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The ’90s Revisited: Fantastic Four (1996) #12

90s_revisited

fantastic_four_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 1 of 4: Doomsday!

Plot: Jim Lee
Script: Brandon Choi
Pencils: Ron Lim & Brett Booth
Inks: Mike Miller, Tom Mcweeney & Homage Studios
Letters: Richard Starkings/Comicraft’s Dave Lanphear
Colors: Wildstorm FX w/Jessica Ruffner
Editor: Ruben Diaz
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

It’s probably been a good 20 years since I last read this story, but as I’ve yet to actually do a solid read-through of the entirety of the HEROES Heroes Reborn thing, so the sense of familiarity I had in the reading was a very welcome thing.

The cover itself hit me with all sorts of deja vu…and seems like something that in some ways could qualify as a favorite or “iconic” cover…at least because hey–you have the Fantastic Four in full-on attack mode against a distressed Galactus, who is quite recognizable as the giant purple Kirby-entity that he is. I’d actually forgotten until looking at the other issues in this 4-part epic that the cover joins with the other 4 chapters to forma larger 4-part image. Which, of course, would virtually never happen today, 20-some years later, when any potential for such things absolutely MUST be used all on the same exact issue as variant covers, instead of a fun “bonus” or “reward” of getting one copy of an entire story!

After the front cover itself, the next thing to immediately grab my attention was the fold-out nature of the cover. This is from a brief period when Marvel utilized the cover to provide both a page giving the premise of the title and a list of core characters and another page to recap what’s come before as one heads into the issue. Though Marvel has since gone through other things and seems to primarily at present do a “page” with this sort of info as just a text piece, I can definitely say I’d prefer this overall…at least by comparison.

In a way, this issue is rather simple, despite its extra length that allows quite a bit of detail to unfold. Dr. Doom returns to New York, and the final piece of a device he’s been working on is finally in reach. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four continue a standoff with the heralds of Galactus, before their master summons them away, and the FF are picked up by SHIELD. Nick Fury has also gathered Iron Man and Captain America–Avengers–as things are bigger than they appeared. Probes that had been launched earlier penetrate Galactus’ space and reveal his ship, and the release of devices to several points on Earth. This leads to the various heroes splitting off, each to attend to the building situation in different places. Johnny Storm–the Human Torch–goes to the Himalayans with the Inhumans to face Firelord and one squad of Avengers goes to Monster Island to face Plasma (and by extension of being on Monster Island, the Mole Man). The fight with Firelord winds up falling to Black Bolt, who is able to destroy the device, but its energy emission on destruction kills the Inhumans and Human Torch. Meanwhile, Namor sacrifices himself to neutralize the device guarded by Plasma. As the fight moves to Galactus himself, now on Earth, the SHIELD Helicarrier is compromised…and after it’s evacuated, Nick Fury and the Countess steer it into Galactus’ ship, giving their lives. Unfortunately, Galactus survives. In the ongoing battle, we get surprising twists and turns…and deaths. The Thing and Black Panther are killed, and as the situation deteriorates further, Doom enters the fray, determined to gain the Power Cosmic for himself…and his interference screws things up further for the heroes. As Reed appeals to Doom’s better side, it becomes apparent that the situation is hopeless. As the world dies, Doom alone escapes via his device.

heroes_reunited_01

This issue alone would in present-day terms be an entire event in itself, at least for the most part. I know where things go, and why this is “only” part 1 despite the deaths and then destruction of Earth itself. The extra size to the issue, with plenty of dialogue and captions and such certainly gives us more in a single issue than we’d likely feel we got in an entire event in the present.

The story seems to mostly be its own thing…there are “moments” and plenty of references that would probably mean more to me if I’d read the previous few issues, or the entire series so far; but I felt comfortable jumping in here and just seeing characters behaving largely to form, regardless of their depth.

The art is excellent–for the most part, I felt like Lim and Booth gave some of my favorite appearances to characters throughout the issue. Overall I didn’t notice much of a change between the two…the only point I really felt like I noticed an actual/major difference is in one panel having a large, majestic Captain America, and then another panel with him looking maybe half the size and pretty much TOO “lean.” The entire visual team seemed to work quite well together here, at least in my reading: I enjoyed that this did not feel like it had multiple teams on it.

As series go, this is “functionally” the last issue of this version of the Fantastic Four. There is a 13th issue, but due to its crossover with the then-part-of-Image Wildstorm universe prior to Wildstorm‘s being bought by DC Comics, that issue has not (to my knowledge) been reprinted or the story “acknowledged” in-continuity/etc…making it a sort of one-shot and curiosity.

While I’d initially checked out the first issues (as of this writing, I honestly don’t recall if I’d followed the next few issues of FF or not but recall #7 or so for sure) I was quite a bit “behind” by the time of this crossover. I imagine that I was aware of things coming up, thanks presumably to Wizard Magazine, which was probably part of my getting this story as the issues came out…gearing up for the end of Heroes Reborn and the return of the characters to the main Marvel universe.

This issue more or less works on its own, though it ends on quite the bad note if read in isolation. If you can find all four of the #12s for Heroes Reunited, though, they make quite a set, and just from this first chapter, I’m eager to get into the rest.

fantastic_four_(1996)_0012_blogtrailer

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The ’90s Revisited: Silver Surfer #45

90srevisited

silversurfer045Thanos vs. Mephisto

Writer: Jim Starlin
Penciler: Ron Lim
Inker: Tom Christopher
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Colorist: Tom Vincent
Cover: Ron Lim, Tom Christopher
Editor: Craig Anderson
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: January 1991
Cover Price: $1.00

This is an issue of Silver Surfer. That’s the series, the title, that’s the logo on the cover. But…the cover belongs to Thanos and Mephisto…there’s no attempt whatsoever to have the title character–the Surfer himself–worked into the cover image. There’s a square box that has no pretension of some callout or "burst" hyping something: it states simply The Boys are Back! and we see a stoic, confident Thanos "posed" for the image with a sorta creepy, up-to-no-good Mephisto putting an arm around him. This image alone evokes plenty of thoughts and depth…surface stuff and far deeper, should one wish to hyperanalyze.

The cover belongs to these two…as does the interior. The Surfer has fallen (in the previous issue, I’d assume…it’s been well over a decade since I last would have read this run) and he and the Destroyer (Drax) lay lifeless at Thanos’ feet–their souls having been sucked into the Soul Gem. Other than the opening full-page shot and barely a reference in a subsequent panel and then a small panel at the very end of the issue reminding us of their existence–we don’t see Surfer or the Destroyer in the rest of the issue. And while this is a Silver Surfer issue…that does not bother me in the slightest, particularly having bought this for a quarter, because of the cover…and TRULY getting exactly what I wanted, what I expected out of the issue: Thanos and Mephisto. That’s what the cover promised, and that’s what was delivered.

Thanos has assembled his Infinity Gauntlet, having completed his quest to gather the Infinity Stones. The two beings who sought to stop him–the Silver Surfer and Drax, the Destroyer–have been defeated. Mephisto takes this opportunity to step him, pledging himself to Thanos, master of all. Along with doing so, he goads Thanos on, suggesting the greatness he can yet attain, if he reaches out with his infinite power to touch every living/sentient mind in the Universe. Thanos does so, and Mephisto’s ulterior motive is revealed: to steal the Gauntlet for himself. Of course, it turns out that Thanos was prepared for this, and puts Mephisto in his place, wherein the two come to an agreement about How Things Will Be…and we again see the lifeless forms of Surfer and Drax as Thanos considers the notion of there remaining any who could possibly be a threat to his plans.

This issue falls right in the midst of all the lead-up to The Infinity Gauntlet (1991), though unfortunately it does not seem to be part of the Silver Surfer: The Rebirth of Thanos collected volume. (I’m actually not sure if this has been collected anywhere at the moment?) And the cover–basic though it is (a simple greenish turquoise background with the two characters and then the usual cover dress)–just hit the right nostalgia button for me.

Starlin‘s writing here is spot-on for me; I so associate him with this material–this run on Silver Surfer, all his stuff on Thanos heading into and then during the core Infinity Gauntlet and so on–that this is essentially a "perfect" comic. This is Thanos as I appreciate the character, like the character, and simply reading this issue leaves me anxious to re-read this whole run of the title. As Thanos’ creator, Starlin gets a "pass" from me: what he says goes, and if he’s writing Thanos, then to me…that IS Thanos.

Lim‘s art is absolutely fantastic and iconic in itself to me…as depicted in this issue, this simply IS Thanos. The costume, the shadowed eyes, the star-flare in the eyes, whatever details I notice just works for me and seems perfect.

I already "know" this period of the comics; I know stuff before, after, and am certain I’ve read this before, so reading this is a true revisiting for me; like taking a cherished, favorite book and spending a few minutes re-reading a short selection. That’s probably why despite this chunk of story being right in the middle of the lead-up to Infinity Gauntlet, I so thoroughly enjoyed it as a single issue.

This issue is well worth grabbing, particularly as a bargain-bin issue…and especially if it’s truly not reprinted anywhere as yet. It’s a great middle piece between what you’ll find in Silver Surfer: The Rebirth of Thanos tpb and the Infinity Gauntlet.

Thanos Annual #1 [Review]

thanosannual001Damnation and Redemption

Writer: Jim Starlin
Penciler: Ron Lim
Inker: Andy Smith
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: Dale Keown & Ive Svorcina
Assistant Editor: Jon Moisan
Editor: Wil Moss
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

It’s safe to say that Thanos is one of my favorite Marvel characters. However, perhaps that’s something to be further quantified: Thanos as written by Jim Starlin is one of my favorite Marvel characters.

While I have yet to read the entirety of Annihilation or Annihilation Conquest; or the Thanos Imperative, or even the more recent Infinity, I’ve been loosely aware of the character’s recent appearance and involvement in Marvel stuff. I’ve been sucked into buying various issues solely on the appearance of Thanos on the cover, the promise of the character within.

So it was the almost random “notice” of Jim Starlin writing and Infinity Gauntlet artist Ron Lim on art that prompted my purchase of this issue.

Despite the aforementioned favoriteness, it’s been a long time since I’ve read most of what I vaguely recall having once read–maybe 15 years since the original Infinity ____ volumes, a decade since the shortlived “ongoing” series…a fact that’s rather “idealized” Thanos for me, and coated things with that sweet nostalgia of childhood memories that so often props something up IN memory but leads to disappointment upon revisitation.

As such, I was prepared to be quite disappointed in this issue.

I’m not a fan of the standard cover…however, I opted to purchase it over any of the variants I saw. In the short term gratification sense, I probably would have preferred the Ron Lim cover…but I feel strongly enough on the “issue” of variants that I would have been quite disappointed having something LABELLED as a variant rather than the “real” cover. Particularly given the “core” creative team of this issue being Starlin and Lim, it’s truly beyond me why neither of their covers were “the” cover and instead shuffled off as variants. Starlin‘s own cover actually fits the interior story, and Lim‘s is equally as fitting visually…whereas Keown‘s cover is a generic (and not even particularly “iconic” to me) image far more suited as an interior “pin-up” page if not a variant cover instead of being the standard cover.

This issue is essentially a prologue, setup, for the forthcoming graphic novel Thanos: The Infinity Revelation. We open on Thanos upon his first major defeat in Marvel continuity–having lost the Cosmic Cube. Dealing with the massive failure, he is approached by Mephisto, but the intervention of an Infinity Gauntleted avatar of Thanos appears and takes this Thanos on a journey through time and space, as it processes various events and how they play into the younger, defeated Thanos’ future. We’re ultimately given setup for a new event in Thanos’ life, which presumably will be chronicled in the OGN this Fall.

I recall being pleasantly surprised at the ease with which Starlin brushed off several years of less-than-ideal characterization and use of Thanos in Infinity Abyss–that the appearances of Thanos in Ka-Zar, a Hulk Annual, and even a Thor-versus-Thanos arc in Thor’s own title proved to be duplicates of the ACTUAL Thanos; less than perfect at that. So this issue referencing multiple “avatars” of the Infinity Gauntlet Thanos fits right in with past precedent and gave me no pause at all, where it may have with other characters.

As a fairly simple one-off story, this worked well for me, giving me a chance to dip back in with Thanos without feeling like I actually missed anything from Infinity or anything else I didn’t feel lost, and actually quite enjoyed the touches on continuity that I recognized.

Visually, this entire issue was quite a treat. It had a feel of the familiar that I appreciated–and EXPECTED. While familiar, the coloring and such certainly showed through as “modern,” keeping this from feeling entirely like some ’90s throwback. I don’t much like Thanos’ appearance without his headgear, but having seen imagery of him without it before, everything fit. In the various detailing other than noticing how ugly he looks without the headgear, nothing of the art itself jumped out as a distraction. 

I enjoyed seeing familiar scenes and characters, and the only one I really didn’t recognize offhand was what I believe to be a “current” version of Adam Warlock that I’ve not actually read in-continuity yet.

The $4.99 price of this issue is a bit steep; I read the thing cover to cover in under 20 minutes…but then, these days, that’s par for the course to me with a Marvel issue. Steep price point for a quick read, whether it’s good or not.

To best of my knowledge, this is not a follow-up to Infinity, and that story seems to be solely referenced by the “previously” page, so you need not have read any of that to enjoy this. Similarly, if you’re looking FOR Infinity follow-up, this isn’t really gonna meet that expectation. 

However, if you’ve read or are familiar with the Thanos stories from the late-’70s and 1990s to early 2000s, and you’re a fan of Starlin‘s work in general and Thanos in particular, this should be a pretty enjoyable read and whet your appetite for an original graphic novel apparently due out in August this year.

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