162. The Shape of Things to Come

Fantastic Four 162

Issue One Hundred and Sixty-Two Sept. 1975

“Get out of my way, all of you — or I won’t be responsible for what happens to — ARRRGH!

The Reed Richards from Second Earth has broken his bonds, but he is soon recaptured by Arkon’s men. He explains his plan for destroying three entire planets by enticing each to retaliate against assumed attacks by the other. Meanwhile, in the real world, Reed and Sue are fighting off some attackers from another time, leading Reed to the conclusion that Mr DeVoor is using Doom’s time platform technology that he acquired when he bought out the Fantastic Four. Just then the Second Earth Reed appears to him and discloses that DeVoor is behind all of the “IT” companies that have appeared on the other earths, and is therefore instrumental in starting the wars. Reed decides to confront DeVoor. At this time, the Second Earth Reed manages to escape for good and he finds that Ben is locked up nearby. He frees him and the two encounter Johnny who is about to lead the 5th Dimensioners in an attack. The two Things manage to talk him down and Johnny orders his army back. Reed then contacts the three of them in a portal and sends them inter-dimensional skates that can take them from world to world, as well as a certain nexus that lies at the center of them. 2nd Earth Reed and Johnny go to confront Arkon, The Thing goes to the nexus, where he encounters Gaard, a being bearing a strong resemblance to an ice hockey goal keeper.

There’s a lot to appreciate in this issue, even though the cliffhanger is less than compelling. The plot is not actually as complex as the narration leads one to believe, it’s rather simple, if also rather dense and layered. Akron’s plan is a pretty good one, or if not good then at least interesting. Three planets have each been manipulated into springing a surprise attack on the other. Even though he dresses in a loin cloth and spends a good deal of time shouting, he seems quite clever. His motives for this wholesale destruction isn’t apparent, but it seems as though it could actually work.

Less believable is Johnny being tricked into leading an army to destroy a planet. Rash and hasty he might be, but he has never shown himself to be anything like a warrior or general. Plus, there’s the logical leap of anyone with authority putting such a person in charge of an army or, indeed, that army even following his orders — especially an order to retreat. That’s a situation that could have actually benefited from a little complexity. As it is, it all gets tied off a little too quickly. 162escape

A disappointment in this issue is the revelation that Reed really didn’t have any subterfuge planned in his dealings with Mr DeVoor. Everything about the situation he is in has come as a surprise to him. He also apparently had no qualms with turning over the keys to Doom’s time platform — a technology of immense power that he didn’t develop and therefore does not rightfully own. Obviously he has done no background research on DeVoor, he seems just happy to take the money with almost no questions asked.

Two different Things are fun to see, however. It’s nice to see Ben getting on with this alternate Reed, who he has no reason to resent, and who has no feelings of guilt towards him. It’s a refreshing dynamic and we get a glimpse of what their relationship would have been otherwise — one of almost instant and total trust. And visually, it’s a treat, especially when four mighty fists are raised at the same time.

As for the space alien dressed up in ice hockey gear, I’ll leave that until the next review to lay into that one. Leaving that to one side, this is a fairly densely packed issue with little dead space, even if the exposition at the front is fairly heavy-handed, even by the ’70s standard. Lots of mystery, weirdness, originality, and a dash of action — just what the Fantastic Four should be.


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