“Alicia guessed my little secret too late to do you any good! Once I have my little puppet in my hands again! Now, Power Man, now!“
Reed’s surprise is revealed to be a “The Thing” suit which is calibrated specifically for Ben’s body, and allows him most of the strength that he enjoyed in that form. He puts it on and gives it a quick test. Then they realize that Alicia Masters is missing, and they deduce that she must have figured out who was behind the mind control of Luke Cage. Knowing this, Ben and Reed also deduce who it may be and so they head to the same location in the old Fantasticar. Alicia has gone to “a certain maximum security prison not too far away”, where her step-father, the Puppet Master, is being held. After an investigation by Alicia’s deft fingers, she discovers the hiding place of the special models that he uses to control people. He grabs the statue of Power Man to summon him and he arrives and carries the Puppet Master off in the new Fantasticar, just as Reed and Ben arrive. They fight, and in the course of their battle, the statue of Power Man falls into the ocean, releasing its control over Luke Cage’s mind. As they all fly back home, Ben contemplates his relationship with Alicia and decides that, since he is able to retain his human form, it may be time to propose to her.
Even though the plot is told in pretty broad strokes, there are some nice subtle nuances which are coming to characterize Roy Thomas’s run on the title. That said, the complete recreation of Ben’s powers in a suit designed to look exactly like his old form is outright implausible, especially coming so closely after his reversion. A power suit This seems like such an absurdly useful item, it’s a wonder that Reed hasn’t made more of them–not exactly mass produced them, but made more than one, at least. It’s an outlandish solution to a problem that didn’t need to exist in the first place. There are so many character opportunities for Grimm outside of the FF, and so many opportunities to see his replacement(s) inside the FF, this immediate backtrack feels unsatisfying. And that’s not to mention the tension that we’ve lost with a lot of Ben’s character and his internal character now that he can have super-powers and be a normal person at the same time.
That said, in the last page we see him having a very real internal struggle where he questions his relationship with Alicia following the conflict she just faced with her father. This is definitely a character development that we want to see pay off, and why wouldn’t it? Reed and Sue famously courted and got married within the pages of the Fantastic Four, as did Crystal and Quicksilver.
As for the Puppet Master, it’s nice to see him return to these pages, and it is natural that he would plot this kind of escape, even if it doesn’t make sense that he would know that Power Man would be able to help him–if Ben didn’t work, why not choose Johnny?
On balance, the good outweighs the bad and this is an enjoyable issue.