Maximum Fantastic Four
Writer: Jack Kirby w/ Walter Mosley & Mark Evanier
Art: Jack Kirby
FC, 224 pgs, $49.99 US / More in Canada
There have been thousands of words written about the first issue of Fantastic Four and the impact this comic book had on the modern day superhero. It changed everything– how comics were made, read and enjoyed. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s team book, essentially a rip off of their competitor’s Justice League of America, revolutionized an entire industry.
Maximum Fantastic Four is a nostalgic project conceived by American novelist, Walter Mosley, who attempts to dissect the comic book in search of the sentimental feelings he had for it in his youth. This oversized hardcover republishes Lee and Kirby’s classic, panel by panel, each spotlighted on its own page, with elaborate fold outs. This format showcases the work of Jack Kirby, like any painting hanging in a gallery. “It’s about the art and our perception of it”, say Mosley, who claims the first two years of this comic book series was one of the most influential elements in his early years. In Mosley’s essay, Fantastic Four#1 helped form his creative expression to the point where he and his friends had philosophical debates on the inner workings of the story and the morality within.
Besides the extraordinary reproduction, Maximum Fantastic Four includes a short essay on the origins (or “possible” beginnings) of the Fantastic Four. It has been long debated who actually created this superhero team responsible for ushering in the Marvel Age of Comics. Jack Kirby biographer, Mark Evanier, sheds some light on the controversy, but nothing is solved. Though, as a bonus, this volume reprints a two-page outline for the Fantastic Four series written by Stan “The Man”, which is highly entertaining.
Walter Mosley put this volume together to try and find a part of his missing youth. I felt Maximum Fantastic Four was an eccentric project at first glance, but as I spent time with this book I saw how every panel isolated from the big picture told its own tale. Jack Kirby’s art mingled with Stan Lee’s enthusiastic babblings become the contemporary art that a lot of comic readers have known comics to be. Mosley’s argument seems solid here. If one abandons trying to read this coffee table book, and flips through it randomly instead, a higher appreciation will be found. Be it The Thing acting out in anger or The Invisible Woman fulfilling her role as the only female member of the team, Mosley’s conceptual view of this work can reveal a higher meaning. (Dana Tillusz)