Howdy! This page is part of a guide to comic books recommended for younger readers (along with some stuff their parents might like as well. This page covers the letter "F." Other books are linked to below.

So, come celebrate that groovy, geeky, magical medium that we all grew up on... and share that special sense of wonder with someone smaller and newer than you. By the way, this is a work in progress, and your recommendations are always welcome... )








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"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.1"
Written by Stan Lee
Illustrated by Jack Kirby
(Marvel Comics)

A super-stretchy rubber-band guy, a hella-strong monster-dude made out of rocks, a woman who turns invisible and a teenage kid who is all super-fiery: it's the fabulous FF, one of the greatest supergroups of all time. When the first issue of the Fantastic Four hit the stands in 1961, fans got their first dose of Marvel Comics-style superheroism: earth-shattering concepts backed by imaginative, kinetic artwork, and a cast of characters who acted almost human, bickering and brooding at times, playful at others. These are great, foundational adventures, and they're a lot of fun to read. But do they work for really little readers? Guess it depends on the kid: my daughter really got into the characters (especially grumpy Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing) but I have to confess I hadn't realized how dad-blamed wordy these early books are... There's way more blah-blah-blah in every issue than you'd imagine, and after a while it was a struggle for us to read them together. So, I put 'em back on the shelf, and figure if she'd still into comics when she's a little older, she can read them herself. Meanwhile, Make Mine Marvel! (B+)



"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.2" (Marvel Comics)
"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.3" (Marvel Comics)
"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.4" (Marvel Comics, 2002)
"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.5" (Marvel Comics, 2004)
"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.6" (Marvel Comics, 2004)
"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.7" (Marvel Comics, 2004)
"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.8" (Marvel Comics, 2004)
"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.9" (Marvel Comics, 2005)
"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.10" (Marvel Comics, 2006)
"The Fantastic Four -- Marvel Masterworks, v.11" (Marvel Comics, 2008)

Like many super-books, the FF had its own golden era, and has never quite been the same ever since: taken as a whole, these eleven high-quality, hardbound books are the good stuff, the complete run of the original creative team of writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. Each of these Masterworks volumes reprints about ten issues of the original comics, and while you'll want to read the early stuff, for my money the FF really hit its stride around episodes 40, 50, 60, when Kirby's art was at its most visionary and expansive; after that a bit of monotony starts to creep in. But the vibe is still simple and straightforward -- an action-packed fantasy title with some of the most imaginative, kinetic artwork mainstream comics has ever seen.


"The Fog Mound, Book One: Travels Of Thelonius"
Written by Susan Schade
Illustrated by Jon Buller
(Aladdin Books, 2007)

A thoroughly engaging, if slightly scary, story about a talking chipmunk named Thelonius who makes his way through the ruins of a ruined, post-apocalyptic world in which humans are extinct and (some) animals have the power of speech. Swept out of his forest home by a flooding rain, Thelonius finds himself stranded in the mythical, mysterious City Of Ruins, a decimated human city that has been taken over by various animal gangs, the worst of which is a pack of rats, led by a bloodthirsty lizard known as the Dragon Queen. Despite the foreboding setting, Thelonius finds friends -- honest, intelligent animals such as a bear named Olive who has a way with machines (and has built her own helicopter) and a porcupine who lives in a book store (and has studied up on what happened to the humans). They escape from the city and embark on a quest to find Olive's home, an animal Eden hidden on a mountaintop, where different species live together in a pacifist, agrarian utopia. The book is half graphic novel, half chapterbook, an intriguing mix of formats whose novelty helps pull the narrative along, even in spots where it is actually a bit clunky. The book is inherently compelling, and will draw in young readers, even if its underlying premise is a little creepy. Kids have to be of the right age to deal with the concept of apocalypse -- and of humans being evil, when seen from the vantage point of other species -- but for 10-12 year olds who are ready for a little bit of Planet Of The Apes-like action, this is a pretty fun series. Certainly worth checking out. (B+)


"The Fog Mound, Book Two: Faradawn"
Written by Susan Schade
Illustrated by Jon Buller
(Aladdin Books, 2008)

Thelonius and his friends grow restless in the placid Fog Mound, and with new knowledge of the end days of the human race, go on a new journey to discover how their world was formed. They encounter a swarm of mutant crabs (scary!) and a band of pirate crocodiles (arrrrhhh...!!) as well as more of the remnants of human civilization. Not as engaging or original as the first book, but hey, once you're in for a penny, in for a pound. So what happens next? (B+)


"The Fog Mound, Book Three: Simon's Dream"
Written by Susan Schade
Illustrated by Jon Buller
(Aladdin Books, 2009)

This volume is the most action-packed of the three, using the long set-up of the other books as a springboard into a final, climactic battle with the evil Dragon Lady and her "ratmink" hordes. After the battle is won there is a quick, rather abrupt, epilogue in which our chipmunk hero has a dream vision in which everything is explained to him, including a lightning-fast explanation of the eco-pocalypse the humans brought upon the world. There are some interesting ideas, but the last few chapters feel rushed and unsatisfying; too much of a deus ex machina, and too much of a hurry to wrap things up. Still, overall this was a good series. It's definitely engaging and original; the apocalyptic themes might be a bit much for younger kids who would be otherwise drawn to the comicbook art style, but for older children, this will be a fun read, and possibly quite thought-provoking (B)


"Franklin Richards, Son Of A Genius: Lab Brat"
Written by Marc Sumerak
Illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos
(Marvel Comics, 2007)

Are you looking for relatively nonviolent superhero books for very young readers? Something fun and exciting yet "age appropriate"? And insanely funny? Allow me to introduce you to Franklin Richards, the son of Reed and Sue Richards, of the fabulous Fantastic Four. These digest-sized books are a real hoot. Transforming Reed & Sue's often-bland son into a budding juvenile deliquent, these stories are full of gleeful mayhem as young Franklin (drawn and scripted very much in the style of the awesome comic strip "Calvin & Hobbes") keeps raiding his dad's super-science lab in search of some gizmo that'll either help him with his homework or maybe just keep from being bored. He is pursued by his robotic nanny, H.E.R.B.I.E., who clucks and fusses ineffectually as Franklin shrinks himself, alters reality, de-evolves his classmates at school or disrupts the space-time continuum (again!). The comedic beats are perfect, the artwork and stories are really fun and -- best of all -- it's one of precious few mainstream comics today that is actually okay for really young readers to get into. My kid loves it! A very fun series... all three volumes are highly recommended! (A+)


"Franklin Richards, Son Of A Genius: Collected Chaos Digest"
Written by Marc Sumerak
Illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos
(Marvel Comics, 2008)

More hilarity. These books really are awesomely chaotic and funny and fun... This time around, Franklin de-evolves his dad into a chimpanzee, tries to use one of dad's hi-tech gizmos to even things up in basketball, fights the Hulk, yeti and a ginormous, imaginary T-Rex to a standstill, and meets his new arch-nemesis, Norbert Q. Sniffles, Hamster Of Destruction. Great stuff -- some of the funnest kids comics you'll ever read. (A+)


"Franklin Richards, Son Of A Genius: Not-So-Secret Invasion Digest"
Written by Marc Sumerak
Illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos
(Marvel Comics, 2009)

Franklin builds his own version of the Iron Man armor, enters a school science fair, creates a few kooky alternate realities and brings his evil hamster back from the dead. The giddiness and creativity of this series is a continual delight: so when do we get some new Son Of A Genius books from Marvel? (A+)




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