108. The Monstrous Mystery of the Nega-Man

Issue One Hundred and Eight, March 1971

Issue One Hundred and Eight, March 1971

“He stole into my lab — got past the defenses — and now he’s become — the most dangerous human of all!

Reed Richards relays to Ben and Johnny the story of their first adventure with Janus and the villain the Nega-Man, who look identical. Nega-Man arrived out of nowhere and started to display his powers to the New York public. Coincidentally breaking into the bank vault that Ben Grimm was making a deposit in, he uses his powers to subdue him and escape. Reed reveals that the Nega-Man is Janus’ negative alter ego. Reed and Sue confront Janus, arriving in time to ambush the returning Nega-Man. Janus decides to shoot Nega-Man, who disappears in a crackle of nega-energy. Back in the present, the Fantastic Four watch the Negative Zone viewscreen as Annihilus is revealed.

108mayorThere is very little about this issue that makes any sense, due to the nature of its creation. Jack Kirby originally drew this issue, presumably to fall somewhere before his final issue 102. While the official line is that it was to be issue 103, this does not follow logically since issue 102 ended on a cliff-hanger which is not picked up in the restored version of this story, printed in 2008 as “Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure”. (NB Kirby was being asked to do a lot of changes. It could be that he was forced to redraw issue 102 with an open ending at the last minute.)

The creators of what results in this issue have obviously gone to enormous lengths to try to pull some sort of reformatted story from what Jack Kirby has drawn, and they have been remarkably unsuccessful, begging the question “why?” With both Buscema and Romita working on it, surely it would have been easier just to draw a new issue. Or if they were determined to use Jack Kirby art, then why not limit themselves to just one or two scenes instead of bending just about everything out of meaning for the sake of just a couple recovered panels?

The framing device of Reed telling Ben and Johnny a story that they actually appear in quite frequently is simply senseless — especially considering that they all need to get into the Negative Zone pronto. And having that story being of a man who is at war with his own dual nature, overcoming that nature, and then turning evil anyway at a later date is pointless. Johnny and Ben agonize at length about how Janus could be in two places with two different personalities, without ever considering that the two people just look the same, or might be twins. When Reed goes to confront Janus, Sue is told to turn invisible for no apparent reason. And while as such, she fails to prevent Janus from shooting Nega-Man — as does Reed, who happens to be holding onto him at the time.

This is as much finesse as the story integration gets, going from Buscema on the left to Kirby on the right.

This is as much finesse as the story integration gets, going from Buscema on the left to Kirby on the right.

And none of it relates to what is actually going on in the issue with Janus floating in the Negative Zone. And Annihilus suddenly appearing in the last panel is the very last of the long string of non-sequiturs that make up this issue, which isn’t the worst issue ever… but it’s close.


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