Monday, April 6, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Fantastic Four #44-48

Boy, am I glad I didn't jump ship after #43!  It was tempting (see last week).  This week's stretch is outstanding, beginning with the introduction of the Inhumans and ending with the introduction of the Silver Surfer.  It's almost as if someone at Marvel were starting to get impatient with the series, too.

Who Are the Inhumans? Meet The Characters Of Marvel's 2018 Movie
The Inhumans: l to r, Gorgon, Crystal, Black Bolt, Medusa, Karna and Triton, via SlashFilm
Just as I was wishing for characters with nuance, along come the Inhumans.  Medusa, we learn, is a member of a super-powered race who has lived in secret in the Andes for thousands of years.  The more we see, the more we get the sense of a deep, rich history, now at a moment of fascinating political intrigue (FF seems to like that stuff as the Skrull saga is also dripping with it).  Are they the enemies of humanity?  Potential allies?  Hoping to be left alone?  It's complicated, and that's why it's good.

Then we arrive at #48.  When people put together must-read comic book compilations, Fantastic Four #48 is virtually guaranteed a spot on the list.  It is perhaps the magnum opus of Jack Kirby, in particular.  At least in the mid-'60s, the artists were responsible for a lot more of the comic book storytelling than the cover credits would suggest.  As the legend goes, Stan Lee left a simple note on Kriby's desk for #48: "The Fantastic Four meet God."  Jack filled in the rest for what is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Marvel's Silver Age. 

I'm still not sure I especially like the Fantastic Four as characters themselves.  Reed Richards, in particular, can be hard to take: arrogant, patronizing, chauvinistic.  I expressed my dissatisfaction with Sue last week.  Torch and Thing both whine too much.  So far, Thing is the most interesting to me but even he tests my patience.  So, I'm not sure if I'll ever come back to the Fantastic Four after I get to #60 but I'm definitely up for more with the Inhumans!

Meanwhile, it seems I've inadvertently skipped an episode.  Double-checking the Comic Book Herald list, I realized I forgot about the annuals, most pertinently #3!  So, I'll need to double back.  I had been thinking it strange that I'd missed the Reed-Sue wedding.  In my experience, comic book readers tend to be rather sentimental.  You don't believe me?  You must not have been around for all the fuss when Spider-Man got married.  As such, I couldn't imagine Stan and Jack would skip right over a wedding.  Wouldn't you know it, the nuptials are in Annual #3...

My Recent Reads

Fantastic Four #44
Originally Published November 1, 1965
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
  • The Inhumans arc begins, though they are not named as such yet.
  • Nemesis: Gorgon
  • Medusa returns and we instantly realize her history is more complicated than previously suspected.  Gorgon is after her.
  • The Inhumans story even gets a satisfying secondary narrative.  Dragon Man is back in a King Kong-like tale with first Medusa, then Sue in the Fay Wray role.

Fantatstic Four #45
Originally Published December 1, 1965
  • We meet the Inhumans, Medusa and Gorgon inclusive.  Also in the gang are Crystal, Lockjaw, Karnak, Triton and the mysterious and powerful Black Bolt, revealed in the final frame. 
Lockjaw (comics) - Wikipedia
Lockjaw via Wikipedia
  • For Crystal and Johnny Storm, it's love at first sight.
  • Frank Sinatra reference!  This Grammy winner was also released in December 1965:

Fantastic Four #46
Originally Published January 1, 1966

Seeker | Marvel Animated Universe Wiki | Fandom
via Marvel Animated Universe Wiki
  • Villain: the Seeker. who is after all of the Inhumans, intending to return them to their sanctuary.
  • Inhumans origin story

Fantastic Four #47
Originally Published February 1, 1966

Maximus Boltagon (Heroes Reborn) (Earth-616) | Marvel Database ...
via Marvel Database
  • Villain: Maximus, Black Bolt's brother and usurper as both king and Medusa's betrothed.  I told you this was good!
  • Black Bolt reclaims his crown.
  • Maximus, in desperation, sets off the atmo-gun, threatening extinction to all human life. 

Fantastic Four #48
Originally Published March 10, 1966
  • First things first: #48 finishes the Inhumans arc.
    • Medusa proclaims her undying love for Black Bolt.
    • When the atmo-gun fails to destroy humanity, Maximus initiates a Negative Zone, designed to drive out the Fantastic Four and keep them out, along with the rest of Earth's humans, forever.
    • Crystal and Johnny are heartbroken by their separation.
  • The Galactus Trilogy begins.
Galan (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
Galactus via Marvel Database
    • Villains: the Silver Surfer and Galactus
Norrin Radd (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
Silver Surfer via Marvel Database
    • The imagery of the Silver Surfer is a nod to the prominence of surfing in the broader American popular culture of the 1960s.  Hawaii was a brand new state and the romantic allure of tropical beaches was potent.  California sun offered its charms as well, the Beach Boys not quite having revealed their more artistic side yet (Pet Sounds wouldn't hit record stores until May).  No icon symbolized young freedom and adventure better than a man on a surfboard. 
Uatu (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
The Watcher via Marvel Database
    • The Watcher returns to help defend Earth from Galactus.
    • I chuckled out loud when Ben Grimm snarked about Reed's long-winded tendencies.


  1. Evidently, the Surfer was Stan Lee's real love as a character. I believe he wrote the entire series? I don't remember that for sure.

    1. Also, I have several season 7 reviews up.

    2. You are correct regarding Stan Lee and the original Silver Surfer series.

      I will be by shortly.

  2. Can't remember which MCU movie it was, but I loved the Stan Lee cameo with him hanging out with the Watchers.

    1. A quick Google reveals it was Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.