102. The Strength of the Sub-Mariner

Fantastic Four Issue One Hundred and Two 102 cover romita

Issue One Hundred and Two, Sept 1970

“If the vibro-alarm sounds, it means a fleet of warships!” “And of that’s the case — we’re in for — WAR!

SUMMARY
It is flu season and Ben Grimm has a cold. He recovers in due course, however, but meanwhile Namor, the Sub-Mariner, has discovered the prone body of Magneto, Master of Magnetism, on a jungle island, the site of a “mysterious shockwave”. Ingratiating himself to Namor, he begins to goad Namor into increasingly aggressive behavior directed at the surface world, but which are mostly the results of his own sabotage of Namor’s realm. It is presumed that he is also somehow orchestrating attacks in the Fantastic Four’s own base. Reed programs a missile to follow the source of the “sonic wave” causing the disturbances, which Ben launches. The missile heads to Atlantis where Namor stops it, afterwards deciding to invade the surface world.

COMMENTARY
This is Jack Kirby’s final issue. The cover has been drawn by John Romita and it is the first time a penciller other than Kirby has created artwork for the actual title itself. Kirby was by this time gravely unhappy and there were many conflicts between him and Stan Lee.

A limited color pallet can be very well used if used boldly.

There have been recent flashes of fun and inspiration for the Fantastic Four, but unfortunately this issue maintains the mean average of fairly unimaginative and badly executed plots. The Fantastic Four in this issue are only reactive, going so far as to avoid an attack from the metallic components of Reed’s lab, ostensibly controlled by Magneto but we are not really informed how, since he is at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean — although in Namor’s lab he mentions that this equipment can magnify his powers “a hundred fold”, it doesn’t explain how he could see to perform tasks such as wire Ben’s brain to be electrically shocked.

There is an actual story trying very hard to break out of the confusion. Magneto actually has well-stated a fairly logical motivation for his sabotaging, and the way he plays Namor is very clever, giving an ironic tilt to the title of this story. But what sort of sense does it make for Reed to make a missile that will seek out and destroy the source of the attacks? Why would the team simply not follow the source and investigate. And to immediately launch the missile is needlessly mindless, even for the low-brow posturing of Ben Grimm. Not to say that both of their acts are highly criminal, to the point of possible genocide.

Not a spectacular end to this legendary Kirby masterwork, but everyone has very clearly stopped having fun, and unfortunately it shows.

EVALUATION: 2/10

These are the final panels that Jack Kirby would draw of the Fantastic Four — a cliff-hanger predicated on total the destruction of Western society.

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