“My experiment on The Thing backfired! Even though he can now change his form at will — he’s out of control! He’s losing his conscience! Ben Grimm is turning — bad!”
The Thing is on a moody rampage throughout New York, causing some medium-grade property damage and eventually attempting to rob a bank. Reed sends The Torch after him but then immediately becomes concerned about what might happen if they meet and start to fight. Sure enough, they start tearing up the city even worse. Back at the Baxter Building, the Fantastic Four’s landlord orders Reed to vacate, citing the violence and the protestors picketing the building. Reed chases him off by physically intimidating him. Back at the Baxter Building, Franklin exhibits a sort of supernatural empathic sympathy with Reed. Reed summons Johnny back and instructs him to summon Bruce Banner, an expert who may help in his efforts to restore Ben to normal. Banner gets into a taxi, but he passes The Thing and suddenly becomes The Hulk, rushing in to attack his nemesis.
The personality change of Ben Grimm is an interesting enough plot, but nothing in this issue really progresses that story, all we see is the effects of the change, which is slightly unsatisfying. On the other hand, we see how the stress of the situation is affecting Reed and Johnny, and that is more interesting. Johnny, because of his brother-like competition and harassment, immediately gets pulled into a physical conflict with Ben. He is later surprised to find himself at the center of an angry gang of New Yorkers who quite rightly blame him for causing unnecessary destruction — of the two parties causing it he was (presumably) the one with control over his actions.The strain shows on Reed when the Baxter Building’s landlord demands they move out. Instead of using his great intellect to reason with the man, he physically intimidates him, making his body large and imposing, and even throwing a massive fist at him as he races through the door. The reader wonders — is this just the strain of the situation showing in Reed and Johnny, or is the behavior shift more extant than just Ben?
Sue doesn’t come across very well. Her mouth gapes open in puzzled surprise as she muses over what her son Franklin’s behavior implies. All that has happened is that Agatha (the only other female in the tale, resting on a chair laden with cushions) tells Sue that Franklin is crying in the next room, and when Sue finds him, he is repeating ‘dada’ in his sleep. It’s not incredibly strange behavior for a child, but Sue treats it as an enormous mystery.
Not all of the issue is great, but then nor all of it is awful. The appearance of The Hulk at the end is compelling — Thing vs Hulk matches have generally been quite interesting in this title. We also see Peter Parker in a couple panels and thus wonder if Spider-Man will make an appearance. This promise of greater developments to come buoys the interest of this issue.