“Never fear! I am strong — strong enough to join the powers of science to those of darkness! Show me the mortal who does not tremble at the name of Doctor Doom!”
We are first treated to a tour around the Fantastic Four’s headquarters, the Baxter Building. Then we are shown Namor the Submariner in the ocean, where Doctor Doom approaches him and persuades him to join in an attack on the FF. Namor then flies into the Baxter Building and plants a device which allows Doom to launch the whole structure into space. After being betrayed, Namor helps the FF to chase after Doom and casts him adrift into space. Namor then pilots Doom’s ship, and the Baxter Building back to earth.
We have here the first recurrence of a supervillain within the title. Not just one, in fact, but two: Doctor Doom and Namor, now the ‘Submariner’ (no hyphen). The monster count is also zero in this issue. We also have the first mention of ‘unstable molecules’, and the Yancey Street Gang, both of which will become touchstones of FF lore. The Baxter Building is launched into space for the very first time, and some nascent Kirby Krackle (with a very satisfying ‘CRACK’) is apparent.
So it is disappointing that the plot descends into rather farcical surrealism in the second half of the story. And although it gives us stupendous visuals like THIS, we are also made to watch Namor skipping along asteroids, and Doctor Doom exiting his jet plane from an escape hatch and into outer space so that he can hitch a ride on a passing asteroid and escape to fight another day. The problem of oxygen is covered — barely — but not that of a total vacuum, or near absolute zero temperatures.
However, the image of Mr Fantastic reaching for the tail of Doom’s ship is weirdly compelling, and could not be imagined anywhere else except in an FF comic, so that, at least, is a totally original moment. Doom’s subversion of Namor is also carried well, if bluntly, and yet again, the FF are only too willing to forgive someone who tried to kill them (it was Ben Grimm in the last issue). It is also shown that Sue has some interest in Namor, in the form of an 8 by 10 glossy headshot hidden in a bookcase.
Those few points do help to buoy this issue up, but some parts of it really are quite silly.