No doubt about it, this is a full-out action smackdown fist fest. The Thing, under the mistaken apprehension that the Silver Surfer is pursuing Alicia romantically, all but declares war on him. They leave a trail of destruction right across the state that’s almost as wide as the panels that Jack Kirby takes to show the action. There is a more-than-usual large panel (over a quarter of a page, in the context of Kirby’s usual art) quotient in this issue, and he makes the most of it. (That’s not to say that he hasn’t delivered in the past — the last fight with the Frightful Four just a year ago is still relativelt fresh in the mind).
It would be a frivolous issue – the plot is just the merest pretense for a fight, and in fact Ben acknowledges more than once a sort of willful bull-headishness – except that at this point, Lee and Kirby have earned it, proving that they are not slouches in the character-writing department by the last year’s worth of stories. The creators, as well as the readers, have earned the right to cut loose. So why not?However, an annoying narrative tick has resurfaced in this issue, and that has to do with the character of Alicia Masters. I’ve worked out now what it is that has been bugging me about her, and it’s that she not a character any more, she’s a plot device. She’s a catalyst for interactions, and doesn’t generate any action herself. She may as well be a coffee shop, or a bar. Here she manages to unite with two other characters in a place where we, the readers, have seen none of them before. Sure, Ben’s feelings for her lead to his conflict with the Silver Surfer, but she is quickly forgotten as an active member of this story. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Ben and her in a relational setting or attitude. Which may be what the creators are going for here, but why don’t we get an insight into her feelings over the matter like we do Ben, and even the Silver Surfer? Considering that she’s the only other recurrent female in the book, it’s a poor show for women.