Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fantasic Four #4 - Sub-Mariner Introduction

The Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four
May 1962
Issue: 4 Reading Order#: 5


Oh no!  In the last issue, we witnessed a lame pouty-fest from the Human Torch.  He even threw his temper tantrum in front of Miracle Man.  I find that unacceptable.  I would also be suprized if he dosn't realize that the Fantasic Four have just shown their major weakness and use the Tourch against them next time they face off.After that, the Torch ran away from home to to cry about how no one loves him or other such nonsense.  In this issue we will see how the Fantastic Four deal with this crisis and cope with the introduction of a new character:  the Sub-Mariner!


I hate to start off with a nitpick but last issue they introduced a nuclear powered tank.  I mean, that's a lot of power for a tank to just roll around slowly and blow stuff up but whatever.  Sure, its possible.  This issue they flash back to it and now they call it an Atomic Cannon.  While I am unclear what an atomic cannon would even do, it seems like one of these names was wrong.
This guy can sure take a beating!
That said, not too far into this issue I ran into what could have easily passed for Wolverine's doppleganger. He was smoking a cigar giving a random old man some trouble, and then picks a fight with Sub-Mariner for just about no reason... sounds about like something he'd do.Well, to be fair, Sub-Mariner had amnesia at the time. He had no idea who he was and had taken to a love of the drink in his time away from the ocean.  I can only guess that he spent many a long lonely night nestled up with only a bartender and a bottle of Jack to keep him company.  That is, until Wolverine's look alike shows up to tango.  Just so happens, Torch peeped the whole event.  Of course Torch's first reaction is hey, he doesn't remember who he is, lets shave his face with my welding-torch finger. That should clear this whole thing right up. As the beard is removed, the whole room instantly recognizes him as Sub-Mariner.  A beard has that kind of effect on people, I guess.  You gain a few levels of coolness factor or something.  Who knows.  Now that he beard is gone, the crowd is all like,"Dang that lame old man has gotta be Sub-Mariner.  Look at how uncool he is!  Only Sub-Mariner can reach that level of awkwardness!  I liked him more when he had a beard like Wolverine over there."Torch then flies Sub-Mariner to the ocean where he will (of course!) regain his memory.  The Sub-Mariner returns to his underwater homeland to find it destroyed from underwater nuclear testing and he announces his plans for revenge on all mankind for their heinous crimes!  He then goes into the sea and awakens a gargantuan sea beast and entices it to destroy New York City.The heroes quickly dispatch it by throwing a nuclear bomb down its throat.  (They sure have alot of these just hanging around, don't they?)  With the monster beaten, the fight comes down to just the Fantastic Four and the Sub-Mariner.  The aquatic villian makes a mistake by informing the heroes that his magical horn is the source of his ability to summon more monsters and the battle turns to a fight over wresting control of the horn from Sub-Mariner.  Torch saves the day by creating a huge whirlwind (from flying in circles) and tosses Sub-Mariner into the sea.  His horn also falls into the sea nearby but it is presumed "lost forever". The end.

Weakness Update:

    • Fire. (Fantastic Four #2)
    • Chemical foam will put out his flame. (Fantastic Four #3)
    • Water will put out his flame in large doses. (Fantastic Four #4)
    • Brick to the head. Blunt force trauma to the head will cause him to spontaneously shrink back to normal size. (Fantastic Four #3)
    • Scent gives away her location.  (Fantastic Four #3)

What can I say?  Sub-Mariner is the king of the sea.  I would have to assume anything lost in the sea could be eventually found by him.  We can assume that he will be back and next time it will be with a huge army of sea creatures!

NEXT ISSUE IN READING ORDER: Incredible Hulk #2 - Introduction of the Toad Men!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fantasic Four #3 - Miracle Man Introduction

The Fantastic Four
March 1962
Issue: 3 Reading Order#: 3

In the first two issues for The Fantastic Four, I have periodically poked fun at the ridiculousness contained within them.  Overall, I have accepted that quirkiness and chalk it up as a strange mixture of influence from previous monster comics, the time period itself, and the oddity of Stan Lee in general.  Well, I was okay with it until this issue.  The ending of this comic might be one of the worst things I have ever read. 

I am starting to have a real problem with how the Torch is being portrayed.   There are real inconsistencies with how hot he really is.  It wouldn't be so bad but his power ranges from completely unbeatable to laughable depending on the situation.  I understand the need for dramatic flair but at least establish a base rule set with which to govern this fictional world.  Especially in your main characters.

In this issue we are introduced to a man who calls himself the Miracle Man.  He embarrasses the Fantastic Four during a magic show and then begins this deep internal monologue about how awesome he is and how he cannot be defeated.  The Miracle Man then devises a plot where he will animate this wooden/papier-mâché monster in an attempt to conquer the world.  Never mind the fact the his plan is *ahem* paper-thin, it still manages to confound the super heroes for a bit until Torch comes to save the say by burning it to the ground.  In this initial battle we have discovered new weaknesses for the team.


Weakness Update:

    • Fire. (Fantastic Four #2)
    • Chemical foam will put out his flame.
    • Brick to the head. Blunt force trauma to the head will cause him to spontaneously shrink back to normal size. 
    • Scent gives away her location.  
Who was completely useless in the fight again?  Mister Fantastic.  He should just stay home.  Thing is just always at the wrong place at the wrong time.  I would like to see Thing beat some bad guys soon, by the way.  He deserves some spotlight.

So after the Torch burns down the monster, the Miracle Man douses him in chemical foam to dispose of his only real true threat in the group and he takes off in a new, super cutting edge, nuclear tank.  The Invisible Girl decides to stow away in the tank as her drives off to spy on her enemy.  She plans on alerting the group when she arrives at his junk yard base of operations when she is foiled by a dog.  The dog alerts Miracle Man to her location where he charms her with the snap of his fingers.

Now this is where is gets really bad.  Miracle Man gets her to shoot off her flare gun to signal the team who rushes to save her.  Finding themselves inside Miracle Man's trap a fight ensues. As Miracle Man realizes that the fight is a draw he tries to flee and guess who shows up? Torch, of course. He arrives and turns up the heat so hot that it temporarily blinds Miracle Man. (But no one else.)  He is so devastated by this inconvenience that he immediately gives up and reveals the true source of his power.  Hypnotism.  Apparently he can hypnotize everyone in the Tri-State area with a single snap of his fingers.  It was explained that everything was just an illusion of the mind.  It must have been a shared illusion by the entire city because everyone was in panic.  If he was so powerful and the entire group was under his spell, why couldn't he have just made them realize their were powerless or made them think they were cows and set them off to pasture with the Skrulls? There are so many possibilities for his victory but instead he just mails it in.  The fire was just too bright for him to handle and his will to go on was sapped dry.  The end.

Why was the ending so bad?  On a positive note, they wore their iconic blue costumes for the first time in this issue.  Interestingly enough this is also the issue where the Thing destroys his first suit by ripping out of it.  I might have to make a counter for that if it becomes a habit.  In this issue they also detail the Fantastic Four's base of operations with a weird little diagram and introduce the cheeze-tastic Fantasticar.  Their hovercar breaks into four individual hover platforms that they can tool around town in.  Its great for getting separated and picked off one by one by enemy foes.

NEXT ISSUE IN READING ORDER: Incredible Hulk #1 - Introduction of the Hulk

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fantasic Four #2 - Skrulls Introduction

Fantastic Four #2 - Skrulls Introduction
The Fantastic Four
January 1962
Issue: 2 Reading Order#: 2

In issue number one, I mention on a couple occasions that the public's general distrust in the superheroes was rooted in their questionable actions during the introduction.  This group of heroes had shown the world that wherever they went, chaos ensued.  In this issue, a powerful alien race has taken advantage of this mistrust and has decided to play it against them.  The aliens named Skrulls, are masquerading as members of the Fantastic Four while mimicking their super-human powers with advanced technologies.

Mayhem Update:
  • THE THING - Destroys an off shore oil rig.  Begins a monumental ecological disaster.  Apparently there were zero fatalities in this incident.  Wow!
  • THE INVISIBLE WOMAN - Steals a 10 million dollar diamond.  In today's money, this diamond would actually be worth about 75 million dollars or more.  I believe the only diamond remotely close to this price range is the De Beers Diamond.  That's just for trivia, I guess.
  • THE HUMAN TORCH - Melts a random civil war monument made out of marble.  This made me think.  How hot can a torch get?  Can a torch melt marble?  The answer is it depends on what is feeding the fire.  It seems that it might be technically possible to get a torch to burn that hot.  Never mind that you need some serious stuff powering the blaze and it would have to get as hot as rhyolite magma to melt marble.  Maybe we should call him The Human Magma?
  • MISTER FANTASTIC - Flips a single switch that manages the entire city's power grid.  A bored, probably minimum wage handyman watches a super stretchy arm come into the room and flip off the unguarded switch.  We can presume, that the handyman just says, "too bad I'm off the clock", he then shrugs and leaves to go home for the day.  The city plunges into darkness and chaos.  I am sure this is the point in history that we stop managing whole city electrical grids with a single on/off switch.
So the military comes to arrest the real Fantastic Four who come along quietly.  I guess they knew that once they were captured they would be placed into generic cells with the barest of security staffs.  They all easily break free, ie the invisible woman simple walks out an open door and no one can find her, ect.  Obviously, this whole section was planted here as a reminder of what their super-powers did because its all very redundant.

After some deliberation, the brilliant Mister Fantastic comes up with a simple plan to uncover the imposters.  They will cause more havoc as themselves and in doing so, they hope it will confuse the doppelgangers into revealing themselves.  The plan is a tremendous success. Well, wait.  I am getting ahead of myself just a bit.  There's a little hitch here.  When the human torch uncovers the Skrulls who were impersonating them, a fight betweeen the Skrull-Human Torch and the real Human Torch breaks out.  In the fight, they collide and we learn that somehow they cancel each other out.

Weakness Update:
  • THE HUMAN TORCH - When his fire comes into contact with another fire source, it seems to render his power useless for the period of a few minutes. This is one the of those occasions where you would actually fight fire with fire, as the saying goes.

Human Torch - Fighting fire with fire.
Fighting fire with fire.  How did they know this would even work?

So they turn the tables on the devious Skrulls.  The rest of the Fantastic four burst in and save the day.  Mister Fantastic comes up with a plan that involves posing as themselves in order to infiltrate the Skrull organization. 

Bold move.

The heroes steal the alien's spaceship and fly up to the mother-ship in geosynchronous orbit.  The plan goes off without a hitch and they manage to convince the Skrull leadership that the Earth is full of terrors that will eat them all.  The Skrull get all freaked out and leave Earth's orbit.

When the Fantastic Four return to Earth, the Thing gets hit by radiation and reverts back to normal for a few minutes.  I have to assume that this fact just makes him even more angry than before.  They get out of the spaceship and immediately have to deal with an angry military, who still think that the heroes are evil, and they have to deal with the fact the the 4 Skrulls stuck on Earth have escaped and are causing havoc.  The Fantastic Four use the havoc as a diversion to duck being captured by the Army again and capture the Skrulls, thereby proving the innocence of the Fantastic Four once and for all.

The Fantastic Four punish the remaining four Skrulls to a sentence of impersonating cattle by using hypnotism.  Its easy to see that this hypnotism won't last and it won't be long before they are dealing with Skulls again.  Next time the Skrulls won't scare off so easily.

Aside from the logic issues, the story was fairly decent.  I am glad they wrapped up issues with the public hatred of the hero group.  I am sure that Mister Fantastic could argue that the Skrulls were responsible for all the bad things that happened up to this point and possibly repair their reputation.  I don't quite get why they had to revert The Thing back to a human for a few minutes.  Was it to give him hope that they could someday remove their conditions?  Right now its, kind of unclear.

NEXT ISSUE IN READING ORDER: Fantastic Four #3 - Introduction of the Miracle Man

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fantastic Four #1 - The Moleman Introduction

Fantastic Four #1 - The Moleman
The Fantastic Four
November 1, 1961
Issue: 1 Reading Order#: 1 SUMMARY
In this issue, we meet the Fantastic Four for the first time. It might be the most awkward set of character introductions I have ever seen.  After Mister Fantastic shoots a strange flare gun into the sky, the entire teams notices their call to action.  Immediately they all drop what they are doing, freak out and start obliterating the city with their powers.  Obviously, this was Stan Lee's method of introducing the unique powers for each hero but it left me wondering if the town was going to hate them now.  That question was quickly answered when the Army attempts to nuke one of them over a civilian population.  After the failed nuking attempt, everything seems to calm down rather quickly.  I guess the army just threw up their hands and exclaimed in the typical 60's fashion, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

The second portion of this issue is where we get to learn how the Fantastic Four gained their super powers.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed with this back story.  It just seemed really weak.  At any rate, the comic explained that for some reason they feel compelled to steal their own space ship.  It seemed like they thought that "the commies" were on the brink of making it into space before the Americans and they felt they had to risk everything and jump into a mostly unfinished rocket and hurtle themselves into space.

Okay.  Sounds reasonable.  Gotta beat those darn commies.  So they steal their own spaceship.  They start cruising toward space when they realize, "Oh crap! This ship wasn't built with any shielding from solar radiation".  The ship goes into auto-pilot and they all start to die from radiation poisoning.  No big thing, though.  They all mutate and gain super powers which somehow saves them from the harmful radiation. Well, they never called it a mutation, exactly.  They describe it as if their cells are filled with "cosmic power".  I will just be referring to it as a mutation from here on out because any other explanation is just weird.

So, auto-pilot takes them back to Earth and the flash back ends.  The flashback left me wondering if people during this time period were really this worried that the Russians would beat them into space.  To give you some perspective, Sputnik had just been launched like 4 years earlier.  Also, Kennedy launched the space race with his famous speech in May of that year. I find it hard to believe that anyone thought the US would be anywhere close to being ready for a manned effort to land on the moon just a few short months later.  Maybe they did?  I have no idea.  If anyone wants to clear this up, feel free.

Almost as a side note in this edition, the Fantastic Four fight the Mole Man who is pretty much just a nobody.  I mean his super powers are just simply adapting to the dark and knowing how to make evil friends in subterranean creatures.  We discover that Human Torch is hot enough to melt rock when he saves the day by simply causing a rock cave in that traps all the denizens of the underworld to end the story.

It was obvious that this was not the last we shall see of the Mole Man.  This is probably due to the fact that in the comic, his minions were planning to dig holes under every power station in the world (specifically the atomic ones for some unknown reason).  Once they were destroyed, I guess it would cause enough chaos for them to simply take over the world.  The point here is that they have already dug tons of holes.  They spent two whole pages talking about it.  Not sure how a cave in would even begin to stop a large group of determined, burrowing creatures.

One other issue left unresolved was why Mister Fantastic decided to name himself "Fantastic".  What a douche!  Seriously?  Your friend is suffering from low self esteem after his transformation and has taken to calling himself The Thing.  So I guess it makes perfect sense to follow that up with naming yourself Fantastic.  Ridiculous.

Mister Fantastic and The Thing fight the Moleman
PICTURED: Mr Fantastic seemingly foiled by a simple length of rope.
As a side note, the cover has nothing to do with the actual story.  Is this common?  Somehow the green creature has completely confused the crap out of Mr. Fantastic with a simple length of rope.  In the cover art, he's just chilling out on some rock trying to get untangled.

NEXT ISSUE IN READING ORDER: Fantastic Four #2 - The Skrulls Introduction

Friday, June 15, 2012

Welcome to Marveling Comics

Until now, I have never really done the comic book thing.  I am a comic noob, you could say.  As a child, my brother was really into them.  Shortly after purchase, he'd cautiously place them into protective sleeves with the intensity of an EOD Technician, watching their corners for any sign of contact with another surface.  Bags of Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries would be scattered about our pantry with their useless boxes missing neatly cut rectangles from each side.  To him, this was happiness.  To me, this was just weird.

In reality, I was probably a little jealous.  I marveled when he told me about the story of the Infinity Gauntlet for the first time. The concept had me very intrigued.  I was familiar with some of the characters from movies.  Other characters, like the X-Men, were favorites of my brother's.  We would often find ourselves watching the X-Men cartoon on Saturday mornings, musing about who had the stronger power; Magneto or Professor X.  The discussions always agreed on Magneto, btw.  He has a guy you simply hated to root against.

I have always been a completionist though.  If I began reading something, I wanted to absorb every ounce of it.  I want to root down every distant reference and pull them together like some crazy comic book obsessed Sherlock Holmes.  Its probably more of an OCD, really.  It would have to be, to even consider trying to read the entire Marvel Comic chronology in order.

I got the idea when I stumbled across Travis Starnes' "The Complete Marvel Reading Order".  Its a website dedicated to determining the optimal reading order for the major story arcs within the Marvel universe from its dawn of creation.  He calls it a "massive work in progress".  I call it insanity.  Nice job Travis, keep up the good work!

So my plan from here on out will be to read a few comics and post about them each week.  I fully expect that workload to increase as I gain interest in particular plot-lines.  I will briefly outline the comics that I have read, give my own description of the events that have unfolded that week, and provide any immediate thoughts I have about the series up to that point.

As a note, I will occasionally be adding comics to the reading order as I go along.  Travis's list focuses on the story arc of the main Marvel universe, but I am reading this for general enjoyment of the Marvel universe.  With this in mind, I might occasionally wander off the reservation with something that strikes my interest at the time.

I hope my efforts on this blog will act as inspiration or at least a reference for fans of these comic books. Thank you all for joining me on this massive journey!