Featuring a reprint of Stan Lee’s “Bedlam At The Baxter Building!” storyline from Annual Three of “Fantastic Four”, this twenty-three page reproduction sold a staggering 16,987 copies in July 2018 and arguably demonstrated just how great a story the original October 1965 adventure was with its intense sense-shattering prenuptial shenanigans and all-encompassing cast of “Marvel Universe” characters. Indeed, considering that the then Editor-in-Chief somehow manages to incorporate the likes of the Avengers, the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil and Spider-man alongside a truly impressive rogues gallery of the New York City-based publisher’s super-villains, it’s incredible to believe the Will Eisner Award Hall Of Farmer was able to pen anything even resembling a coherent narrative, let alone one which not only contains plenty of ‘screen time’ for its titular characters but additionally produces numerous stand-out moments, such as the Mole Man’s surprise attack from beneath the very foundation of the Baxter Building and his minions’ subsequent defeat by Professor X’s mutant students.
Admittedly, the basic premise behind this comic’s narrative is undeniably contrived with Doctor Doom “skilfully manipulating my high-frequency emotion charger” so as to “fan the flames of hatred in the heart of every evil menace in existence” and resultantly create “a veritable army of the most deadly villains alive” with which to destroy Reed Richards’ famous quartet. Yet the utter simplicity of the ‘hokey’ plot point does allow for the reader to be rapidly immersed in the mad machinations of the “paranoiac” Puppet Master, and no sooner has his poison-armed pawn been subdued by Nick Fury’s undercover agents, than Ivan Kragoff and Harvey Rupert Elder make their separate moves to bring Su Storm’s imminent wedding ceremony to a deadly end; “Ahh! The coast is clear now, my beauties! And so, the time has come for the Red Ghost and his Super Apes to finish the job they’d begun many months ago!” This rapid succession of threats and foes is so successfully implemented that any thoughts as to the dubiously manufactured nature of the script is swiftly forgotten and replaced with a genuine sense of awe at Lee’s sheer vision, with even Attuma, “merciless warlord of the deep”, deciding to seize the moment and threaten the land-dwellers with an invasion of his trident-carrying legions.
Of course, just how enjoyable this carousel of costumed crime-fighters and malevolent Machiavellian evil-doers would be without the dynamically-charged pencilling of Jack “King” Kirby is hotly debatable. The Manhattan-born artist’s breathtaking visuals for this comic provides every punch, kick and energy blast portrayed with just the sort of bone-crunching energy one would expect from an illustrator “widely regarded as one of the medium’s major innovators”, whilst his incredible splash-page “photo of a journey thru the Fourth Dimension” which depicts the Watcher transporting Mister Fantastic to “a laboratory whose wonders beggar description” is certainly worth the one American dollar cover price of this digitally remastered book alone.