“It’s gone, Reed!! The house — the grounds — everything! Gone!”
The Fantastic Four arrive at Agatha Harkness’s house, apparently after having received a summons from her. They find that it is missing and there is no trace of her or Sue and Franklin, who were staying with her. They all begin to return to the Baxter Building, forlorn, but they are attacked by a floating device which ruins the Fantasticar. It is revealed that the device was in the control of Gregory Gideon, although he did not arrange the disappearance of Sue and Agatha Harkness’s house. We find instead that Sue is in rural Pennsylvania with friends. Dragon Man arrives and takes both her and Franklin to one of Gideon’s complexes. Sue’s friends telephone Reed and from their reports, and those of a Television news broadcast reporting a flying man, the FF are led to the same complex where Gideon is able to subdue them, knocking them unconscious. He now awaits the arrival of the Human Torch in order to, we are led to assume, take their powers.
This issue is rather a come down from the fairly strong run that we’ve seen recently under the direction of Roy Thomas. Perhaps there are too many cooks in the kitchen right now. This is a standard set-up issue where conflicts are raised and events deliberately left open ended, but there is a lot here that doesn’t add up. For a start the dramatic tension raised by Agatha Harkness’s missing house is completely diffused by the subsequent picture of Sue riding around on horses and having a good time. Even when the main villain is revealed, he doesn’t know how the house went missing and seems completely unconcerned.
But if anyone in the issue could be even less concerned, it’s Sue’s own husband. When Reed discovers Sue is missing, he just wanders off in a sulk. A smoking crater at his wife’s last known location and you get the impression he’d be more broken up over a dead goldfish. He doesn’t try to build a scanning device, he doesn’t utilize satellite imagery, he doesn’t even call some of Sue’s friends just on the off chance. That is uncharacteristic, as does the fact that he wouldn’t have already found a super-genius way to keep tabs on her already.
And then, when he does get a lead on where she is, he blindly goes after her with no plan, no invention, and no teammates — it feels very uncharacteristic that he wouldn’t retreat into one of these areas of strength and consolation. Even depressed and despondent, why would he not throw himself into his work, which has been his cardinal sin throughout his life.
Of historical interest, we last saw G H Gideon and his son exactly 100 issues earlier. At that time we witnessed a well-maneuvered character change that saw him resolve to change his ways, but this is an apparent retraction of that. It is briefly handled in an exchange between Gideon Snr and his son, but it is not (at least as yet) explained why the character must be Gideon. There are any number of villains that could be used for his aims, or another could be created. It seems a shame to completely neuter the emotional charge of the end of that earlier issue by basically saying that its resolution was of no consequence.