Comic Book Review – Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The Master Plan of Doctor Doom

Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The Master Plan of Doctor Doom (2017)
Reprints Fantastic Four #19-32, Annual #1-2
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Jack Kirby

This collection continues laying the foundation of what the Marvel Universe would become. When Fantastic Four #19 was published in July of 1963, what did the rest of the Marvel Comics Universe look like? Amazing Spider-Man #5 just dropped, which pits him against Doctor Doom. Strange Tales spotlights the solo adventures of the Human Torch, with Doctor Strange making his debut as a back-up feature. Tales of Suspense is just a few issues into its Iron Man run, and he’s facing off against the Crimson Dynamo. Journey Into Mystery is about the ongoing adventures of The Mighty Thor. Nick Fury’s World War II-era stories are being told in his comic. Tales to Astonish continues its run of Ant-Man & The Wasp. The Avengers and The X-Men had their first issue debuts in July 1963. Beyond that, Marvel is still publishing plenty of romance and Western books from Millie the Model to Patsy Walker, The Rawhide Kid and The Two-Gun Kid. Captain America is still on ice somewhere in the Arctic Circle. In this next phase of Marvel, the cohesive shared universe begins to become a thing, and the Fantastic Four binds it all together.

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Comic Book Review – Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine

Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine (2014)
Reprints Fantastic Four #1-18
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Jack Kirby

I’m not quite sure what Marvel Comics is anymore these days. They have gone all-in on making their books just variants of variants at this point. There’s the stable of adjectives they slap on books that don’t mean much (Uncanny, Astonishing, Immortal is one now with the upcoming Immortal Thor). There’s also the spamming of popular IPs with Spider-Man, Venom, Spider-Gwen/Ghost Spider, and Miles Morales being used in multiple comics a month in a way that I think is less about storytelling and more about keeping brands in front of the consumers at all times. While comics have always been a business about finding ways to keep people handing over their money for another monthly installment, in the “old days,” there was a certain freshness & creativity to it. These were comics being dreamed up by weirdos who had yet to determine if they would be popular with a big enough audience to make them economical. 

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Comics 101: Mister Fantastic

He’s the most intelligent human being on the planet, and with such a mind comes a lot of pressure to make things better for his fellow man. Even before the bombardment of cosmic rays that turned him elastic, Reed Richards was amazing his peers with complex advancements in science. In college he befriends fellow intellect Victor Von Doom and roommate Ben Grimm. Doom is developing technology to transport a human’s consciousness into other dimensions, and Reed points out some flaws in the man’s calculations. Letting his arrogance get the best of him, Doom activates his device and is scarred horribly. From then on, it became Doom’s mission in life to prove his mental superiority to Reed. During college, Reed rents a room in a boarding house owned by the mother of Susan and Johnny Storm. During this time, Reed’s father Nathaniel vanishes without a trace and Reed gets a job NASA. Before the experimental craft he is building can be launched, Reed learns his funding is being cut. Desperate to get data using the craft, he convinces Ben (who is now an airforce pilot) to help him out. Sue and Johnny insist on coming along. In the end the four are bathed in mysterious cosmic rays, each gaining a power, with Reed becoming the stretchy Mr. Fantastic.

This new group of heroes became The Fantastic Four and funded their exploits with Reed’s inventions. He also proved himself a formidable figure during the team’s early years, in particular warding off the destruction of Earth at the hands of the world-eater Galactus. Reed and Sue grew closer during these years as well, eventually became engaged, and married. Sue gave birth to a boy, Franklin, who was revealed to be a latent mutant. Fearful that Franklin’s powers would harm someone, Reed attempt to shut his son’s mind off for a little while. Sue discovered this and became enraged at Reed, leaving him for a short time. This would come to be a recurring theme with the Fantastic Four, Reed’s mental acuity leading him to form emotional barriers between himself and people of average intellect. He would find peers amongst the other brilliant heroes of the Marvel Universe, eventually forming the Illuminati.

In aftermath of a major alien invasion, Reed met with Tony Stark, Professor Charles Xavier, Doctor Strange, Namor, and Black Bolt to form the Illuminati. Their goal was to head off catastrophes on Earth before the general public ever became aware of them. This would lead to their journeying to the homeworld of the aggressive Skrull race, informing that species that Earth was off limits to them. Reed and Sue reunited and once again he found himself in the presence of Galactus. This time Galactus was vulnerable and Reed had a chance to kill him, instead he showed humanity and spared the being’s life. As a result, Reed was captured and put on trial by the species whose worlds were devoured by the world eater. Reed won with the defense that Galactus was a force of nature, and an essential piece of the evolution of the universe. Back home, Sue was having complications with her second pregnancy and Reed tried to do what ever he could with his knowledge, but sadly the child was stillborn. Reed also learned his father had been living his life out of a parallel world and had become somewhat of a villain.

Reed and Sue took a leave of absence, during which they briefly joined the Avengers, but mostly spent their time recovering from the loss of their second child. When they finally returned, Reed was forced into teaming up with his long time nemesis Doctor Doom against an alien entity. In the final moments of the conflict, the two men were disintegrated before the eyes of the rest of the Fantastic Four. While believed dead, Reed had actually been kidnapped by his future grandson, Hyperstorm, a demented overly powered despot. Sue led the team while searching for any trace of Reed. Eventually she found him, and Hyperstorm was defeated. Little Franklin, whose mutant powers had manifested recently revealed that he had saved his little sister who was stillborn years ago, by transplanting her soul to an alternate Earth. She was discovered by Dr. Doom who raised the child as his own, Valeria. To the surprise of everyone, despite being only around five years old, Valeria was a brilliant genius who rivaled even Reed.

A couple years later, the teenaged superhero team the New Warriors were battling villains in a small Connecticut town when the villain Nitro (a living nuclear bomb) went off killing hundreds. This forced Superhero Registration legislation through in Washington which was backed by Iron Man, Tony Stark. Reed along with the rest of his Illuminati cohorts agree that it is time for the age of secret identities to end for the safety of humanity, while other heroes, including Sue, disagree. This leads to the violent Civil War, turning hero against hero. Reed volunteers to build a prison for unregistered metahumans in the strange Negative Zone, an act which turns even more heroes against him. He later defends his position, citing Isaac Newton’s fictional psychohistory theory: that using a mix of math, science, and sociology one can predict the outcome and severity of global disasters. The heroes end up split, many signing up under the law but many going underground. Reed meets with the Illuminati again at a later date where Black Bolt reveals he is not who he appears, but is a shape shifting Skrull alien that has replaced the hero. This kicks off the Secret Invasion, wherein it is revealed many of Earth’s heroes have been replaced with Skrull sleeper agents.

Most recently, Reed has revealed that he has a secret room stored away in a pocket universe with thousands of equations scrawled across the walls. Each equation is a solution to a problem in the universe and he has decided to implement them. One of his most ambitious tasks has been to challenge long time adversary The Wizard about the nature of humanity. He has adopted on of the The Wizard’s clones, a young man still, and decided to encourage him to use his scientific gifts for the benefit of humanity. While Reed has always been well intentioned, it seems his intelligent arrogance may get him in the end.