“I, the Miracle Man, declare war on the whole human race! I intend to conquer the earth!”
The Fantastic Four are at a theater watching a live performance of a stage magician who antagonizes The Thing enough that he leaps onto the stage and tries to punch him out, but the magician just shrugs off the attack. Later, as Sue gets the FF to showcase the new costumes she’s designed, the Miracle Man makes a giant, monstrous statue come to life and terrorize the city. He has also sent a note to the police commissioner stating his intent to take over the world. Their initial, individual forays against the Miracle Man prove unsuccessful, and so does their combined assault. He takes Sue hostage and escapes in an atomic tank. The three male members of the FF catch up to him and Johnny blinds him with a bright flash of flame. Reed convinces the Miracle Man to release Sue, and it is revealed that their enemy’s powers are only hypnotic. Annoyed at Johnny’s recognition for the denoument, Ben challenges him, angering Johnny enough that he takes off alone.
It’s a more mundane affair for the Fantastic Four in their third issue. They combat a stage magician dubbing himself The Miracle Man. Clues that he’s a little short from miraculous begin when he has to resort, in one instance, to hitting Mr Fantastic in the head with a brick.
It’s not a great villain, and a fairly unimaginative plot (why does he need an atomic tank? Well, I suppose, why wouldn’t he…?). It’s a comedown from the complexity of the previous two issues, but you get the feeling that the plot isn’t the focus in this issue. In fact, the core conflict doesn’t even rank the cover — ubiquitous giant monster rampage notwithstanding.
What does take center stage — and the cover — is the FF themselves. They finally have costumes now, and their characteristic transportation, and a base of operations (which we are treated with a cutaway diagram of). The creators are really pushing the FF brand in this issue. We also have the first bickering between The Thing and the Torch, and it ends with them both making each other so mad that one of them leaves. So now, by the third issue, the status quo has already been established for the next one hundred some issues.
Also of note, Sue takes a fair amount of initiative in this story, first in designing costumes for the group (including an under-appreciated masked helmet for The Thing), and tracking down the bad guy and confronting him in his lair. This is a tentative, but very definite step away from the passive peace-maker of the previous two stories.
There is a definite show of confidence in this issue — it is the first to bear the words ‘The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine’ on the cover (albeit all rather in a jumble). However it is that confidence that hits a bum note in an antagonist which I believe I am fairly correct in saying that we never see again. Nonetheless, it does bear historical merits, for the sheer number of ‘firsts’.