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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Badass Panels, Volume 9: Fantastic Four #55

I'll be honest with you: I've never really been that into Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four.

Shocking, I know, considering that I'm not only a noted Kirby fan, but that I'm also someone who likes to get on the internet and pretend he knows something about comics, but the fact of the matter is, my own particular compulsions lead me to want to read things like FF from the beginning, and as you may have heard from our pals over at Ye Olde Comick Booke Blogge, those early ones can be a little rough to get through. So, despite my secret shame, I've long since written it off as something that just wasn't for me, intending to go back to it later.

Fantastic Four #55 has completely changed my mind.

Because honestly? There's not a whole lot in the world that can match the mind-shattering awesomeness of the Thing and the Silver Surfer beating the living hell out of each other for twenty pages. And that, with the exception of a brief appearance by Wyatt Wingfoot and Lockjaw, is pretty much all that happens in this issue.

It is beautiful.

The story opens with the FF returning from Reed and Sue's honeymoon, and Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew leaving Reed to haul in the luggage while he uses a crazy Kirbytech phone to call his blind sculptress ladyfriend Alicia Masters (who can't go four pages without captions reminding us that she is indeed a blind sculptress), only to find that she isn't home.

So of course, in a moment that's going to set the tone for Ben's incredible dicketry for the duration of the issue, he immediately assumes she's cheating on him and hops on the skycycle to go check up on her.

Ah, Romance!

The Surfer, meanwhile, has been hanging out on a nigh-inaccessable mountaintop, apparently just waiting for some climbers who think they're actually going to be accomplishing something to show up so that he can serve as a living reminder that what they struggle so bitterly for comes effortlessly to one possessed of the Power Cosmic. So yeah, pretty hard to decide who to root for in the upcoming slugfest.

Anyway, having totally ruined some dudes' dreams, the Surfer decides that it'd be a good idea to go hang out with Alicia. And if you need me to explain where this is headed, pal, I got four words for you:


And the single best thing in the issue? The Silver Surfer's first piece of dialogue after the Thing rolls up and punches him through the wall: "My former friend is displeased."

To his credit, the Surfer doesn't unlesash the Power Cosmic on the Thing, instead hanging back and defending himself while trying to figure out why one his the six people he knows on Earth suddenly decided to throw down on him. Or at least, he holds back right up until Ben Grimm punts a giant rock at him.

After that? It's on.

And when I say it's on, I mean it's on to the point where the Silver Surfer not only summons strength to match the Thing's, but also decides to go with one of the classic techniques of Self Defense...

...and turns himself into a walking atomic bomb.

Right about here, Ben decides that this was probably not the best idea he's ever had, and hops on the skycycle to get away from the Surfer before he blows his top, allegedly attempting to lure him into a warehouse district and getting punched through a brick wall himself.

For those of you keeping score at home, that brings the Punched-Through-A-Wall Score up to an even 1-1, although the Thing's able to pull ahead a few minutes later, when--angered by the fact that he's totaled the sky cycle and isn't even able to dent the Surfer's board--he drops the entire frigg'n warehouse onto the Surfer.

Because that's just how Ben Grimm rolls.

Seriously? I think there are more Rs and Ks in this comic than I have ever seen before in my life.

Anyway, that's about the time that Reed shows up to get Ben to stop acting like a total jerk before the Surfer gets tired of holding back and blasts him into the proverbial smithereens. And that's when Reed Richards--whose superpowers, I remind you, are that he can stretch his body and he's really smart--drops what may be one of thoe most totally badass lines in comics history:

"If you don't apologize to him for acting like a misanthropic madman, I'll show you what clobbering really means!!"

Reed is so mad that he's going to show a rock monster who just dropped a building on someone some REAL ass-kicking. Now THAT is hardcore.

BONUS FEATURE: A Missive From The Letters Page

The Comment: "The Black Panther is one of your better characters, much superior to the run-of-the-mill super-space-villains like Galactus."

The Response: "We thought (foolishly, perhaps) that a gent who could single-handedly drain all the life energy from a planet--and who was as close to being all-powerful as you can get--without being Odin--and who travelled around with a surf-boarding space herald--was at least slightly out of the ordinary!"

Cracks me up every time.

(Special thanks to MG3 for dropping this one on my desk this afternoon and getting me to read it.)

The Badass Panels Archive: The Face-Rockings Will Now Commence:

| Volume One: Captain America #194 |
| Volume Two: Ode to Punching |
| Volume Three: The Question #2 |
| Volume Four: Impulse #3 |
| Volume Five: Batman Adventures #3 |
| Volume Six: Iron Man #200 |
| Volume Seven: Daredevil #276 |
| Volume Eight: Ghost Rider #63 and #67 |


Blogger Ragnell said...

Wow. Reed can be cool.

7/30/2006 3:09 AM

Blogger SmoothJimmyApollo said...

Other than the specific name references to Andre 3000, the entire last verse of that song could be written about Reed Richards.

7/30/2006 6:17 AM

Blogger Brett said...

Ragnell don't judge Reed by his behaviour in the current Civil War line, he is being used as one of the designated tools there. He has been and will be again someday a fun character and one of the few with actual working family feelings. I am sure Civil War will screw it up for a few years, but in the past and I suspect in the future the good Reed character will return. So yes, Reed can be cool.

7/30/2006 8:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lee/Kirby Reed was so hardcore that it actually helps kill my interest in most FF runs that came later - everyone else always wants to act as if being the smartest guy on Earth means Reed should be some scrawny egg-headed type.

7/30/2006 9:15 AM

Blogger Bill Reed said...

I love how every sound effect is basically the same.

7/30/2006 7:23 PM

Blogger Jake said...

I have to admit, I'm starting to see the appeal of the old FF. The first 20 or so issues are ridiculously awful (as you showed in my links). Unfortunately, the next 20 or so are actually starting to make sense, but are still bad. That makes them much harder to read because you lose that "this is assinine" factor of the first few years. However, it offers promise for the future so I guess I can't dismiss the Man and the King as easily as I once did.

7/30/2006 9:55 PM

Blogger Steven said...

Which leaves the question,

if one is not a completist, where should one start to pick up the Fantastic Four?

I kind of want to read the first Galactus story myself someday, but I don't feel like slogging through 40 issues of bad comics if I could just skip to the good ones.

7/30/2006 11:20 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...


There's actually a lot of FF that I actually do like, since one can't really resist the appeal of a guy like Doctor Doom.

That said, I really like the Walt Simonson run (and you should be able to find it pretty cheap), mostly because that not only includes the New Fantastic Four (with Art Adams!) but also has the Fantastic Four hooking Thor's hammer up to Iron Man's armor and escaping from a black hole at the center of the universe created by Galactus.

That's exciting.

I also really like the Mark Waid/Mike Weiringo run.

7/30/2006 11:25 PM

Blogger Phil Looney said...

>>if one is not a completist, where should one start to pick up the Fantastic Four?

I agree with what Chris said - the Waid run is awesome.

But for the best Lee/Kirby stuff, I recommend Essential FF Volume 3 - It has the introduction of The Inhumans, Reed and Sue's wedding, The Galactus story, the story Chris reviews here, and the classic "This Man, This Monster."

It's also in this volume, that you learn Reed is so BA, that he takes the time to shave, even though there is a giant man in a purple dress outside about to eat his planet.

7/31/2006 8:27 AM

Blogger Steven said...

It's also in this volume, that you learn Reed is so BA, that he takes the time to shave, even though there is a giant man in a purple dress outside about to eat his planet.


8/01/2006 12:28 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Some of the only early FF that I've read is Essential v3, and I can confirm that it is great. Sometime I'll read the earlier stuff, but the consensus does seem to indicate badness. Volume 3 also includes the first appearance of the Black Panther, which is pretty cool. Also Klaw, who is later defeated when BP sends a message capsule rocket full of vibranium from Wakanda to the Baxter Building when Reed phones him. Or something like that. It definitely cracked me up. Oh yeah, and that first appearance of the Inhumans is pretty cool. If I hadn't read it, I would never have got the joke in Ultimate FF Annual #1 where Johnny swears he's in love with Crystal, and somebody questions it, since he only met her 5 minutes ago. See, the joke is that that's what happened in the original story...well, humor's never funny when you explain it, is it?

8/01/2006 4:47 PM

Blogger Robert Pope said...

#55 was reprinted in "Origins of Marvel Comics" back in '74 (or was it '75?) and reading that juxtaposed against FF #1 (also in Origins, natch) was a real mind-bender. Reed in FF #1 is basically a spindly professorial type, and just a few pages later, he's a full-blown man of action! As cartoony as he comes across in those later Kirby FF's, you can actually believe Reed was manly man enough to beat out Sub-Mariner and end up with Sue!

8/11/2006 4:17 PM

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