2. The Skrulls from Outer Space

ssue Two, Jan 1962

“And once the Fantastic Four are slain, no power on earth can stop the Skrull invasion!”

SUMMARY
The separate members of the Fantastic Four are apparently commiting acts of terror and crime. However, they reveal themselves in secret to be shape changing Skrulls — aliens from another planet. The true FF are on a hunting trip when they hear the news, and it is mere minutes before the army arrives and captures them. Once they have escaped their individual prisons, they steal a helicopter and buy some time to concot a plan which involves Johnny pretending to attack a rocket launch. He is picked up by the impostor FF and signals his location. The rest of the FF arrive, subdue the alien Skrulls, and take off in their spaceship to present a report to the commander of the armada. Reed shows him some monster illustrations taken from one of Johnny’s comic books and the Shrulls, believing them to be real monsters, call off the invasion. Returning to earth, Reed hypnotizes the impostor Skrulls into believing they are cows, to live out the rest of their lives.

COMMENTARY
The second issue introduces some of the most popular enemies of the Marvel Universe, as well as some rather large plot holes. The story opens with shape-changing impostures trying to defame the FF by carrying out acts of theft and vandalism. In the previous issue, the FF have only worked in secret, and away from the public eye, and yet The Thing is easily identified by some sailors at quite a distance, and the elongated arm “can only belong to Mr Fantastic!” When the FF are captured, the army already has custom-made cells made for them to combat their individual powers.

Has there been an interim between the issues that has led to this universal recognition? It’s not explained, and its probably just bad writing, but it’s bad writing with a purpose. It’s as if the FF are being impatiently thrust into their role as very public, even famous, defenders of the planet. The FF do not have, and will never have, secret identities.

Them’s some keen eyes, sailor

Plot hole notwithstanding, there are some very compelling story decisions. The Thing is portrayed with an extremely violent temper, and it is all that the rest of the team can do, at one point, to stop him from murdering the Skrulls. He is very much on the edge, and even, at one point in the story, essentially taunted with a brief return to his human form, which wears off in around a minute… just long enough for him to experience joy at his regained humanity.

The Skrull invasion force is tricked into not invading by being shown pictures clipped from Marvel comics’ Strange Tales and Journey into Mystery. One panel shows a nervous Reed Richards hoping that his rouse will work, apparently forgetful of the fact that the last adventure involved an island that contained monster much larger and fierce than those displayed in the pictures.

Maybe he just didn’t have time to develop the pictures from his Fantasticamera

However, the strange, twisted ending — the fate of the Skrulls left on earth — is a judgment worthy of The Shadow, or any vintage space thriller. It is one of the most famous scenes in FF lore, and one the implications of which will be felt more than once.

EVALUATION: 7/10

Reed passing unilateral judgement on three intergalactic nationals. Let’s just hope that doesn’t totally come around to bite him in the ass one day.

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