Now this really is a change of pace issue. The Fantastic Four decide to return to “State University” (to be renamed Empire State University at some point in the future) in order for Reed to give a speech, and Johnny – still in high school – to have a look around. While there, they run into a bunch of other Marvel cast, including Professor X and Cyclops in their civilian garb, and an oddly drawn Peter Parker. The “guest-villain from out of the perilous past” that the first page proclaims is none other than Diablo, last spotted five issues ago. He comes to S.U. in order to sow chaos, and while there he brings to life an inanimate model of a fanciful “dragon man”, which was never supposed to operate, but which was nonetheless also equipped with a flame-reactor in its chest.
It’s a fun tale, and what makes it an above-average read is the university setting. It’s actually more fun to see the FF interact so differently with each other and their surroundings than it is for them to fight another bad guy. The Torch is bored and annoyed that no one gives him any attention since he’s only a high-schooler, and he’s not interested in any of the girls, because they’re too old for him. The Thing is now a celebrity because of his football prowess back in his college days, which leads to a genuinely fun scene of him and the FF taking on a football team.
The other strong point of this issue is the Dragon Man himself, which actually has a character arc. Brought to life only just recently, he lashes out and acts like an infant would, and when Sue Storm shows tenderness to him, he responds gently, like a child to its mother. This is a powerful minion that is not under direct control of its master, but which has its own will. The Dragon Man eventually turns on its master, effecting a standard “are they dead or did they get away?” finish to the story.
Finally, we get to see the first concrete development in Reed and Sue’s relationship – they finally declare their love for each other in what is actually a rather understated and brief scene. It’s rather touching and not played up very much. It’s a canny move to eject the question of Sue’s affections in the Reed/Sue/Namor love triangle, and moves the FF closer to what makes them unique in the superhero team set – they are a family.