161. All the World Wars At Once

Fantastic Four 161 cover

Issue One Hundred and Sixty-One, Aug 1975

“Tell me again about how I did the right thing. And meI’ll keep on tryin’ to believe it.”

Reed is running dramatic tests on his body in his lab and comes to the conclusion that he is literally becoming over-stretched, a fact he hides from Sue when she appears. The Human Torch, upset at recent events, decides to visit Valeria, the girl he knows in the 5th Dimension. Once there he is attacked, and only saved in the nick of time by Valeria’s arrival with her father, Phineas. They reveal that mechanical beings called the Andrones have invaded from another parallel Earth. This is the Second Earth, that Ben is on, which he now finds is being attacked by dinosaurs and vikings that have appeared in central Manhattan. The president of that world declares on television that it is our earth that is causing these disturbances and claims that they will fight back. Just then the Ben Grimm from that world release a nerve toxin that knocks out The Thing in order to save him from getting attacked by the army. Meanwhile Sue calls Reed into a monitoring room to show him an image from the 5th Dimension: Johnny is standing at the head of an army, apparently poised to attack us.

There are a few odd plotting decisions in this issue, but oddly they all seem to work — just. The characters all do something that seems a bit of a logical reach, but it all seems to work because it all starts to tie into the same story, and there’s hope for some of the loose strands of the previous issue to be likewise woven into the rest of the story, creating a whole piece.161laser

In the first instance, we have Johnny, suddenly deciding that he’s depressed over Crystal (still) and eventually storming into the 5th Dimension to see the attractive blue-skinned girl from the previous issue. This seems kind of gratuitous, especially considering that the story she appeared in was pretty awful. However, tying an invasion by the machines that the Second Earth Reed created, and a planned invasion of our earth by them, really makes us wondering not just what is going on, but how it will all resolve. We’ve seen worlds and dimensions at war before in this issue, but to see two others so closely knit with ours makes the concept feel fresh and original. Also, there is still the matter of the mysterious “I.T.” companies. Reed sold the Fantastic Four to one of them in the last issue, the Reed of Second Earth seemed to be likewise owned, or running, another, and in the 5th Dimension it is revealed that there is a weapons manufacturer called “Inter-Politan Thermo-Dynamics”. It’s such a small but effective hook that none of the characters have drawn attention to, but adds such a delightful layer of intrigue to everything that’s going on. Not only are we wondering what it all means, but we’re wondering why it’s even important.161jumpin

Added to this is an increased sense of mortality for Reed as he realizes that his powers may be killing him. But he quickly gets too swept up in events to investigate the matter fully. His teammates need him, it doesn’t matter if he may be dying or not.


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