169. Five Characters in Search of a Madman

Fantastic Four 169 cover

Fantastic Four 169, April 1976

“Somethin’–somebody in my head! Grabbin’ hold of my brain–hard! Gotta–fight back! Gotta–got– to– got to kill! KILL!

SUMMARY
Ben Grimm is wallowing in a bar, lamenting the loss of his powers and also the fame that came with them. A lady in red accosts him, leading to a bar fight, which Reed and Johnny break up, intimidating the brawlers with their powers. They bring Ben back to the Baxter Building where Luke Cage has been talking to Susan, Alicia, and Franklin. Suddenly, Luke experiences some sort of mind control and he turns on the women, who fight him back just as the rest of the Fantastic Four arrive. They attempt to restrain Luke, but he escapes, heading towards Reed’s lab where he starts trashing the place. The FF chase after him and he escapes in the Fantasticar, referring to an unfinished mission which even he doesn’t know the object of. Back in the Baxter Building, Reed unveils a secret project in an armored room, which he reveals to Ben contains–The Thing!Ben Grimm Human

COMMENTARY
This is another nice break in pace from the standard Fantastic Four story. Perhaps an unusual number of FF comics start in bars, but the difference with this one story is that it is six pages before a super-powered person shows up. Rich Buckler seems to improve with every issue, and here he is able to convey a seediness which is almost Kurtzman-esque in its grotty vitality. A good use is made of flashback panels as Ben, fighting as a human, can’t help but thinking back to all his superpowered fights, which effectively communicate the feeling of loss of his powers that he feels to us, the readers.Luke Cage Susan Sue Storm Richards

There is also a nice scene with Power Man and Sue playfully teasing each other. Their light humour very nicely counteracts the serious and conflicted scenes we’ve just seen, and it’s rare how often we see team members getting along with each other.

And it just makes the development of that scene more tragic as Luke loses control and starts tearing up the place. And as for the reveal, it’s certainly a twist that makes us want to read the next issue. Even if it does mean that Luke’s tenure is going to be cut short. He’s an interesting character and has already added a new dynamic to the team, even as he fills the same space that Ben does. He deserves a longer shake on the team.

EVALUATION: 7/10

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