There’s a lot of freshness to this issue, and it’s down to Stan Lee. The dialogue has just that little bit more sparkle and playfulness, and the plot has just a little more scope. It’s energetic and even though I’m wracking my brain to see a serious plot difference between this issue, and issue 22, which is the last one that the Mole Man appeared in. But it’s handled with such aplomb and enthusiasm that it’s hard to actually care.
The Mole Man’s devious plan is two-fold. 1 – to lower sections of New York into the subterranean realms, and 2 – to capture Sue Storm to stop the FF from going after him. And naturally this will allow him to conquer the world.
That’s all we’ve got, plot-wise. It’s not much, but to his credit, the (oddly technically astute yet still bereft of his monsters) Mole Man does actually lower bits of New York into the ground, which is a spectacularly ambitious spectacle, which Kirby just about pulls off. The image of hundreds of stunned New Yorkers walking around in an oddly well-lit underground world is fresh and original.
What is NOT fresh and original, is Mole Man’s “second phase” which is, expressly, to capture Sue Storm. It’s SO contrived and SO demeaning and serves NO purpose at all. When will one of the others get kidnapped? Actually, thinking about it now, Ben Grimm was subverted by Diablo in the last issue, but he wasn’t imprisoned, and his capture was part of an interesting character arc. With Sue it’s just so mechanical and debilitating to her personality. At one point Reed has to make up a very unconvincing excuse as to why Sue can’t use any of her flashy new power upgrades. For that, it loses a full point.
However, there are some fun elements that make this story worth reading. The Avengers make a surprise appearance, and it’s interesting to note that the slight animosity of their last meeting still lingering in the air, and that’s gratifying to reader expectations.
Also, there is a rather odd mystery that Sue partway pursues before she gets captured. This is played out to rather inconsequential effect when the mystery man is revealed to be her father, who then saves her life from a pointless “critical” injury. Like I say, it’s an odd character introduction, and his name isn’t even mentioned. The only real purpose that it seems to serve is to attempt heighten the romantic tension between Reed and Sue. But this comes off as mechanical as well.
It’s an odd tale of odd parts, but highly entertaining.