“What are you after? Why Did you start your invasion?” “You lie through your teeth! It was you who launched the attack!”
Following from the last issue, the Fantastic Four try to negotiate with the US government to halt preemptive attacks on the assembling Atlantean army before all-out war is declared. They manage to buy the time and as Sue rushes to Agatha Harkness’ to give her Franklin and Crystal is told to stay behind, the male members of the FF engage with Namor. Eventually it is revealed to the FF that Magneto has been arranging events to try to cause war, but by this time he has captured Sue Richards, Lady Dorma, and Namor’s flagship.
This issue is actually rather more complex than most that we’ve seen recently. The set-up from last issue is very well picked-up since we’re dealing with a co-writer/artist change between issues.
At the core of the story we have two men trying to prevent war: Reed Richards and Namor. They are only reacting to events and trying, ultimately, just to find some way to communicate with each other. However, there are three more characters with completely different objectives and motivations that are working against them: Ben Grimm, Magneto, and even Richard Nixon are all in tension with each other and the two protagonists. Johnny also has his own unique reaction and we get to see a bit of his much-talked-about impulsiveness early on. The way in which the misunderstanding with Namor and the Fantastic Four develops is actually quite skillful and believable (all except for Ben Grimm’s uncharacteristic warmongering — who must surely be looking forward to criminal charges in the next issue).
The characters’ aims and reactions are so natural and human and complex that this is the first time I think I can use the word Shakespearean to describe them, and I don’t think that’s overstating it. Additionally, the art is very exciting with Kirby’s blocky brilliance being replaced by Romita’s fast fluidity. Also, the action is actually meaningful where so often it has existed for the sake of itself, people are racing against each other and events and in a couple cases using their powers in ways we haven’t seen yet.This issue should have scored 10/10, however at least two points need to be deducted for the way women are treated. Sue is ordered to take Franklin to Agatha Harkness’ house for safety, which is exactly what she did two issues ago except that this time she gets captured by Magneto on the way back. Crystal is told to stay behind at the Baxter Building for ‘communications’. Lady Dorma pops up already bound and imprisoned. Of the three females in this issue, two of them find cause to openly weep and none of them take any proactive action. The story’s resolution could salvage this situation, but we don’t hold out much hope.
Still, in what could have been a very awkward hand-off there has been no fumbling. This has is a very confident and deft progression of the story.