139. Target: Tomorrow

Fantastic Four Issue 139

Issue One Hundred and Thirty-Nine, Oct 1973

“Strength is to be used, Mr Grimm! Those who possess it — soon learn to control it!”

SUMMARY
Tumbling in free-fall due to Miracle Man’s actions in the last issue, the Fantastic Four use their powers to save themselves and the Keewazi tribe. They then break up through the earth into the unoccupied city that Miracle Man built on the Keewazi’s land. Miracle Man creates monsters in order to defeat his enemies. But as the FF begin to gain the upper hand, Miracle Man creates a whirlwind to carry them all away. Then we are shown Reed, pining for his family, Sue and Franklin, who are staying with friends. Franklin apparently suffers some kind of seizure but recovers quickly. Meanwhile, the FF are creating a way to get back to the Miracle Man, who by now is creating citizens to populate his city. Over in Washington D.C., we are told by a meeting of US Army generals and  scientists that something is draining the world’s nuclear weapons of their protons, making them volatile and apt to blow up at any moment. The FF are unable to defeat Miracle Man, but before calamity strikes, the ghosts of the Weezumi tribe appear and whisk Miracle Man away.

COMMENTARY
This is a rather thin issue. There isn’t a lot to recommend it, but then there isn’t a lot wrong with it either. It’s fairly uninspired, and that’s where the real disappointment is — there are some really great elements in play but those are discarded in favor of shots of the Thing shouting and throwing punches or being punched himself.

At the top of the discard pile, is Wyatt Wingfoot, who is a severely underused character already. The only really active part he plays in this issue is to help build a raft to get back to Miracle Man’s city. The Keewazi tribe themselves likewise are underused. They apparently wander off between scene transitions. It’s a shame that we can’t see them taking ownership over the fight for their own land, which obviously would have allowed some sort of discussion or catharsis about land rights, but instead, as said earlier, a bellowing Thing with balled up fists is what we are treated to instead.

It’s nice to see Sue and Franklin still in play, and the six-panel teaser is actually fairly satisfying in itself, headed by three panels of a still mopey Reed Richards who, if he is going to be so dreary all the time, doesn’t really even deserve that space.

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It is an interesting move to give the Miracle Man’s powers a negative impact on the wider world, and this sets him apart from many of Marvel’s other heroes and villains — his powers come at a cost not to himself, but to the physical world around him. It’s curious why this aspect of superpower isn’t present in most other stories, since it makes scientific sense. Here it seems to be introduced just to up the danger of Miracle Man, who is still rather an ineffectual character. There could have been a strong, sympathetic core to him — it is shown that what he really wants is a city far away from everyone else, populated with people of his own creation that he can control. It’s not revealed why, of all the vastness of the United States that does not have people living on it, he chose a place where there were already people living. It would have been interesting for the Fantastic Four to have come across him some time into the realization of Miracle Man’s plan — to have come across a city which there is no record of, and which there are shadow people who take unquestioning orders from the Miracle Man, who can create almost anything at will.

However, as it is, we are treated to a deus ex machina — or deī ex machina — of the Cheemuzwa Indians who gave Miracle Man his powers in the first place. This is still a refreshing close, even though it still smacks heavily of issue 80‘s denouement. It seems what we have here is a mash-up of one Lee/Kirby villain inserted into another Lee/Kirby plotline. But where those two greats put it all rather succinctly into one (admittedly rather middling) issue, here it has been stretched to two, to no great effect.

EVALUATION: 5/10

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