When he began writing the Fantastic Four in the late 1970s, Marv Wolfman was thrown in at the deep end after a period of changing creative staff, and perhaps unwisely opted to aim for the epic in The Overthrow of Doom. With that behind him, although it’s not immediately apparent, Wolfman began plotting for the long run, but it’s the next volume, In Search of Galactus, in which that comes to fruition. Reunited They Stand is good at times, but inconsistency is the pattern.

Wolfman and the art team of Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott begin with a highspot. The FF move back into the Baxter Building, and there are teething problems with the refitting, which enables Wolfman to reintroduce the team, and show what they’re capable of, both as individuals and working together. It’s a nicely produced piece, and followed by a couple more that are very wordy as characters explain themselves, but have fundamentally sound premises and interesting ideas to offer. Sadly, that’s not always the case for the reprinted annuals that follow.

As the first two annuals occur before the events of Reunited They Stand’s opening story, they might have been better placed at the beginning of the book. In the first Wolfman eventually introduces the Sphinx, a would be world controller previously seen off by Nova, and part of setting up the next volume, but it’s an uninspired piece shoehorning in the Inhumans, and drawn in a great hurry by Pollard. Bill Mantlo’s following piece is far better, featuring the Fantastic Four’s oldest enemy Mole Man. Mantlo has a humane and individual view of an ugly, half-blind person shunned by humanity, living underground and surrounded by monsters. What would they want? The methods are villainous, but the concept is good, and not entirely undermined by a contrived finale and overly sentimental couple of final panels. Sal Buscema provides the pencilled art in his customary no-nonsense fashion.

George Pérez co-plots the final story with Wolfman, prefacing their later successful working partnership on Teen Titans, which would begin two years later. Events take place in New Salem, home of the FF’s friend and full time witch Agatha Harkness. Pérez produces page after page of top notch art, which goes some way to disguising that neither the central idea nor the story is great. Harkness was better as unique, and having an entire creepy village where everyone is a witch or warlock cheapens what she is.

Reunited They Stand is an up and down collection, of it’s era, but with the individual issues collected here better than the annuals.