137. Rumble on Planet 3

Fantastic Four Issue 137

Issue One Hundred and Thirty-Seven, Aug. 1973

Very well, Slugger Johnson, this is a step I do not relish taking… but this is your world, and if you claim we mustthen by eternity we shall!

SUMMARY
Reed and Ben approach a European castle, stating that their mind conditioning has now worn off. Nevertheless, they decide to go ahead with the mission they were charged with to find out who is at the center of the mystery. They breach the castle just as Johnny and Medusa arrive to try to complete the same mission and the four fight with each other. Meanwhile we find that The Brain is actually Slugger Johnson, and he intimates to The Shaper that it is time to unleash a 1950s style b-movie monster into the world. The castle disappears to be replaced by a drive-in movie theater. The monster on the screen suddenly comes to life and starts attacking the Fantastic Four, now aided by the bikers on flying motorcycles. Meanwhile, a racial minority that lives underneath the wealthy city decides to revolt and confront their oppressors. The FF fight the monster and throw it back into the movie screen that it came from, which collapses on itself. The “Oldies” arrive as the monster is defeated and accost the bikers. Then the minority class also arrives and declares that they will not be ruled over any longer. Finally, The Shaper appears and informs the FF that instead of using Slugger Johnson as a conduit for his power, he will instead use the still unconscious Thomas Gideon, who he heals from his blood disease, to provide a dream world for him to occupy. The FF then find themselves back in the real world.

COMMENTARY
It’s a confused end to a confused tale. There are not so much plot holes as just pointless and extraneous plot frayed ends. To pick at any one of them is to pull apart the whole. Why is Slugger Johnson living as The Brain, an existence in a medieval setting when he it’s apparently the ’50s that he longs for so much? And why is it others who have their wishes of power fulfilled and he is a frail old man? Why is The Shaper apparently part robot? What is the point of having the FF storm a castle only for it to turn into a drive-in movie theater and why do the guards turn into bikers who stop fighting against the Fantastic Four and instead aid them in defeating the plans of Slugger “The Brain” Johnson? Characters constantly reveal information that they were never told, and the brain conditioning that they underwent just wears off arbitrarily. And again, the FF are apparently completely fine with a being with nearly godlike powers whisking off a frail young boy to live within his dreamworld. This seems to spur no thoughts of rescue for the young, innocent, and helpless Thomas Gideon. Instead they seem almost relieved to have him off of their hands. Out of sight, out of mind.137fight

The racial oppression subplot is profoundly disappointing. While it does add a much needed dimension to the world — not everyone with a big star on their chest thinks the same about everything — compared to how it was subtly dealt with just half a year earlier in the Omega Saga, it is here handled with insulting clumsiness. It shows a young man rousing an army of people with his own skin color, yet neither he nor any one of them is given an actual name by the writers. Even the interchangeable bikers refer to each other as Moon and Wildman, and the leader of the Patriots has a name, but not the leader of this racial faction. It’s a very low bid for interracial sensitivity.

Reed Richards, smartest man in the universe, pointing out the bleeding obvious.

Reed Richards, smartest man in the universe, pointing out the bleeding obvious.

It would be worse but because everything else is pretty two-dimensional and senseless, it is not as conspicuous as it might be. It’s just one more theme that has been squandered, sold cheap. And to have the FF themselves discuss the analogues and correlations of the “adventure” they have just been a part of is fairly baffling — it’s almost as though the creators of this issue think that they are being subtle, and that the message of tolerance has to be reinforced.

EVALUATION: 2/10

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