This is a nice historical collection, gathering the full run of Marvel Comics' tumultuous and short-lived "Amazing Fantasy" title. It was one of the last "monster" books Marvel published before the revival of their superhero franchise, and indeed, the last issue featured the birth of Spider-Man, who is arguably the most famous of all Marvel characters. The individual original issues are hard to find and terribly expensive, so this hardbound omnibus is a real blessing for fans who just want to read the old stuff, and not pay a gazillion dollars or have to worry about preserving the fragile old artifacts.
The scripts were mostly by (or credited to) Stan Lee, and illustrators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were his main collaborators. A couple of leftovers from the 1950s genre books were also on board, notably Paul Reinman, but the real sizzle is with Ditko and Kirby, who were developing a truly new, explosively expressive style that burst away from the stale, cramped design work of the Atlas era.
The stories, generally speaking, are pretty flat and formulaic: the six-pages-and-a-zinger-ending format did not, in all honesty, leave a lot of room for brilliance. Nonetheless, something was bubbling up under the surface of the moribund genre... There were plenty of hints of things to come: professors named Storm, rocky-skinned monsters, a skinny kid with big, round glasses who discovers he has superpowers, and of course, the proto-Dr. Strange, Dr. Droom, one of the few recurrent characters of the era. In one of the most fascinating later stories, the Ditko-penned teenage hero looks a LOT like Peter Parker, but what's even more amazing is the script, about how the boy is a mutant, and how he must hide his powers due to the prejudice of normal humans -- the entire "X-Men" mythology was laid out in '62: it really should be anthologized along with the early X-books from now on.
The book really hit its stride in the last half-dozen issues, when Steve Ditko basically took over and was given full reign on the creative end. The book developed a strong signature style, and Ditko came into his own. Some of the best surprises come with the famous Spidey issue: the one-page editorial about how they planned to change the look and format of the book (and, boy, did they! they canceled it and started up "The Amazing Spider-Man" instead) and also the fact that the book *still* had back-up features full of aliens and things that go bump in the night.
This is a fascinating look back at the history of Marvel Comics. Probably best appreciated for the dynamic, colorful artwork (which looks fabulous in the glossy archival format) but also good, goofy fun in its own right. Face Forward, True Believers! (Joe Sixpack, Slipcue)