128. Death In A Dark And Lonely Place

Issue One Hundred and Twenty-Eight, Nov 1971

Issue One Hundred and Twenty-Eight, Nov 1972

“Then I’ve done it, at last! I’ve defeated — destroyed the so-called Fantastic Four — and the world is mine — to slay at will! I’ve won! I’ve won!

Johnny Storm is attacking Benjamin Grimm, believing him to be a monster. He is stopped by Reed and Sue before he kills him, this act exhausts nearly all the Fantastic Four. The Mole Man, watching with Kala on a monitor, gloats at this development and torments the mind-controlled Tyrannus. Meanwhile, the FF recover and split up. Reed goes with Johnny and they are beset by an army of subterranean moloids. Sue and Ben meanwhile come across into a man being held prisoner — the Reverend Mandiz. The three of them together stumble upon the Mole Man’s throne room, and he is able to defeat all of them. The moloids return and communicate that Reed has been killed. The Mole Man, thinking he has won, is suddenly incapacitated by Tyrannus who has been freed by Kala, who has betrayed him. Tyrannus then betrays Kala in turn, and Mole Man is able to free the FF. Reed arrives, which puts Tyrranus to flight. He takes off in a plane which explodes, having been boobytrapped by Mole Man. The FF leave the Mole Man alone in his kingdom.

This issue closes a storyline that was full of flaws from the start, more running out of steam than really ending. There are a great many plot holes and characters have a habit of going missing.

It always ends that way because they always let him go.

It always ends that way because they always let him go.

For a start, it’s not explained why Ben is suddenly visible to the rest of the FF — not that it ever made sense that he was disguised as a monster. Neither is Johnny’s irrational determination to kill such a monster made clear — he doesn’t go after anything else with such murderous viciousness. Sue and Ben rescue another character, Reverend Mandiz, but he completely disappears after appearing in only three pages. The scripter tried to cover up this fact by having Sue talk to him off-panel on the final page, but she mistakenly calls him Reverend Mandis. Kala also disappears. She has been incapacitated by Tyrannus, but it doesn’t appear that the FF take her out of the cavern. Neither does anyone bat an eyelid after Mole Man indirectly kills Tyrannus, Reed even claims to have intuited that he would be killed if allowed to escape. And after coming all the way for a cure from the Mole Man for Alicia’s blindness, the Mole Man points out that if he had a cure for blindness, he’d have used it on himself. The Thing accepts this and the FF run away, yet again leaving Mole Man at large. They never think that this is a problem, but it always is.

128darlingNone of which makes sense. Added to this a few scripting gaffs that have occurred when the writer has misinterpreted what is happening in the panels and thinks that Sue is in a stasis bubble, when she isn’t, or that the Human Torch is hypnotising moloids, when he is actually distracting them from Reed. And important events like Ben forgiving and reconciling with his teammates is shuffled off between panels. This is the weakness of the ‘Marvel Method’ of writing comics. When the artist and writer aren’t in complete accord, the narrative experience becomes a bumpy ride.

In fact, the only points that this issue scores in is a believably petty turnaround when Mole Man, comprehensively defeated, unleashes the FF on the people who have betrayed him. This is makes complete internal sense. Another good moment is Sue laying into Reed for always leaving her at home on their adventures. Finally we have clear declarations that female characters will no longer be sidelined in the adventures.


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