“Done! The beast falls! Once again — superior planning proves triumphant!”
In pursuit of a flying orb, Johnny Storm happens across Dragon Man and is subsequently subdued and taken to where the rest of his teammates are being incarcerated by G H Gideon. Ranting and now wearing a power suit which is being run by the combined powers of the unconscious Richards family, it is revealed that Gideon and his son have acquired a sickness described as “radiation decay” and have a limited time to live. It is thought that by running their powers through his suit, he could live forever. However, the other three members of the Fantastic Four escape and stop him, ruining his machine and freeing Sue, Reed, and Franklin. Reed is still unconscious when Sue takes her leave of him. She claims still to love him, but will not let recent events change her resolve in staying apart from him.
This is a very thinly written issue, with almost nothing to recommend it. In fact, I don’t believe it is stating the case too strongly to say that it’s issues like this which have given comics such a poor reputation over the last one hundred years. Anyone reading this issue now would be completely unaware of what brilliant writing has been seen in this same title just a few months earlier. The conclusion of this issue’s story is frustrating in the fairly sizeable potential for pathos and emotion which is completely squandered in favor of pictures of fists flying and people flying through the air — the images of which are undoubtedly at their crafted peak, but which bare not even the smallest fraction of moving the reader emotionally as the characters in the story are moved kinetically.
To whit, as was commented on the previous issue, the story’s main antagonist, G. H. Gideon, was last seen being shown the error of his ways and made a resolve to change them. In this issue it is revealed that he has since undergone a tragedy that has left him and his son sick and dying — an incident that also killed his wife. At this point his apparent decision to turn over a new leaf was rescinded — but how believable is this? A reversion to old ways is certainly possible, but realistically, would Gideon not tried a more peaceable approach initially? When finding that Cosmic Rays were a likely panacea, why would he not approach Reed Richards for help in the matter directly? Physical conflict could still rather easily have been contrived — Gideon could still make the same machine to use on the Richards family, but he would be doing it reluctantly, offering up the lives of that family to save his own. That moral dilemma still exists in this issue, but it is completely undermined by pictures of Gideon in a golden super-suit cackling maniacally. At the very least, it would have given some sort of genuine hint to meaning of the characters’ shared history if in just one panel we saw Gideon apologizing for his actions and expressing regret for what he felt he was being forced to do. But as it is, Gideon is ultimately interchangeable with any number of FF villains, and the resolution of the story — from the FF breaking out, to their defeat of Gideon and literally leaving him on a heap of smoking rubble — is completely uninspired.
There is also the Reed/Sue relationship that is continuing through this episode, and that actually is handled adequately, considering that Reed remains completely unconscious for the entire issue, as is Sue in all but seven panels. He reaction to waking up on a lab table next to her estranged husband is, at least, believable, but Reed’s completely uncharacteristic actions in the last issue are not made excuse for in this issue, which is very unsatisfying.
Must try harder.