are left with perhaps the biggest cliffhanger the Marvel Bullpen has ever created. As you know the Silver Surfer would calm down and become a hero here on Earth (with The Defenders) and in the vastness of space thanks to the 1982 one-shot by John Byrne and Stan Lee.

Marvel Masterworks Inhumans Volume 1

Marvel Masterworks Inhumans Volume 1

Speaking of The Inhumans, that is where I turn to next in my extended Fantastic Four/Lee & Kirby family of Marvel Masterworks. But I’m a bit perplexed as to why Silver Surfer #17 (September 1970) is not included in The Inhumans Volume 1. After all this Two Volume Masterworks series collects all the Inhuman back up stories from Thor and Amazing Adventures. It would have been easy to add in SS #17 and place it in between Marvel Super-Heroes #15 (July 1968) and Amazing Adventures #1 (August 1970). Yes, it is more of a Surfer story then Inhuman, but it would have given context to just where Black Bolt & Co. have been with their ongoing fight with Maximus. It should be pointed out that on September 18, 2013, Marvel will release a more comprehensive Inhumans collection with Inhumans: The Origin Of The Inhumans TP, Fantastic Four (1961) #36, #38, #41-47, #54, #62-65 and Annual #5, plus portions of #48, #50, #52 and #55-61; and material from Thor (1966) #146-152, $39.99. A Volume 2 would start with the aforementioned Marvel Super-Heroes #15. We’ll have to wait and see if Silver Surfer #17 gets included.

2 comments for “Please Don’t Hate Me As I Scrutinize The Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and The Inhumans

  1. July 24, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    I completely agree that Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four peaked with the Galactus storyline, and that their run sort of waned from there on out. I didn’t even realize that Namor didn’t appear in their run after issue 33; that could go a long way toward explaining things. Stan always did do a nice job of writing that character.

    I do think that there is some very strong material in the earliest issues, though, especially the first and fifth issues. In fact, I still hang my hat on the idea that Fantastic Four #5 is the best single issue of the Silver Age, aside from Amazing Fantasy #15. Even if things came out a little “off” in some of the stories from that time (like the introduction of the Impossible Man — quite possibly a candidate for the WORST story of the Silver Age), you can tell that Stan and Jack were on fire creatively. It’s hard to say the same for some of the later material.

  2. September 7, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    Excellent reviews! I’ve just recently started my own blog over at cobyscomics.blogspot.com, so I can appreciate the work that went into your posting. Isn’t it awesome to be able to share your thoughts with the world?
    I have also always found Reed RIchards to be a bit of a douchebag. I think it’s the hair. That slicked-back, silver-sideburned look just reeks of jerk. The real-life continuity problems were something that really bothered me for a long time, too. That is a good point you made about the moon landing. That asshole Richards and his Prime Directive! 9/11 was one time when Marvel was really on top of making their superheroes fit in the real world. I remember some digitial Spider-man comics I got on Comixology where it showed Spidey standing over the twin towers rubble with kids asking him, “where were you?” Whoa. Powerful stuff.

    I think you may’ve missed the mark with Silver Surfer, though. That whole “prison story” plot device is his whole schtick, man! That’s what makes him such a powerful and interesting character. He just wants to go home and be a normal dude, but he is forced to do Galactus’s bidding.

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