New Reviews of Old Comics
As previously noted, I’m a huge fan of reprints. Yeah, I know that reprint issues in and of themselves aren’t worth very much, but I love reading the old, classic stories, which in most cases are well out of my budget range. Marvel has been pretty good about offering reprint titles over the years and a lot of those wind up in the bargain boxes at your local comic stores; all the better for someone who likes to read comics, but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money doing so.
This issue of Marvel’s Greatest Comics reprints Fantastic Four #96, among the last of the Lee/Kirby run on that title, featuring The Mad Thinker who likes to cause problems with his androids. As I read this I kept thinking “why does this sound familiar?” I hadn’t read this particular story before, but I had recently read one of the follow up Mad Thinker stories in Amazing Spider-Man #242. Anyway, the story for this issue has The Thing being taunted by the Yancy Street Gang once again, and what appears to be a typical exchange between The Thing and the Human Torch; i.e. a fight scene. Except the “Torch” isn’t the true Johnny Storm, but an android who knocks The Thing out and replaces him with an android version of our ever lovin’ blue eyed hero. Reed drops Sue off for an afternoon of shopping that leads to her switcheroo with an android. Lastly Reed is pulled out of his car and into an alley by a Mister Fantastic android. All appears to have gone according to the Mad Thinker’s plans; he has defeated the Fantastic Four. Appearances can be deceiving because the real Reed beat the android Reed, except he pretended to be the android reporting back to the Mad Thinker (and how did Reed know where the Mad Thinker was? No one knows). Yes, it’s all very confusing, but thankfully leads to the required fight scene with half of the FF (Reed and Ben) essentially fighting themselves. Ultimately Reed discovers a secret passage the Mad Thinker built inside of the Baxter Building to free Johnny and Sue who have been encased in some odd pod-like containers. If Reed is so freakin’ brilliant, why didn’t he know this lunatic broke into Reed’s own building and set up shop? How is he supposed to protect the world if he can’t even protect his own turf, huh? I know logic has no place in the Marvel Universe.
I really like the cover on this one with the blank eyed FF androids hovering over the defeated real team; it gives off a creepy vibe. As for the interior, it’s hard not to like a Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four story, especially the later ones, and this issue is no exception. Admittedly it has the feel of a “throw away” story that doesn’t have a place within the overall Fantastic Four continuity, but hindsight tells us the Mad Thinker does indeed return a couple other times to be an annoyance to other Marvel heroes. Reading this makes me want to get into those Essential Fantastic Four volumes I have sitting on my shelf; 2-5, which is all of the Lee/Kirby stories. I already finished the first volume.
Notable Ad: “An Exciting Offer For Earthlings” What could it be? A ride in a shiny new spaceship? No, silly, it’s a chance to join the Official Star Wars Fan Club! $5 gets you charter membership along with a color poster, a heat transfer for your favorite t-shirt (3/4 sleeve, ‘natch), embroidered jacket patch, self-stick color decal, book cover, newsletter, 8 X 10 color photo and a wallet-size photo. Whew! That’s a lot of stuff for $5! Any idea who or what is in the wallet-size photo? Hope it’s not someone from the Cantina; those creatures were ugly. Being a seven year old when this came out, I loved Star Wars; had all the toys, the giant comics, Halloween costumes, you name it, I wish I had joined this then. Sure, the heat transfer would have peeled off my t-shirt long ago, but I’ll bet I would still have my membership card tucked safely away somewhere. The ad itself is fairly cheesy with the head shots of Luke and Darth Vader in the corner; R2D2 and C3PO are the most prominent with R2 saying “Bleep-Zhuit-Pling-A-Pling-Flizz-Bloop” in a squared off robot-speak font. Do fan clubs even exist anymore, or is it all just “liking” and following on Facebook? If that’s the case you don’t get anything tangible, just some virtual stuff, which seems comparably lame.