69. By Ben Betrayed

Fantastic Four Issue Sixty-Nine 69

Issue Sixty-Nine

The cover shows The Thing cast as King Kong, swatting at jet planes as he clings to the top of a New York skyscraper. And the promise of the cover certainly delivers. This is another solid issue. Like the last issue, it does one thing, and does it well. The first issue was all set-up, and a superbly executed one, putting into place the conflict of the story, introducing the antagonist. This issue pays all that off in the form of near-continuous action which advances each of the storylines.

Fantastic Four Issue Sixty-Nine 69The mystery villain is revealed — and it’s the Mad Thinker! ┬áThis is entirely appropriate and in keeping with his character. That needed saying because the Fantastic Four’s villains haven’t been all that consistent. This issue is fairly reminiscent of issue 17, for instance, in which Doctor Doom — uncharacteristically for him — disguises himself as a janitor to breach the Baxter Building.

However, the Mad Thinker is entirely in character here. His objective isn’t to ‘destroy the Fantastic Four’, but to get some quality time with Reed Richards’ files. His goal achieved, he cuts out before he is discovered, but not before he stumbles on an unexpected doorway that leads to the Negative Zone.

Fantastic Four Issue Sixty-Nine 69But these plot points are well-stated with just the right amount of understatement. The bulk of the page content of this issue is taken up with Ben’s pursuing of Reed across the Manhattan skyline, and it’s as indulgently reckless a chase as we’ve had for a long time. Kirby obviously revels in the crumbling destruction of his hometown, and in terms of form and motion, he is at the top of his game. When Reed is finally pulled into a helicopter and flown out of Ben’s reach, we’re gasping with him, exhausted by the path and the breakneck pace that Kirby’s forced on us.

If there’s a criticism of this issue, it’s that we’ve seen just about all of this before — Ben mind controlled, Ben vs. the FF, a rooftop chase, an infiltrating villain — but in its favor, this is the best and most confident use of those plot ideas.

EVALUATION: 7/10

Fantastic Four Issue Sixty-Nine 69

A constant frustration with early Marvel comics is the supreme wordiness of them. In panels like this one, the figures are all but crowded out due to speech bubbles and narration boxes. There could be a more economical way of getting across what we need to know, surely. It's poor craft, but who knows, maybe Stan was covering for some lazy background work by Jack.

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