“Then you too are a criminal? I am in luck!” This unfortunate line is emblematic of what is the chronic weakness of the early Marvel Age. Weak and wet dialogue like this is literally the only thing wrong with this issue, but it is so persistent. It makes it almost unreadable in the modern age, but I would challenge its readability even in its own time.
The tale starts excellently, and doesn’t miss a beat, start to finish. We pick up with perhaps the most visually compelling cliffhangers yet — Reed Richards floating off into the negative zone, completely untethered, drifting slowly to his doom. To add torture to the drama, Reed’s monitoring screen is still hooked up and the other members of the Fantastic Four and watch and hear his final moments on one of the largest screens in the world. The only thing that is slightly niggling is the idea that Reed is quite so helpless or unresourceful, especially since there are plenty of things for him to grab hold of or swing around. He should have made at least one failed attempt at escape.
Crystal and Johnny’s fifteen issue fight to be with each other finishes here, but it’s not initially much of a welcome that she gets from a strung-out FF, who are clearly too frustrated and exhausted from their previous fight with Sandman to even think clearly. This is a very believable beat, as is Crystal’s appropriately fresh mind and perspective on the event.
As in nearly every issue since their appearance, a few ages is devoted to the Inhumans. Here, we see them defeating a group of highly advanced, yet nameless attackers on their deserted island. We get a quick rundown on most of the Inhumans’ powers, in case we’ve missed just about all of the last twenty issues.
When Crystal appears and explains the situation to Black Bolt, the mystery member he chooses to save Richards is… Triton. This is a very good move, storywise, since Triton is one of the Inhumans who has had the least play so far, and his abilities and personality are largely uncharted for us. His rescue of Reed is inventive and exciting. And so we come to Blastaar. His introduction in this title is very original — ingeniously, he is completely unnoticed by any of the active characters in this issue. He slips through the portal with no one to see him but already it is obvious he will be up to no good.
This is due in small part to the unnecessarily and literally unbelievably frank statement that he utters above. Of course, we could blame such a thing on the “new, universally-approved, no-rust, automatic translators” (hooo boy, indeed) which is a recklessly lazy excuse. The uncommunicative hostile alien may be a common scenario, but we need at least some moments of confusion between Sandman and Blastaar, or at least a better excuse. It’s not like this is the first time Lee and Kirby have written an alien invader story, so it is blatant, unwarranted sloppiness.
However, as I say, the strengths of this issue, mainly the visual integrations of the plot drama beats, do go a long way to buoying it up.