“In another few seconds the air will be gone! I’ll never see Reed or my baby again! I’m drowning! I’m drowning!”
High over New York, Reed loses consciousness and falls out of the Fantasticar. Johnny saves him but Sue and Ben are now trapped in an out-of-control aircraft. They manage to land it safely and they all take Reed to a hospital where a large monster has, according to some reports, been smashing through the building. Happening across it, Ben is punched and stunned by it. Then it captures Sue. Johnny pursues him but is eluded. Arriving back at the hospital, Johnny meets up with Ben and they learn that Reed collapsed due to exhaustion and stress. Sue returns to consciousness and finds herself in a cave. Trying to escape, she inadvertently floods it. Back at the hospital, Reed awakens, learns of Sue’s capture and becomes frantic, eventually collapsing again.
The rising tension of this issue is fairly well handled, considering that the conflict of it hinges mostly on the doings of an extremely minor villain, even in the consideration of the Fantastic Four’s large and fairly obscure back catalogue. “The Monster from the Lost Lagoon” was last seen in issue 97, and was a scientifically advanced shape-changing alien that was posing as a marine biologist while its ship was undergoing repairs and taking on water to refuel.
There’s no hint of that backstory here, even once the agitator of the story is revealed to Ben and Johnny. This is only the first act of the story, however, so it remains to be seen if the ending can deliver on the promised drama in this issue. As it is we have a lot of actions taken seemingly for effect.Reed’s collapse, which happens immediately before this issue starts is revealed to be from sheer exhaustion, and not the machinations of his enemies — and its impact is all the stronger for this. It drives home the fact that even though these are super-powered beings, they are human, and have their limits. Ben also faces his limits as he is quickly incapacitated by a strength equal to his own. Sue, regrettably, plays the damsel in distress role once again, leaving Johnny to spend much of the issue chasing things (teammates, usually) down and trying to figure out what exactly is going on.
Which is a nice aspect of the story. The members of the FF have rarely, before now, been given the chance to operate on their own so that we, the reader, can be shown a little more of their character than when they’re in conflict or cooperation with their other teammates. Often these interactions are superficially handled (Johnny and Ben griping at each other, Sue bemoaning Reed’s busyness, etc.), so it’s nice to see a frantic Johnny trying to keep his team and his own mental state together as both are taken apart by a half-remembered adversary.Also, he is sporting a flaming hairstyle which is a good touch, and should have been kept by more artists since it really doesn’t make sense that his hair would just disappear and reappear as he switched between flamed-on and -off states.
But for the misgivings of the disappointment of the previous three issues, and the inauspicious featured villain, this is a nicely mysterious issue with an emotional sub-plot.