Review by Frank Plowright
It’s very telling that this volume is titled X-Men vs. Fantastic Four. When the material was originally released in 1987 the X-Men took second billing to what was then still Marvel’s premier super team. It’s also odd that a year after issuing this hardcover it was repackaged with another 2010 hardcover release as X-Men vs. Avengers/Fantastic Four.
Chris Claremont starts with what’s still a shock even as you’re processing that it can’t be the case that Reed Richards is being bawled out by his infant son Franklin for killing the remainder of the FF, and, turning the page, the X-Men as well.
Events proper begin after the Mutant Massacre when the healthy X-Men visit the FF to ask for Reed Richards’ help to stabilise Kitty Pryde, who’s gradually fading from reality, unable to restore her solid form. They arrive at a bad time, as Susan Richards has just discovered her husband’s journal, and read something that disturbs her greatly. The actual vs the Fantastic Four segment comes early, and stands out as contrived to fit the title as the X-Men refuse to accept the truth.
As seen by the sample art, Jon Bogdanove takes a very different approach from the stylised figures he’d later supply for Superman, and there are some extremely decorative pages, although they’re not well served by the bright colour resulting from reprinting on gloss paper. The remainder is solid storytelling conveying the emotional strain everyone’s under.
There’s a long dark night of the soul for all members of the Fantastic Four, and Claremont has a smart method of ensuring Reed is among them. The X-Men turn their attention to another offer of help, this less convincingly set up. At the time Claremont hadn’t had much opportunity to write the FF, and he adjusts to it very well, applying a restrained level of angst that’s ramped up for the X-Men, and there’s a neat twist toward the end, although readers are likely to have figured out one mystery a fair while before then.
Bonus material is provided in the form of the first meeting of the Fantastic Four and X-Men as produced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1964. It’s still fun in a hokey kind of way, with the idea of the Puppet Master’s radioactive clay trumping Charles Xavier’s mental abilities one just dangling for a follow-up.
A collection of this 1987 series wasn’t issued until 2010, which supplies an indication as to how highly fans regard it, but make allowances for Claremont’s writing style, and view it as the Fantastic Four story as originally intended, and it still reads well. It’s also available as part of Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men Volume 14, and X-Men: Mutant Massacre Omnibus.