34. A House Divided

Fantastic Four Issue Thirty-Four 34

Issue Thirty-Four

This issue seems to be offered as a change-of-pace. The blurb at the end petitions the readers to write in and say what they thought of the issue, which does not contain a costumed villain. If I were a contemporary reader, I would write in and say that I enjoyed it very, very much.

Gregory Hungerford Gideon is a multi-billionaire who is slowly taking over the world. Now grown impatient, he calls his three top business rivals and dares them to issue him an impossible task that he cannot complete. They tell him to destroy the Fantastic Four.

G. H. Gideon actually manages to put together a fairly intelligent plan – more intelligent than we’ve seen Doctor Doom or the Mad Thinker put together, at least. The effect is routine enough – tricking the FF into fighting against each other – ┬ábut they way he does it is actually quite canny. The only disappointing element is the one that relies on Reed Richards firing a gun that he just happens to find lying around.

Fantastic Four Issue Thirty-Four 34

Kirby creates a sense of wealth and indulgent taste in Gideon by drawing him in, and surrounding him, very detailed textures and patterns.

For this, it may have been a rather conventional tale, except that Gideon’s wife and son are also thrown into the mix. They feel alienated by their power-mad husband/father and when the son finds that Gideon is trying to destroy the FF, he sets out to warn them, eventually falling into the deadly trap that was meant for them.

There is then a series of five panels which show the FF using their powers not to attack or defeat anyone, but to race to save an innocent from an inhuman fate, and to protect each other from being stopped. It’s a small but significant turnaround, since the question of their abilities stops being ‘are their powers enough?’ and becomes ‘will their powers give them enough time?’

Fantastic Four Issue Thirty-Four 34The FF do manage to rescue Gideon’s son, and Gideon repents of his ways. It’s a fairly swift 180, and a little disarmed for the seeming impossible degree of change his character undergoes, but it’s this human element which makes Gideon such an interesting character, and this story so remarkable. If he was simply thwarted and vowed to revenge himself, he would have been interchangeable with Doom, Thinker, Namor, or Puppet Master. The possibility that a villain does have another side to him, an attractive side, makes him more interesting in this story than any of those others.


Fantastic Four Issue Thirty-Four 34

Reed Richards, smartest man on the planet, about to fire a gun at one of his teammates that he has no idea where it came from, or what it does.

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  1. Pingback: 38. Defeated by the Frightful Four | Fantastic Four 1 by 1

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