Fantastic Four: Redemption Of The Silver Surfer Review

In my experience, Marvel’s First Family has, no pun intended, a rocky history outside of the four color realm.
I’ve read a few novels over the years that have been dull, to put it lightly, and, though I enjoyed the first two, the movies have been been generally derided by the vast majority of fans.
So going into this, I was a wee bit worried.
But were those worries unfounded?
Let’s find out, gang!

As per usual, consider this your official 22 year ***SPOILER ALERT***

Michael Jan Friedman is a dude whose work I have always dug.
I will admit I haven’t read all of his books and stories, but what I have read has never disappointed me.
The Marvel stuff he has written has always left me feeling like this is a guy that spent his time wallowing in comics and nerddom (a fact I also noticed while reading his X-Men/Star Trek The Next Generation novel, Planet X), this book does nothing to disabuse me of that notion.
To put it plainly, he fuckin’ gets it, man!

It’s beyond obvious from the jump that he knows these characters well. Specifically Silver Surfer, who he quickly and economically gets across the back story and guilt of.
For those who may not know, this is a dude that spent too many years condemning entire planets, races, and civilizations to death for the devourer of worlds, Galactus.
Silver Surfer has spent all the years since he broke away from Galactus trying to balance the scales in anyway he could, which gives us our title and a solid A-plot that’s deftly disguised as a potential B-plot.

Which leads me to my only real, and admittedly minor, issue with this novel.
The Surfer is the star of this book, he’s not a guest in any sense, but our titular heroes do feel almost like guest stars.
I don’t hate that Norrin Radd is in the spotlight at all, but it does feel a bit like the Fantastic Four title was used for the wider general name recognition.
And believe me, it works perfectly to hook you in!
But I did finish the story wishing that I had gotten at least 1 chapter that focused on the FF together before the trip to the Negative Zone and maybe one at the tail end just to beef up their presence a little.

The fact that the Negative Zone and it’s inhabitants haven’t been the focus of one of the movies is a damn shame, and this book is full of all the evidence you could need to support that.
Reed, Ben, and Johnny are prompted into the alternate universe when an old foe, Blastaar, sets hostages up for slaughter right near their outpost in the zone.
Blastaar lures them in, not for a fight this time but for their help, having felt their combined power first hand, to defeat a coming threat – a destroyer of worlds, much like Galactus, named Prodigion.
The trio decide to look on as Blastaar tries to destroy Prodigion’s ship and crew as something feels off.
Johnny is injured and taken aboard the vessel, Sue and the Surfer show up to help, and things get even more complicated than any of them were led to believe.
The turns in this are great.
Prodigion going from villian, to hero, and back and forth again until his final reveal leave you with a great sense of mystery and suspense until the end.

Bottom line: Surfer’s story is suitably heartbreaking and involves a chance at happiness, and the aforementioned redemption, he has so desperately craved for the 1st time in ages and it’s handled with the care and ease of somebody who has the writing and in universe experience to give it the weight it deserves without being laughable.
If you are a fan of the FF and their supporting characters, snap this up if you stumble across a copy.
Now I’m gonna go searching for more of Michael Jan Friedman’s TNG work.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

The Incredible Hulk: Stalker From The Stars Review

Back in wild and wonderful 70’s, the Marvel Universe was still in its formative years.
16 years after The Incredible Hulk made his 4 Color Debut, the rage filled Jade Giant stars in his very 1st prose novel.
But at only 179 pages long, does this story delve any deeper into the character and his history than the low page count would lead you to believe?

As per usual, consider this your official ***41 year old Spoiler Alert***

I knew from the Stan Lee introduction that I would love this book.
You have to understand, this was Stan at the height of his comic ambassador powers, before Blade, X-Men, and Spider-Man made Marvel a beloved household brand.
In these few paragraphs you can see why everybody loved him, his energy and charisma seeps through the ink and paper.
His death was still incredibly fresh in my mind as I started reading this book and it ended up making for a great tribute to The Man.

As for the actual prose content of the novel, it did not disappoint.
A guilt ridden Rick Jones (the often forgotten kid that Bruce Banner saves, leading to the birth of the Hulk) makes his way to an idyllic small American town in search of renown gamma scientist Rudolph Stern’s help.
Once he gets to Crater Falls, a sinister plot of mind control and ancient extraterrestrial evil unravels and brings The Hulk, General Thunderbolt Ross, and a long buried beast to a climactic battle with Earth ending ramifications.

If you listen to the pod you have heard us bitch and complain numerous times about the overcomplicated nature of modern comics and their stories.
Well, this is a perfect encapsulation of what we keep saying we want.
The story has depth, detail, and a sense of history without bloating into a tale that’s mired in frustratingly unnecessary nonsense.
The overall vibe of the book feels like the perfect parts of the comics of the day mixed with the simplicity of what is probably still the most well known version of Hulk, the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno show.

One of the problems with reviewing a book that has multiple authors like this is figuring out where to lay blame or praise.
Thankfully, I don’t have a single complaint.
Len Wein & Marv Wolfman are giants of comics (Len actually had a run on Hulk before co-writing this novel) and Ron Goulart (Joseph Silva) wasn’t a slouch.
I think Len brought the Hulk experience/knowledge and they all brought the writing skill and when it’s mixed this well you get a hell of an adventure.

To wrap up, I love the story of a lonely tortured man that the show did so well and is on display here.
I love the over the top feats of strength and heroics included that we never saw on screen until the movies.
This man, this monster, and this story are all so worth your time.
Reading this only makes me want more of those early Marvel novels, and the hunt is on, gang.
I really hope I can find them and tell you all about them soon.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Spider-Man: Goblin’s Revenge Review

Our story picks up the morning after Carnage In New York (read my review of that novel here) as Spidey heads to meet up with Reed Richards and deliver the serum from that novel, which is a fun idea…in theory…
As we know, sometimes creative changes can lead to an uneven feeling in the story and tone.

Does this feel like a good continuation?
Let’s find out!

As per usual, consider this your 22 year late ***SPOILER ALERT***!!!
And a quick thank you to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help with these reviews.

So, Spider-Man meets up with Mr. Fantasic and swings back home for some much needed rest.
As Spidey makes his way home, a new maniac on a Goblin Glider lobs a pumpkin bomb at the leader of the FF and snatches the serum away, setting up our conflict.
Quickly, Spider-Man’s world is turned upside down and we jump 2 weeks ahead in time.
As the webslinger tries to figure out who this new Goblin is and what his plans are, a mission to break Carnage out of a high security prison sets that monster free.

One of the best things about this novel is the focus.
It easily could have been a retread of the previous story, going for a personal story that cheapened the one from last time.
But instead, Dean Wesley Smith weaves in a surprising personal thread near the end (more on that in a bit) that is so different and works better because of it.
The main focus though is Pete stressing hardcore about the serum getting loose in the world, facing a lack of sleep due to a reoccurring nightmare that gives him flashbacks to one of his most traumatic failures.

The action is handled in the way you would expect from an author of DWS’s stature.
The guilt and stress the webhead feels about the serum getting out, though described through 3rd person narration, comes across as well as if you were reading Parker’s diary.
Dean Wesley Smith is a writer I know of, but don’t know his work well.
Having said that, I have really liked the few books of his I’ve read (2 Spider-Man novels and a Smallville novel for sure, I’m pretty sure there are a couple more).
The scene of Carnage at the airport, murdering hostages in a ploy to get Spider-Man to face him is gruesome.
As is the scene of the Glider rider chucking a dose of the serum into a group of mercs that have been pursuing our Sensational hero, they destroy one another quickly and bloodily.

MJ, seeing the weight of pressure and responsibility that Pete is putting on himself, tries to boost her husband’s mood by bringing together their old circle of friends, Flash and Liz…which unwittingly helps this new Goblin get something over on Spidey and brings MJ closer than she probably ever wanted to be to the climactic action.
The Goblin and Carnage bickering helps Pete take down the symbiotic monster and leads to a Goblin chase and reveal.

Given the described inexperience of this Goblin, if you know the Spidey Rogues Gallery it’s pretty easy to figure out who he is.
So there is some level of predictably, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.
And in all honesty, that’s probably the key to all good Spider-Man stories, fun.
I know this story sounds depressing as all hell, but trust me it does have enough fun to meet that criteria.

The 1 thing that stuck out as odd to me would be at the beginning, Reed apologies to Pete for the FF not being around to help with Carnage last time and says he hopes to be there next time.
When Carnage pops up again, the FF is dealing with another crisis somewhere and are unable to help Spidey.
It 100% makes sense that the Fantastic Four would constantly be rushing off to deal with other problems, but it felt really fuckin’ weird to draw attention to that only to let it happen again.
It’s a minor nitpick, but I feel it’s valid to wonder about.

That aside, it does feel like a good continuation of the last book.
It’s shorter, but that makes for a tighter story with more focus on our hero and his problem.
I desperately hope I can find more of these books, because thus far they are all so true to character and an utter joy to devour.
Find them if you can, gang!