This is the first Fantastic Four edition in the Epic Collection line, Marvel's new attempt to collect their backissues in a sensible and affordable manner. Now, they're not collecting them in chronological order, so worry not that this is Volume 17 (covering the years 1986-1987), the others will be filled in in time.
The main theme of the run of issues collected in this thick tome concerns the return of the Thing to the FF after a lengthy absence, and how he deals with the knowledge that the Human Torch is marrying his greatest love, Alicia Masters. As such, there's a LOT of Ben Grimm angsting in this volume, but also battles with the Mole Man, a pair of forcibly conjoined intergalactic warlords, the Wizard, a deranged Quicksilver, Doctor Doom (of course) and others. Along the way, we see the departure of She-Hulk from the team, and witness a couple of new members join as the status quo changes once again at the close of the volume. The able writing of Roger Stern gives way to the fresh ideas of Steve Englehart, and most of the issues are drawn by a true colossus of the comic art world, John Buscema.
Also included in the book is the complete FF vs X-Men miniseries, written by longtime X-scribe Chris Claremont and drawn by Jon Bogdanove. This time the angst belongs to Reed Richards, as he struggles with his own conscience and the distrust of his team-mates, even as the fabulous foursome clashes with the X-men over one of their own. It's a very adult, introspective story, and indicative of Marvel at its best.
This is a run of issues that I may never have read if not for these great new collections; sensibly priced, and with quality paper and reproduction work, it's a series I look forward to collecting in its entirety.
Featuring stories from 1986-1987 all the tales here were new to me although it doesn't take too long to catch up on what has been going on with a series of flashbacks. The stories largely revolve around the effects on the family dynamic of a series of events including the return of The Thing, Johnny and Alicia getting married in the 300th issue of the title and Reed starting to face up to his responsibilities as a father, the She-Hulk leaving and a couple of surprise additions to the team. It starts off with a 64 page 25th anniversary special scripted by Stan Lee and featuring a host of artists, inkers etc as the team head off back to the scene of the very first FF story Monster Isle and the entry to the Moleman's lair. There is a lot of angst here with Ben having to face up to the fact that his former lover Alicia Masters is now going to marry Johnny Storm, Johnny having to grow up and leave his carefree past behind and one of his past relationships comes back to haunt him and Reed & Sue worried about their child's future. There are lots of interwoven threads going on here but fear not there's plenty action included with the likes of some other old favourites The Mad Thinker, Wizard, Puppet Master, Dragon Man, a deranged Quicksilver, Mephisto, Diablo and of course Doctor Doom as well as the Inhumans and a great 4 part story with the X-Men. There's quite a few extras included at the end mostly concerning the FF vs. X-Men story but there's also reprints of some original artwork by John Buscema whose artwork graces some of the more memorable tales here. Whilst it is not among my favourite FF collections to date it is definitely one I will be reading again once more of the surrounding epic collection tales are released.
Worth it for the X-Men mini alone. Seen in context, this book is the final act of a 27 year story: it focuses on Ben Grimm finally finding himself, on Reed Richards finally putting his family first, on Johnny Storm finally maturing emotionally, and Sue Storm finally getting what she has always wanted. Wonderful stuff.
I'm an uber-FF fan, and for me every story here is gold. If you find my web site (Google "fantastic four great american novel") you'll see why. But a lot of fans don't like Englehart's run, so I'm knocking off one star because I don't want to over-sell this to new readers to be disappointed. But in my opinion the more you see this in the context of the previous 25 years, the better it is.