146. Doomsday: 200° Below

Issue One Hundred and Forty-Six, May 1974

Issue One Hundred and Forty-Six, May 1974

We, the creatures your kind have called the abominable snowmenwe shall inherit the earth, we shall rule where men once walked… and neither you nor your puny powered fellows can do anything to stop us!

Johnny and Medusa are about to be frozen by Ternak, the leader of the Abominable Snowmen’s freeze ray but they manage to escape and hide out in some nearby caves. Within these caves, a mysterious woman approaches them and beckons them to follow, which they do. Meanwhile, the Snowmen are sifting through the wreckage of the FF’s Pogo-Plane when they accidentally set off a signal flare. This prompts Ben Grimm to show up and start pummeling them. Back in the caves, Johnny and Medusa find themselves led to the Tibetan Master who they were told in the last issue was dead. He is living a half-life as a reanimated body and brain in a Entropy Globe. He has a weapon which will allow the Torch and Medusa to stop Ternak. Johnny breaks into Ternak’s lair just moments ahead of The Thing and the two of them create the distraction that Medusa needs to start up the device which bathes the room in a strange energy and turns all of the Snowmen into warm-blooded humans who now have no reason to turn the Earth into an ice planet. The Fantastic Four leave.

There are a lot of faults in this issue, but it is not a complete wreck for a couple very subtle but intelligent touches.

But first the faults need to be briefly outlined. The idea of ape-like creatures wanting to take over the world definitely belongs to the ’50s, and the eight page thrill adventures of the monster pulps. It doesn’t do well stretched out over two full issues. The interesting Torch/Medusa dynamic just fizzes out. Medusa for some reason just refuses to be a compelling character. She doesn’t seem to have a fraction of the emotion that is dealt out to the other members of the Fantastic Four, or the problems. She’s just not allowed to live on the page, she has no depth — no hopes, no fears.

Ross Andru's Human Torch is exceptionally lithe and vibrant. Even Johnny's figure captures the flickering essence of fiery flames.

Ross Andru’s Human Torch is exceptionally lithe and vibrant. Even Johnny’s figure captures the flickering essence of fiery flames.

And Ben literally pops up out of nowhere. No explanation is given for how he managed to get to the Himalayas. It’s as if the writers new that any explanation was implausible and didn’t even attempt it. Only one thing is ever clear — Ben Grimm MUST be in every issue of the FF. And he brings his reflexive amount of unmotivated violence which has become tedious.

But interesting character, surprisingly, comes from Johnny Storm. As he’s being led through ice caves in a land very distant from New York, he goes through a startling, but still very subdued, process of introspection. He starts to emotionally unpack what has been happening recently with Reed and Sue and comes to the conclusion that he can’t blame Reed for his actions in shooting his son.146yeah

The ending to this tale is an odd fish. The surprise appearance of the mysterious Tibetan master begs the question: why didn’t the people who saved him actually tell anyone about it? Apparently chaos ensued after his death, so why wasn’t him appearing trumpeted from the streets? And his device for changing all the snowmen creatures into humans is a bit of a stretch. He is five hundred years old and yet he has a mind as scientifically advanced as Reed Richards’ — although if Reed had come up with the same machine we would feel it was very contrived. And it still mostly is. Yet a believable chord is struck in the reticence of the final resolution’s architect to enact his plan. He knows what it means to turn on the machine — it’s nothing short of genetic genocide.

Because the “message” of this story is that if we cannot learn to resolve differences between us, then one of the irreconcilable factions must be forced to become exactly like the other — through science. And that’s a very strange and unenlightened way of thinking. But again, the feeling is that this story is pitched at a much less sophisticated audience than the direction it’s gradually been heading with its intermittent high points. Ultimately forgettable, there’s a reason why none of the secondary characters in this story are ever heard from or talked about again. Ever.


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