“Watch out, Mole Man! The Thing is comin’ for ya!”
The Thing is tracking down the Mole Man through the hole in the house that the Fantastic Four almost bought some time back. Meanwhile, Johnny is reminiscing and after running into the Baxter Building’s landlord who tells him of Ben’s plans, he contacts Reed and Sue and together they set out to track him down. However, Ben has come across the formidable Kala, apparent queen of an off-shoot of the Atlantean race that lives underground, instead of under the water. She tricks The Thing into a trap and the Mole Man appears to gloat over his gullibility and tell him of his plans to burn the surface of the earth by creating a giant pump to spew molten lava all over the planet. The Thing escapes the electrified net that he is held in, but it leaves with him the strange effect of making him appear to be an underground monster to anyone who looks at him. It is then that he comes across the rest of the FF, and the Human Torch immediately blasts him.
This is another middling issue, which is annoying because Roy Thomas showed so much promise in issue 119. The plot is very plodding and unsatisfactorily paced. The Mole Man’s motives are extremely weak, and his plan has obvious holes in it — doesn’t he need to breathe oxygen? How can he do that if he burns all vegetation? Kala is an interesting and novel character and should have been made good use of, but isn’t. Added to this, Ben Grimm is so foolhardy in always rushing into things that it’s completely unsurprising that he is thwarted at every turn, since he only has himself to blame for acting like an idiot. This is a double letdown — the lack of powerful villains and a powerful hero. There is therefore no depth of conflict and thus the entire issue lacks teeth.
Sue, it seems, marginally avoids being sidelined. We come in halfway on the only partially interesting conversation in the whole book, as she’s fighting Reed to allow her to come and join the rescue attempt for Ben. This seems a very conscious statement from Thomas against the continual marginalizing of Sue that was constant in the mid- to late period of the Stan Lee run. It’s basically a guarantee that Sue will be involved in a lot more adventures than previous, and that’s encouraging.
Added to this are two needless frivolities. I’m not sure exactly why the Baxter Building’s landlord, Collins, keeps popping up, but if it’s for comic effect, it is woefully misjudged. Three out of the four members of the FF have physically intimidated him, and they always seem like bullies when they do so. In this issue, Johnny Storm sets fire to a legal court order. Not exactly a great example for the kiddies. The second is the very annoyingly improbable twist of having Ben appear differently to his team by changing the electrical charge of his aura, and we are left with a very mediocre issue, which is a shame because the elements are all here for a good tale, just more attention had to be paid to character motivation and narrative invention.