Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: Fantastic Four Issue #4

Fantastic Four Issue #4, Photo Credit: Marvel
Fantastic Four Issue #4, Photo Credit: Marvel

In the fourth issue of The Fantastic Four, the Marvel 616 Universe gets a whole lot bigger and a whole lot older.

The start of the issue finds Reed, Sue, and Ben arguing over finding Johnny Storm who abandoned the team at the end of the last issue. There is a flashback to the last issue to set the scene. The three remaining members of the team split up to search the city to see if they can find Johnny. And while Kirby’s artwork has heavily hinted that this story is placed in New York, Lee’s text finally confirms it in this issue. This issue also establishes that every member of the Fantastic Four is famous across the country. Although some people at this point still think Reed and company are made up, thus implying people in the 616 are reading about Reed in Marvel comics.

Despite Ben and Johnny constantly bickering, or maybe because of it, they know each other well. The Thing knows Johnny will be working on cars in an old garage and he confronts Johnny. In this scene, Johnny demonstrates that he can control his powers effectively because he can have his heat at the right temperature not to ignite the gas where he is. Also, in this issue, for the first time, Johnny says his famous catchphrase, “Flame on!”

Also, once again, The Thing changes back to human form albeit for only a little while. This further establishes Reed Richards could find a cure for him. It’s something Reed is going to work for years on to no avail.

After Ben and Johnny have their fight, Johnny goes to the neighborhood known as The Bowery and finds lodging for the evening. Here we get another meta-reference in Marvel 616. Johnny is reading an old comic book from the 1940s about The Sub-Mariner. The Sub-Mariner is a character Timely comics, the predecessor of Marvel debuted in 1939. He is Marvel’s equivalent to DC’s Aquaman. Making this reference even more interesting is the fact that Sub-Mariner used to be one of Timely’s top three characters, the other two being Captain America and the original Human Torch. It’s perfectly fitting then that Johnny Storm, the most famous Human Torch is the one to find Sub-Mariner. Sub-Mariner is in a cheap hotel along with Johnny but seems to have lost his memory. The crowd at the hotel turns on Sub-Mariner but Johnny steps in to defend him. He then shaves Sub-Mariner and realizes this is the Sub-Mariner.

With the introduction of this character to Marvel 616, or maybe more accurately, re-introduction, the universe can now be dated back to at least 1939, although the Sub-Mariner’s adventures from that time period do not necessarily count in 616 continuity.

Johnny Storm knows Namor’s (aka Sub-Mariner) power comes from the sea. Johnny does what he thinks is the smart and merciful thing and tosses Namor into the sea. Namor certainly gets his power back. He quickly discovers his underwater home has been destroyed by Atomic testing.

This is a theme that will come back again and again in 616 stories. Atomic energy drives both good and evil depending on who uses it and how it is used. This is extremely relevant considering the cold war that continues for decades. Atomic energy is so important in these stories that the mutants in the X-Men comics will be given the title of, “Children of the Atom”. Sub-Mariner was able to give voice to those who could see the dangers of Atomic energy in the world at the time. Sub-Mariner will also become the most powerful and famous “frenemy” of The Fantastic Four.

After realizing his home is destroyed and the surface world is responsible, Namor calls upon a gigantic sea monster to attack the city and get revenge. At this point, Johnny signals the rest of the team by writing a giant 4 in the sky. This isn’t the first time the team has been signaled in the sky, but it is the first time that Johnny does it.

The team converges to stop the threat. This allows The Thing to strap a nuclear bomb to his back (again with the Atomic energy as both hero and menace) and enter into the mouth of the giant sea creature known as Giganto. The Thing has to fight a couple of creatures inside Giganto but he makes his escape.

While Johnny, Reed, and The Thing have some success fighting Namor, it’s The Invisible Girl who saves the day in this story. She is able to steal the horn Namor used to call the sea monster. Namor catches Sue while she is invisible and she decides since she is caught she might as well drop the invisibility. Namor falls in love with Sue Storm instantly. This sets up the first real rival to Reed Richards for Sue’s affections. Namor tells Susan if she will be his bride, he will give up his anger towards the human race. Sue Storm, of course, is willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the world. Namor realizes that she is consenting not out of love or attraction. He thought he was offering her marriage as an extension of honor and quickly rescinds the offer, although it is clear he still finds her attractive.

The team has to fight Namor to save the world. Johnny, realizing Namor’s power is bound to the water, creates a vortex of air that lifts Namor away from the water so he is weakened and deposits him far out into the sea. Namor again swears he will have his revenge and the setup of a decades-long relationship between him and the Fantastic Four has been set.

While the events described above are truly enough to be of major significance to the 616 universe, there is one other detail in this book I have not yet mentioned. Sprinkled throughout the issue every few pages is what surely must have been a mysterious yet exciting tease for something to come. Every few pages we see a question. “Who is the Hulk?” And we are told, “You’ve never seen anyone like the Hulk!”

To this day we are still trying to get the true answer to the question “Who is the Hulk?” The statement is a little less true but we’ll get into why that is when Hulk finally makes his 616 debut.

But before we get there we have a couple of short Tales to Astonish stories to discuss.

Next on the reading list is Tales to Astonish #29 (A Story).

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: Fantastic Four Issue #3

Fantastic Four Issue #3, Photo Credit: Marvel
Fantastic Four Issue #3, Photo Credit: Marvel

The third issue of The Fantastic Four introduces us to a few things that will come to define the team in the future. We are introduced to the Fantasti-car, a flying car that can separate into four sections and is docked at the top of a towering building in the city. While it is not named in the issue, this tower will be what is later known as the Baxter Building, and Reed and the team own it. Reed, the genius that he is, is able to build a dock on the roof that will hide the car so that no one knows who lives there. Also, Sue Storm designs the first costumes for the team. While Sue and Reed’s uniforms make perfect sense for them, Ben can’t stand most of his and The Thing goes on to fight mostly in the blue bottoms of the uniform. Johnny is shown in his costume but of course, it is not explained in this issue how this costume does not burn up when he flames on.

Also, we see the bickering between The Human Torch and The Thing increase. The antagonism gets so bad that by the end of the issue, Johnny Storm quits the team. This is the first time in the 616 universe anyone quits a superhero team but it will most certainly not be the last.

The issue itself deals with a rather forgettable villain by the name of Mister Miracle. He seems to be able to do all kinds of miraculous feats including taking a punch on the jaw from The Thing and making a movie monster come to life. Reed Richards figures out that Mister Miracle is simply an excellent hypnotist who can make a crowd think he is doing the things it looks like he is doing. Forgetting the fact that this is not at all how hypnotism works, we do get some scenes where the team gets to show off their powers. There is also another flashback to the origins of the team. This is the third issue and the third time we see the origin of the team. Lee and Kirby did an excellent job of making sure that no one could forget how this team started. We also get some hints of conflict to come. Ben is jealous of Reed for the fact that Sue is in love with Reed. Ben and Reed both blame Reed for the accident that gave them all powers. Reed tries to look on the bright side that at least they can help humanity but Ben would trade it all away to be normal again.

Once again, this issue is different from other comics on the stand at the time because the team fights among themselves. Ben sees his powers as a curse rather than a blessing. And with Johnny walking away from the team, Reed realizes Johnny would be a huge threat if he turned against the Fantastic Four. Other comics at the time were not posing the question of what would happen if one of their own turned against them. This is a uniquely Marvel trait and it works on so many levels that it becomes a staple in comics from then on. At one point or another, every member of the Fantastic Four will walk away from the team. They do come back but with this issue, the reading population would be left to wonder if Johnny was really serious and if he might even become a villain. It was groundbreaking in the fact that a hero could become evil and groundbreaking that Reed recognizes this as a fact.

While the most important things in this issue are more to do with the visual aesthetic, the costumes, the building, the radio transmitter the team uses to communicate, and the fantasti-car, the dynamic of the team arguing with one another is what propelled the universe forward. The story was not afraid to have conflict not only with the villain but with the team members. I can’t overstate how important this is to Marvel 616 comics. It’s what defines them. It’s so effective that in Marvel movies and movies like The Incredibles they don’t work if the team doesn’t argue with each other at some point in the movie. Next on the reading list is Fantastic Four #4

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: Tales to Astonish #27

Tales to Astonish #27 Photo Credit: Marvel
Tales to Astonish #27 Photo Credit: Marvel

Tales to Astonish is an anthology comic book that has tales of terror, aliens, horror, and superheroes. This issue has four comic stories plus one prose story. There is a story about an alien trying to conquer a planet, a story about a mean jockey who learns his lesson thanks to a talking horse, the story of a cursed mirror, and the prose story tells about a boy who accidentally creates an unbreakable bubble.

There is also one more story. The first story is the only one that matters in 616 continuity. That is the first story that stars Henry Pym called The Man in the Ant Hill. This character will go on to fame as one of the founding members of The Avengers and will also have some extremely disturbing moments as in the future he abuses his wife. This troubled background is probably one of the main reasons Henry Pym is not the Ant-man used in the Marvel movies and instead, we get the much more likable Scott Lang.

Anyway, this story does introduce us to Ant-man, although before he has a suit and cybernetic helmet. A seemingly mad scientist, Henry Pym has created a solution that can shrink anything. This is a major triumph for Henry because the scientific community has thus far seen him as a crackpot. Henry imagines using his formula for military purposes like transporting an entire army in a single airplane. But first, he must test it on a human.

As any good mad scientist would do, he immediately uses it on himself. He is shrunk down to the size of an ant. He goes outside and realizes he can’t get back to get the antidote to his serum. Henry finds himself near an anthill and is attacked by several ants. He ends up in a pool of honey but a friendly ant pulls him out of it.

A group of other ants is about to attack when Henry finds a matchstick and uses a rock to light it. He then makes a lasso and climbs his way out of the anthill. But before he gets to the top a single ant attacks.

To me, this is the best part of the issue. Henry realizes, “But I have one advantage! A human brain…”

At this point, I am thinking, yes, he is a smart scientist he must have some intellectual way out of this dilemma. Then comes the next panel where Henry Pym proudly proclaims

“…which has learned the art of Judo!”

He throws the ant over the side and makes his escape.

A fortunate circumstance occurs and Henry encounters the ant who helped him before. The ant lets Henry get on his back and he makes it up to his serum and can grow to full size. Henry decides to destroy his serum and never let any human use it again. The story ends with Henry lying to the scientific community, saying he was wrong about his theories and notes that Henry Pym never steps on an anthill again in his life.

So what is significant about this story? Of course, Henry Pym will rise to become Ant-man. We also see a few things established about him. He has a temper, and this will become a theme for him. He is not highly respected in the scientific community although he is right. This is another theme that tends to follow Henry. And, we see that he has a relationship with ants. Almost as if he can communicate with them. This will be essential to his character in the future.

While this could have been a throwaway one-off story, it is significant in 616. Mostly, in the future things will be added to Henry aka Hank Pym, including the ability to grow large as well as small and a love interest. Ant-man, unlike in the movies, in the universe of 616 is a founding member of the Avengers and the universe does not move forward without this little story. Tales to Astonish will also, in the future introduce several other heroes so we are not done with this title yet. Not by a long shot.

Next on the reading list, we go back to Reed and company with Fantastic Four #3.

Movie Review – Fear Street Part 1: 1994

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here back to review another film. This time I watched Fear Street Part 1: 1994.

This is the first in a trilogy of films based on books by author R.L. Stine most remembered for his Goosebumps series of books. Fear Street is not a kids series and although elements of it might be considered “Goosebumps grows up” it’s got a distinctive slasher feel to it.

The interesting part of the series is that we will get three installments in reverse time order. We start in 1994 but in the next part we’ll be jumping back in time to 1978 and the third installment will bring us to 1666.

I may give some spoilers in this review so if you want to watch the movie before you read this go for it. Otherwise you’ve been warned.

The story focuses on a group of teenagers in a small town consistently plagued by murders called Shadyside. Their neighboring town is called Sunnyvale where it seems the streets are always safe and no one ever snaps and goes on a killing binge.

The opening scenes place us in a mall where there is a killer on the loose. It works as well as about any typical slasher film opening but there is nothing exceptionally surprising about it. Next we move to Deena Johnson a teenage girl who is heartbroken that her relationship has recently ended. Her brother is obsessed with the local legend of the witch Sarah Fier. There’s even a little rhyme to accompany the legend.

Considering this is a teen horror film, you can probably imagine a lot of what happens from here. Killers are on the loose in the town, teens have to figure out how to survive. Not everyone makes it to the end, adults don’t believe what is happening and buckets of blood are spilled.

The story was interesting enough to keep me watching and it left me with some nostalgia for some of the better slasher films but I’m not sure this one makes it up there with those. Still, it’s compelling enough I will definitely watch the next installment to see what happens. Or I guess what happened might be a better way to put it since the chronology is backwards. I’m not sure how well the whole thing will tie together but if it does, I may end up revisiting this film once I’ve seen the rest.

For now, I would say if you love slasher films, love music from the 1990’s (they put practically every song from that decade in this) or even if you enjoy shows like Stranger Things or Supernatural you’ll probably enjoy this. Just don’t expect it to be overly original.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: Fantastic Four Issue #2

Fantastic Four Issue #2, Photo Credit: Marvel
Fantastic Four Issue #2, Photo Credit: Marvel

While the first issue of the Fantastic Four birthed the Marvel 616 universe, issue two began to refine it. The issue starts with what looks like each member of the Fantastic Four committing a crime. The Thing destroys an oil rig. Susan Storm steals a diamond worth ten million dollars. Johnny Storm destroys a priceless statue and Reed Richards turns off all the power in the city. Of course, our heroes didn’t do any of these things. This is the work of the Skrulls from outer space. They are a group of villains that will be vital in the years to come. Skrulls are even in movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so they are still relevant.

These aliens are shape-shifters who through their natural abilities and with a little help from technology fake the crimes described above. The Skrulls wish to invade earth but because of the now-famous Fantastic Four, they know it will be no easy task. They have to stop these four humans before the invasion. They plan to get the authorities after the FF and then once they are dead, enter the planet with no resistance.

Newspapers show headlines of the Fantastic Four as declared enemies. Two of the papers will be staples in Marvel 616. They are the Daily Globe and the Daily Bugle. They become much more important in other series but this is where they are established in 616 for the first time.

The FF have hidden out in an isolated hunting lodge and are trying to figure out just what is going on. The Thing is angry and lashes out. It seems like he is full of anger and could become a danger to the human race if his power goes unchecked. Reed of course, still blames himself for Ben’s condition. We are treated to a flashback of the origins of the FF. This will happen over and over again in the early issues. It makes sense because so often these comic books were thought of as disposable. This gave the benefit of filling up pages, reusing artwork, and allowing new readers to understand the whole story.

While Reed is musing about the past, a group of soldiers captures the group. They are separated and put into cells. Sue Storm turns invisible and escapes. This is the issue that Johnny Storm meets his own kind of kryptonite – asbestos. Yep, that’s right. In those days asbestos was seen as a somewhat miraculous substance because of its ability to fireproof a room. It was not yet seen as the dangerous substance it is and so it appears in a lot of comics alongside Johnny Storm. Despite being put in an asbestos-filled room, Johnny finds an air vent and can escape through that. The group gets into a helicopter and escapes.

Back at a hideout of theirs, the FF argues about how to figure out who is impersonating them. Johnny and Ben fight with each other and this further establishes the dynamic that will exist between the two characters for years to come. Johnny goes to where Reed has assumed the next impersonation will happen. The FF captures the aliens and decides to go aboard the Skrull ship to tell them that Earth is just too hard to capture. Reed Richards shows the captain of the Skrull ship pictures of what he says are real pictures from Earth. This is where we get the first Marvel 616 meta-reference. Reed shows pictures from Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery. These are both titles that Marvel produces. This means that Marvel comics do exist in the Marvel 616 universe. Reed effectively tricks the Skrulls on the ship but there are still four of them left on Earth to deal with.

On the way back, the ship passes again through cosmic rays, and Ben Grimm for a moment is turned back into a human. Alas, this is only temporary, but it does establish that there could be a cure for Ben’s condition. Reed will dedicate a lot of his life going forward to figuring out that cure.

Once they land the army is ready to take the FF into custody once again but Reed promises to explain the situation if they go back to his apartment. Of course, the Skrulls attack and the army sees that the Fantastic Four are innocent. Reed and company defeat the Skrulls and the only problem left is to decide what to do with the aliens from outer space.

Reed hypnotizes them and tells them they have to change into what he says for the rest of their lives and they are good with that as long as they get to have a peaceful and contented existence. So what do they change into? Cows.

This is a significant and important development in years to come, so way down the line when I have reviewed a lot more of these, don’t forget that there are Skrull cows.

I’m guessing Reed didn’t tell the Skrulls that beef is one of the most popular foods in the country.

The issue ends with a pin-up page of The Thing. Probably a lot of kids did rip this page out and pin it up. That means that any issues with this page intact are going to be much more valuable than those without.Next on the reading list is Tales to Astonish #27.

Book Review – The Outsider

The Outsider by Stephen King

Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here back with another book review. This one kept me up late at night trembling in fear as Stephen King is still the master of horror.I just found out that this one is actually an HBO series so I’ll be reviewing that as well once I have watched it.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A man can’t be in two places at the same time. Everyone knows that. Detective Ralph Anderson knows that too. He has a slam dunk, ironclad, so obvious it couldn’t be more clear case on his hands. Coach Terry Maitland, respected citizen of Flint City, coach to many of the town’s young little leaguers was placed at the scene of a crime more horrendous than any in Flint City’s history. It’s the kind of crime he would never be suspected of. Still, sometimes people snap and Anderson is sure that’s what happened. He can’t let killers walk the streets of his city so he had Maitland arrested in front of the whole town to send a message to anyone else who might want to commit crimes in this neck of the woods.

But Maitland had an ironclad alibi. Even so, DNA evidence should prove without a doubt who did the crime. A man can’t be in two places at the same time. It’s not possible.

I don’t wish to give too many spoilers here but as you might guess with a Stephen King novel, there is more to the story than what it seems. Not all of it natural.

The book is gripping and horrifying, especially in the earlier parts. Strange things happen to innocent people and there is something evil lurking in the shadows.

One thing to note is that there are some characters from the Mr. Mercedes series. If you want to read everything in order, don’t pick this one up first. But even if you do, they mostly mention things from the other books but don’t go into great detail. The Outsider stands on its own but there are mild spoilers from the other series. I hadn’t read the Mr. Mercedes books before reading this one and it just made me want to go back and read those.

The one weak point of this book, like many of Stephen King’s books, is the ending. While still horrifying and thrilling, once the monster is confronted head on, it loses some of its power. There are a few things I couldn’t entirely believe or that weren’t as wrapped up as one would hope.

Still, if you are a fan of horror and of Stephen King, this is a great book to add to your reading list.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: Fantastic Four Issue #1

Fantastic Four Issue #1 Photo Credit: Marvel
Fantastic Four Issue #1 Photo Credit: Marvel

Let me set the scene for you. The year is 1961. The cold war is raging and it’s unclear who is going to get to space first, the United States, or The Soviet Union. At this time, Americans are obsessed with the idea of space, what might be out there, if we can get there, and what might happen if communists get there first. There is more than a hint of paranoia in the air and the ideal value at the time is the nuclear family. Some groups are constrained by society to an unacceptable degree including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community.

In comic books, there are heroes and certainly teams of heroes. Some heroes have all of the same types of powers that the Fantastic Four have but none of them will enjoy the enormous success that Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, and Sue Storm will.

On the eighth day of November, a comic book that will change the entire entertainment industry forever is released. Most people will read this issue and throw it away after. There will be some mothers and fathers who will throw away their kids’ comic books after they have been sitting on the living room floor for too long. Some of those stacks will include the first issue of The Fantastic Four. This will turn out to be an unfortunate decision for the people who lost this issue because it is a majorly significant event in comic books. This issue is the birth of the Marvel 616 universe. This is where superheroes begin to grow up.

Now imagine, not knowing any of this, and reading the issue. What is in it? Why is it important? I have some answers for you.

Stan Lee, the writer, Jack Kirby, the artist, and Christopher Rule, the inker come together to create what will become known as “the first family of superheroes”. Technically this nickname is incorrect. There had been families of superheroes before. Superman and Supergirl are related. There is the Marvel family in DC comics that includes Billy Batson as Captain Marvel (no not that one and we’ll get into this in a later review) and his family. The nickname will mean something closer to “The First Lady” or “The First Gentleman” as it relates to the American presidency. And this first family has something that no other family in comic-dom has at the time. Arguments. That’s right. They don’t all get along and they don’t all revel in the enormous power they come to wield and that is what makes them different and appealing. Their power to disagree makes this comic book more appealing and more successful than Stan, Jack, and Christopher could have expected.

Another thing that sets this book apart is the dynamic and appealing artwork of Jack Kirby. The action virtually leaps off the page at you in a way that no other comic book at the time could achieve. From the monster like appearance of The Thing to the frenetic energy and boyish exuberance in The Human Torch’s flight, Kirby incredibly engaged the reader.

As far as what happens in the issue the story itself isn’t anything we hadn’t seen in comics before. There were threats in other comics dealing with atomic energy. There had even been strange villains who had chosen to make their lairs underground before. But the way the story is executed is revolutionary in the world of comics.

We start with the citizens of Central City (later to be Manhattan) seeing a mysterious message in the sky that simply read “The Fantastic Four”. This is a message sent out by none other than Reed Richards. He is signaling Susan Storm, Benjamin Grimm and Johnny Storm. One by one we see each of them using their marvelous powers. Susan can turn invisible. Ben is massively strong and does some property damage on his way out of a clothing store and in the street heading towards Reed. Johnny lights on fire, melts a car, and streaks into the air. He has to defend himself from the military and accidentally melts a couple of government planes. He does make sure the pilots are safe before leaving the area though. A missile is launched at Johnny and just when it looks like there is no escape, the fantastically stretchy arms of Reed Richards wrap around the nuclear warhead to stop it. Reed now has the team together and tells them they must stop a threat to the world.

All this might be standard fare in other comic books. With a different creative team, that might have been the entire story, other than to deal with the bad guy. But Stan Lee makes the smart decision to tell us the origin of the Fantastic Four in flashback form. And here is where a lot of the Marvel 616 universe begins. Reed wants to fly a spaceship to outer space. Ben Grimm is against the idea because there are cosmic rays in the atmosphere that no one has studied or understands. Sue Storm, who also happens to be Reed’s fiance, comes to Reed’s defense and immediately tells Ben they have to go through with the flight “unless we want the commies to beat us to it!” and calls Ben a coward. Ben is of course no coward and changes his mind. Sue is along for the ride because she is Reed’s fiance and Johnny comes to protect his sister.

This little scene sets up a lot of the family dynamic. For years, Sue will demure to Reed. For years, Ben will be seen as stubborn and will on occasion blame Reed for his troubles. Johnny is always impulsive and hot-headed. And Reed will consider himself the leader of the group due to his superior intellect.

As you might expect, the cosmic rays do affect the group. Their ship crashes and they are all transformed. Susan sees Ben turn into a rock-like creature that she calls a “Thing”. Johnny gets hot under the collar, and then all over and declares himself, “The Human Torch”. This is not the first character in comics to be called by that name but Johnny Storm will be the most memorable. Susan suddenly disappears. She dubs herself “The Invisible Girl”. It’s a sign of the sexist times that although she is a full-grown adult woman, the name Invisible Girl instead of Invisible Woman was given to her. The only name that doesn’t make a lot of sense is that of Reed Richards. He dubs himself the egotistical moniker of “Mister Fantastic.” This does not describe his powers or appearance in any way. This kind of arrogance does define Reed as a character in years to come. He is the smartest man in the world and is well aware of that fact which can at times lead to a rather inflated ego and some poor decision making.

No one on this team asked for their powers. Ben wishes it had never happened. Johnny is thrilled he can fly and at his new powers. Sue doesn’t seem to say a lot about her powers one way or another. Reed doesn’t seem too troubled by his newfound ability to stretch in incredible ways.

Someone or something is threatening the entire world. The FF go to an island to investigate. A fight with a monster separates the party. Johnny and Reed fall into a tunnel after a cave-in. They have been imprisoned in a land filled with blindingly bright diamonds by a man who calls himself The Moleman.

The name is silly and his powers are that of a mole, more or less. He also controls and releases the monsters that have been fighting on the surface world. We learn that he is evil because humanity hated him for his appearance and he wants his revenge. Moleman will become a repeat villain who harasses the surface world more than once. Also, this starts a trend in 616 in which a large number of individuals have powers relating to or caused by animals. Spider-man will be the most famous of these but there is a large catalog of this type of character in the Marvel comics.

Of course, using their fantastic powers, the Fantastic Four defeat Moleman. He is buried underground thanks to Johnny’s causing a rock slide. The team hopes they have seen the last of him, thereby ensuring that he will return.

This first issue does a lot of heavy lifting to establish things in Marvel going forward. Some things change and are wrong. For example, the city is called Central City instead of just placing the team in New York City like they will become known for. All in all, though, it’s an incredibly compelling and dynamic issue and if you read it, it’s obvious why it is seen as the birth of the Marvel universe.

Next on the reading list is Fantastic Four #2

I’m Going to Review Every Marvel 616 Comic in Order

Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Spider-man Photo Credit: Marvel
Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Spider-man Photo Credit: Marvel

Hey nerds. Yes, that’s right, I am calling you a nerd. If you read the title of this post and knew what it meant, that makes you a nerd. Welcome to the club, we could use a lot more nerds in the world. I’m Slick Dungeon and I have decided to take on a huge task for myself. I want to read and review every single one of the Marvel 616 comics.

For those of you who don’t know, Marvel 616 is what most Marvel comics fans think of as the “real” or “main” universe Marvel is set in. There are a ton of Marvel universes out there. There is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is a Spider-verse, there are spin-off and not in continuity universes, there is the Marvel Ultimate Universe… well, you get the idea.

I am a lover of comic books. I’m not just a Marvel fan, I like DC comics, independent comics, superheroes, horror, action and all kinds of comic books. If you know comic books at all and anyone walks up to you and says they intend to read all of Marvel 616 the first thing you should say to them is, “Why would you do that?!” A few more questions should pop into your head too and I will cover some of those below.

Why would you do that?!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these books are not worth a read, I am just saying there are a lot of comics on that list. Do you think I am exaggerating? Well then let me put some numbers in front of you because I did look into just how many comics there are. Someone in this Quora digest post asked how long it would take to read all of Marvel. Some friendly people did the math. Here’s a little snippet:

“The first issue of The Official Index To The Marvel Universe suggests that there are 32,000 comics in the last 70 years. Let say you spend 15 minutes reading one comic book; it would take you 480,000 minutes or 8000 hours or 333 days reading non-stop to finish all of them, theoretically speaking.

If you have school or work or/and diffrent(sic) hobbies, it would take longer. I myself started reading Marvel comics in 2012 and I’ve read about 3000 issues, which is one-tenth of the total. You get the idea. ‘Nuff said!”

Now here is the real kicker, that answer was posted in 2014. There have been seven more years worth of publishing since then.

So again, why would I do this to myself? Is it even possible to review every issue? What if there are ones I can’t find? Do characters like Conan the Barbarian count because he technically appears in some 616 books? Does that mean you then have to read all the Conan books for this to count? Why are you going with Marvel instead of DC? Is this the only thing you are going to read from now on? What will your reviews be like? Are you going to do a star system or rank them in some way? How do you decide which ones count as 616? Is there a list to go off? Those are all good questions and for the most part, my answer for now is, we’ll see when we get there but I will answer some of them in this post.

Believe it or not, I do have some answers. First off, the numbers above seem to include all of Marvel, not just 616 so the number is a little smaller than it seems. It’s still huuuuge, it’s just not quite as huuuuuge.

What I want to do is take a deep dive into each of these issues and put them into context. I love the medium of comics and I don’t think they can be read in a vacuum. You can’t read the origins of The Fantastic Four and The Hulk without understanding the cold war and the space race that was going on at the time. The X-Men are best understood as a commentary on the civil rights movement and The Amazing Spider-man is notable for being the first comic book to use a teenager as the main hero. I feel like all of these things are fascinating and I want to take a long look at the whole Marvel universe and see if I can’t bring some understanding to it.

The way comic books are published, they are both influenced by and influence the time they exist in. Partly because when they were originally made, they were meant to be tossed after reading, comic publishers had to be as up to date on current events as possible. As time went by, comics themselves started to influence culture. Do you know what was sent along in care packages to G.I.’s fighting in World War II? Copies of Captain America. That led to soldiers wanting to read comics back home and helped the medium grow and passed along the hobby of reading these books to a new generation.

I want to take a look at the good, like the groundbreaking and pioneering artistry of Jack Kirby, the bad, like the complete retconning of Spider-man in his Brand New Day story arc, and the ugly, like the rampant sexism and lack of diversity from the earliest issues of 616 and deconstruct as much of it as I can. I am as interested in the origins of Daredevil as I am in what happened to Asbestos Man (yes this is a real character that exists in Marvel comics) in the Marvel 616 universe. I want to know it all.

I’ve always been fascinated by history and the history of comic books I find to be especially appealing so I am going to give this my best shot. I know there is a real possibility I won’t ever finish reading, let alone reviewing every single issue but I’ll give it the ol’ college try. And believe it or not, I do have a bit of knowledge on the subject. Certainly, there are people who know more about history and people who know more about 616 than I ever will. But I do believe I can bring some value to those interested in the two topics who would like to know more.

Now to answer some of my own questions.

Is it even possible to review every issue?

The short answer? Probably not. There are going to be issues that I miss that I will have to circle back around to if and when I can. Plus there are new stories published all the time that would count so to get completely caught up is a Sisyphean task and I doubt I can fully accomplish it. I am sure as Hulk gonna try though.

What if there are ones I can’t find?

If they are completely out of print I am probably out of luck because they would be difficult (although not impossible) to track down. The good news is that we live in the digital age so the majority of them are accessible.

Do characters like Conan the Barbarian count because he technically appears in some 616 books? Does that mean you then have to read all the Conan books for this to count?

My opinion on this is as follows, the comics in which Conan appears in that are within 616 I would have to read. I would only go back to read all of the Conan books if it was vital for me to understand what is going on in the issue I am reading.

Why are you going with Marvel instead of DC?

While I love DC comics and am a huge fan of Superman, Batman, and The Flash, in particular, this comes down mainly to pricing. I have a Marvel Unlimited subscription which gives me access to tons of Marvel content. It will be a very long while before I have to go outside of that app to get a Marvel comic that counts in the 616 continuity. I don’t have a DC Universe subscription and even if I did, the ordering of the DC Universe is a lot more confusing than Marvel is if you start from 616. I’m not saying I would never try to do this for DC but it would be a much greater challenge both time-wise and financially.

Is this the only thing you are going to read from now on?

Absolutely not. I will still read plenty of other books and comic books. A lot of it will still show up on this blog. I can’t live without reading other things. Also, I am sure that there will be times when I just need a breather and will have to step away from Marvel for a while. I will also continue to do my movie reviews and RPG advice and all the other stuff I do on this blog.

What will your reviews be like? Are you going to do a star system or rank them in some way?

For each review, I am going to give a summary of what happens in the issue, point out anything significant that happens, like the debut or death of a major character and try to give some thoughts on the issue and anything relevant that might have been going on at the time in the world that would relate. You won’t see a star system because I think tastes in comics are personal. One person might love everything The Blob does while someone else only has eyes for Wolverine. Sure, there will be some that are not made as well or have stories that are just filler and don’t matter to the whole Marvel universe but I don’t think those are necessarily less interesting. I mean, Marvel has villains whose main villainous tool is a pot of paste. To me, Paste-pot Pete is as vital to these comics as Thor but no one is ever going to think he is a great villain. I don’t want to knock off stars and try to figure out where that stuff fits. By the same token, I am not going to do what I consider to be a gimmicky “All Marvel Heroes Ranked” kind of review. I always wonder who gave the author the authority to rank those anyway and a lot of people are going to disagree with any list like that I could write. You also won’t see anything like, “10 Things About Matt Murdock’s Powers That Make No Sense”. When it comes to comic books, I like to revel in the absurdity of it all. To make a long answer longer, you can expect a thoughtful review about each issue that I read with whatever context I can add to it and that’s pretty much what each one will be. I probably won’t be doing my quirky intros and sign-offs with these, other than for this post either. I want to come at these from a critical angle and do them justice.

How do you decide which ones count as 616? Is there a list to go off?

This is probably the most difficult decision I had to make when deciding to do this. First of all, there are several ways you can look at Marvel continuity. You could consider it in a chronological manner where the earliest events in the cosmos are read first and we are reading about entities such as The Living Tribunal or Galactus. While that might be an interesting approach it did not seem right to me. Second, there are a wide variety of websites that put 616 in some kind of order, be it publication date, character appearances, or some other method. The majority of Marvel comic book fans can agree on one thing when it comes to 616. The start of it is with the first issue of The Fantastic Four written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. It’s a groundbreaking issue that broke the mold on comics at that time and changed storytelling in this medium forever. Therefore, I wanted the first issue I reviewed to be that one so I wanted to choose a list that began there.

I thought about using the list from The Comic Book Herald which is a great website and has some handy quick start guides but didn’t seem to just list everything in order for 616 so it was not quite what I was looking for.

I looked at a few other sites too but the one I settled on had exactly what I needed. The Complete Marvel Reading Order is just that. It begins with the first issue of The Fantastic Four and that is where I wanted to start. It also has the added benefit that if there are comics with multiple stories in them, such as Journey Into Mystery or Tales to Astonish and some of those stories don’t relate to 616 they won’t be listed. This should shave a fraction of my reading time off and when we are dealing with a list this massive I will take whatever help I can get. So if you want to follow along with me that is the list I will be going off of.

So what do you think? Am I starting a pointless fool’s errand or do you think this could be worthwhile? Let me know in the comments and Make Mine Marvel!

Marvelously yours,

Slick Dungeon

Movie Review – The Wind

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back with another film review. This time I watched the 2018 film The Wind starring Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Ashley Zukerman, Dylan McTee, Miles Anderson and Martin C Patterson. It’s a slow horror film with lots of tension building and a bit of mystery to it.

Caitlin Gerard is the main focus of the film as Lizzy Macklin. The story centers around a couple who has moved out to the prairie in the late 1800’s. Life out there is tough enough but it’s even more difficult when there might be something whispering in the wind. Something that doesn’t want you there.

If you love quiet horror and don’t mind a bit of a slow build this is a solid film. There are points that drag a bit but not so many that the viewer will be totally tuned out by them.

The film jumps back and forth in time with Lizzy recalling interactions with her new neighbors, Gideon and Emma played by Dylan McTee and Julia Goldani Telles respectively. These flash backs start revealing a larger horror and as the film goes on there is a satisfying reveal to the situation. I don’t want to spoil too much of the film but I will say the setting and the small cast of characters works very well to bring intensity to the situation and the drama ratchets up nicely.

I’m not sure the time jumping was strictly necessary and I think I would have given this film another star if there wasn’t as much of it. As far as the performances go all the actors deliver but Caitlin Gerard is exceptionally believable in her role and Julia Goldani Telles really shines every time she is on screen.

If you are looking for a suspenseful and intense film with a good amount of horror this is worth watching. But if you need more action or a faster pace, this one is skippable. It’s definitely not the worst horror film on Netflix but it’s also not the best. If you’ve seen everything else, give it a go.

Windily yours,

Slick Dungeon

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An Interview with Zamil Akhtar Author of Gunmetal Gods and Conqueror’s Blood

Conqueror’s Blood by Zamil Akhtar

Hey internet people, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! Even in my dusty old dungeon I occasionally find a gem or two that shines brightly. Even better, occasionally an amazing author will drop by and let me chat with them for a bit. Today I was able to interview Zamil Akhtar, an author who earned from me not one, but two, five star reviews. He’s written Gunmetal Gods and the follow up to it Conqueror’s Blood. You should all check out his books and give them a read if you haven’t. Thanks Zamil for joining me and let’s get right into the interview!

Slick: You’ve described your first book as “Game of Thrones meets Arabian Nights”. I’d say that’s quite an accurate description, although your books are more than a simple mashup of two books. They have their own feel and characters but are reminiscent of both of those worlds. What appealed to you about merging these worlds?

Zamil:  Whenever I would read A Song of Ice and Fire or watch Game of Thrones, I’d be mesmerized by the worldbuilding. It was one of the first fantasy worlds that to me felt both real and wondrous. I knew that it was mostly inspired by English history, and so as a writer desired to do something similar but based on Middle Eastern history. Whenever writing a fantasy story based on the Middle East, Arabian Nights is a great place to start for inspiration because it has so much lore. So I brought the politicking, wars, and historicity from Game of Thrones and then took the fantastical elements like djinns and simurghs and general feel of the world from Arabian Nights.

Slick: Your first book was mostly told from the point of view of two men who were set on a path to war for various reasons. Your second book is told from the point of view of two women. What made you decide to go that route? Did you find writing from certain perspectives easier than others?

Zamil: The idea for the sequel was to show a different side to war. While the first book is viewed from the perspectives of fighting men and generals, the second book takes the perspective of those not fighting the wars directly but rather causing them. I wanted to tell a more layered story that focused on politicking, intrigue, and mystery. The two women who are the main characters of Conqueror’s Blood just grew out of that idea naturally, as did the harem setting and all the factions involved. I found writing Zedra most challenging because motherhood is a huge part of her character and not having children myself I don’t have those direct insights.

Slick: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have a routine or do you just sit down when inspiration strikes?

Zamil: When I’m working on a project, I try to write every day, no matter what. It’s like a car battery — if you don’t use it, it goes dead and then it’s difficult to jump start. So I will write as soon as I wake up and have my coffee ready. Normally I’ll aim for a minimum of 2500 words a day, but when I really get going I can hit 7000 words a day.

Slick: That’s an impressive word count!

Slick: When I first read Gunmetal Gods it reminded me of a book I read recently and loved, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. Would you say that book was an influence on your writing? And do you have any book recommendations of other authors that you really enjoy?

Zamil: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is one of my favorite books. It’s the book that taught me how to describe food. It’s the best prose writing I’ve ever experienced and I’ve never felt so transported to a different world since reading it. Saladin Ahmed is doing great things with Marvel but I still wish he’d write a sequel. There are too many other authors I could name, but I’ll just plug Suzannah Rowntree who is also writing Middle Eastern fantasy. Her book A Wind from the Wilderness, which is about a Syrian boy from the 7th century who time travels hundreds of years into the future to the time of the First Crusade, was a SPFBO finalist in 2020.

Slick: I’m still waiting for the sequel to Throne of the Crescent Moon too. I’ve added Suzannah Rowntree’s book to my TBR list and I hope others check her out as well.

Slick: One of the things that stands out to me in your stories is when we see an intensely personal moment where a character has a personal connection with another and moments later we can be seeing the most terrifying gods and creatures coming almost out of nowhere to just do what they want. How do you balance the personal stories with the cosmic powers in your books? Do you find writing one type of scene more enjoyable than the other?

Zamil: The scenes where characters interact tend to come more naturally to me than the cosmic horror scenes, but I enjoy writing both and I love contrasting them. I think even right now, a giant space monster could appear over earth and just start destroying our cities — it’s not impossible because we don’t know what’s out there in the insanely vast cosmos. Then you would realize how insignificant that argument you just had was…which is what I want the characters to reflect on.

Slick: Well, now I’m picturing a space monster come to devour us… To be fair, if that happened, I would be much less concerned with meeting a deadline at work.

Slick: While Conqueror’s Blood is a direct sequel to Gunmetal Gods, I didn’t feel like a reader had to have read the first volume to enjoy this one. Why did you decide to switch from the more expected route, where we might be following along from the point of view of Kevah and his journey?

Zamil: I knew from the time I was writing the ending of Gunmetal Gods that the sequel would not have Kevah as a main character. I wrote Gunmetal Gods to function as a standalone, so Kevah had a resolution to his story by the end and thus couldn’t be the driving force for the next book. As a writer, I also enjoy doing something different with each book, so I suppose readers should expect the unexpected going forward.

Slick: Kind of like expecting a giant space monster to start destroying our cities. I’m looking forward to being surprised by your writing in the future.

Slick: Do you have plans to continue this series of books and if so do you have a guess as to when the next volume might be ready?

Zamil: I will definitely continue it. I am aiming for an early to mid 2022 release for Book 3.

Slick: Some of the creatures in your book kept me up late at night with horrible images in my head (that’s something I enjoy by the way). Is there a source of inspiration for the gods and other beings in your book or do they just come from pure imagination?

Zamil: I love watching, reading, and writing horror. My brain is also full of terrifying images from all the horror I’ve consumed throughout my life, and this is something I enjoy too. Cosmic horror is my favorite sub genre, so I’m inspired by the likes of Lovecraft, Jinjo Ito, Stephen King, and others. Growing up in the Middle East, I would hear so many stories about djinns and all the things they would do, some of it being quite benign and others horrific, so that thread also inspires me.

Slick: While there are several characters from the first book that show up in Conqueror’s Blood most of them play a more minor role here. Are there plans for those characters to be featured more prominently once again in later volumes?

Zamil:  Right now I’m in the planning stages for Book 3 so many things are up in the air, but I do love the Book 1 characters and want them to feature prominently. Since my books are about half the length of a typical Song of Ice and Fire novel, I have to be careful how I balance characters so that there are not so many on the page that they all feel insufficiently developed.

Slick: Are there genres outside of fantasy or dark fantasy that you enjoy either reading or writing about?

Zamil: I love science fiction. Right now I’m reading the Three Body Problem series and it’s blowing me away with so many awesome ideas. But I don’t think I’m quite ready to write a hard sci-fi novel as they seem to require a tremendous amount of research and I was never the best at science in school.

Slick: You and me both as far as science goes!

Slick:  What’s one bit of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?

Zamil: Early on, look to identify the problems in your writing and fix them. Seek criticism from others, have a thick skin, and don’t take things personally. This is how you get better.

Slick: That seems like sound advice to me.

Slick: If people would like to find out more about you and your writing, where should they go? 

Zamil: My website ZamilAkhtar.com is a good place to check out my novels and short stories.

Slick: I’d recommend everyone go there and sign up for your email newsletter as well. I’m on your list and you tend to send out some great content about other authors as well as information about your own books. It’s worth it for sure.

Slick: How can people get a copy of your books?

Zamil: My books are available on Amazon. You can check out my author profile here.

Slick: Any final thoughts you would like to leave us with?

Zamil: Thank you Slick Dungeon and everyone who took a chance on a new author and read Gunmetal Gods. It’s not even been a year since I released it, but what was once a hobby is now a driving force in my life. I hope to bring more awesome stories to the Gunmetal Gods series and other series I’m planning in the near future!

Slick: When you do, I’ll be right there ready to read what you release and I encourage everyone else to do the same. Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to do this interview with me and I hope we can talk again on your next release.

Well, there you have it folks. go out and get Zamil’s books and try not to think about giant space monsters coming down to destroy our cities.

I bet I can guess what you’re thinking of right now!

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)