I recently started re-reading this and decided it would be fun to view it as a project of sorts. The modern Marvel Universe has its beginnings here and I find it fun to revisit it from time to time. I'm at FF 17 now and may finish the volume today (it's a day off for me). Some thoughts:
- Reed is clearly the big brain of the group, but early on is also a man of action and has a sense of humor. The overlong speeches, explaining things with words the others probably don't understand, is not there yet.
- Sue is taken hostage far too often, is scared far too easily, her powers are only defensive AND she has trouble controlling them. At the same time, though, she is sometimes shown to be clever and even feisty. She is the center of two love triangles - first with Reed and Ben (this is dropped almost right away) and another one I'll mention in a bit.
- Lee and Kirby seem to want to make Johnny the star of the book, but I just don't buy it. He keeps saving the day and his powers keep expanding. He gets the girl and drives cool cars. I kept wishing Ben could have pasted him one just once.
- The Thing is scary, especially early on. I never found the smooth rocky appearance to be scary - it just looked like a type of body armor to me. He's hideous to look at in these stories. Before Alicia Masters comes along in issue 8, he seems to be on the verge of turning on humanity at any moment, and it doesn't help that Reed, Sue, and Johnny don't call him Ben, only "The Thing".
- The Mole Man may not be a great villain but he worked well enough that they kept bringing him back. He's the first bad guy out of the gate and you can't help but feel sorry for him - a woman says he's too ugly to date, and a businessman says he's qualified to work for him, but he'd scare the other employees away. Harsh.
- Unless the Miracle Man is a mutant, the story in issue 3 just doesn't work. He has to be using minor hypnosis on the entire city.
- Issues 4, 5, and 6 are true classics. We get the first modern appearance of Namor, the first appearance of Doom, and their subsequent teaming. The Reed/Sue/Namor love triangle adds a lot of angst to the series. Doom's character is spot on from the get-go; he is chillingly evil in a way that the Silver Age Lex Luthor never was. Ben's courage in strapping a bomb to his back makes the reader want to cheer for him, maybe for the first time. These three issues, imo, are the first signs of true greatness of the series.
- The next five issues, unfortunately, are clunkers. Issue 7 features a highly advanced scientific world that is doomed to destruction, sort of like Krypton, except the leaders of the planet have lots of notice. They don't construct rocket ships to get away because they were never interested in space travel. Umm, ok. Issue 8 is the debut of the Puppet Master, whom I have never liked. Issue 9 is the very convoluted story where the FF are broke, Subby buys a movie studio to make a movie about them and will pay them for being in it - but he really isn't making a movie, just trying to get Reed, Ben, and Johnny out of the way, so he can have Sue. Reed and Johnny escape their deathtraps, and collect Ben, who was beaten by Namor (but only after he transformed back to Ben Grimm). They are about to fight, but Sue prevents it, and Namor agrees to put a movie together, even though he never meant to in the first place, and what he cobbles together becomes the sensation of the nation - solving the FF's money woes. Issue 10 features Doom in full mad scientist mode, worse than Lex Luthor ever was, and also features the deservedly forgotten Ovoids. The story requies Sue, Ben, and Johnny to act dumber than they ever had been before or since. Issue 11 features the debut of the annoying Impossible Man, whom Lee and Kirby would not re-use (and seems to almost be a potshot at Mr. Mxyptlyk) and the awful, awful, awful comparison of Sue to Abe Lincoln's mother.
- Issue 12 features a guest appearance by the Hulk. Some parts of the story haven't aged well (good thing the bad guy carried "a membership card in a subversive Communist-front organization" ... in his wallet ... on a U.S. Army base ... but I digress) but overall it's pretty enjoyable, being the first modern MU crossover. There's really no way to square this story with Johnny reading a Hulk comic is issue 5, but that's a minor quibble. Oh, and remember what I said about Sue being feisty? She saves the day here, stopping the bad guy before he can kill Ben. If only Lincoln's mother had been at Ford's Theatre.
I have a lot more I want to say but this has been a fairly long post and I've only covered about half of the Volume. I'll wait and see if any of you want to chime in with your thoughts before I make more comments.