This issue shows a genuine turning point in the FF dynamic, the first meaningful one since Reed and Sue got married — and potentially more significant… potentially.
The antagonist of the piece is a relic from the last adventure, and it’s actually not such a bad story mechanism. The Mad Thinker and his great plan have been defeated, there is still only one loose end that needs tying. Essentially, it’s clean-up and on its own may be an unsatisfying read, except that we have some pretty solid character action going on here.
By rights, this is Sue’s issue. By rights. She doesn’t quite seem to be allowed to take center stage, however. I remember way back in issue 17 where Sue is trapped in a room with Doctor Doom and she turns the tables on him by going invisible and declaring “It is you who are my prisoner!” THAT’S what we need here and that, unfortunately, is what is lacking. As it is, we feel privileged for even being allowed to see Sue who has taken such a back seat to most of the recent conflicts. So often we get panels of Reed, Ben, and Johnny rushing into action while Sue just cowers in the background. Here we get a lot of reaction shots and running around while invisible.
There is also a maddening incident which is completely unforgivable where an obviously still unconscious Reed wakes up, warns Sue of what’s happening right in front of her, and then faints again. See for yourself: It is mind-numbingly obvious that Reed, as portrayed by Kirby, was never intended to warn Sue. It was manufactured by Lee who decided to go in, add a lot of word balloons, and rob Sue of the ability to even be perceptive of her environment. She’s so insanely PASSIVE. All she does is turn invisible, fire a gun, project a forcefield around Ben, and then faint. I could say that the creators of this comic are sexist, but that’s really not the case since we got to see Crystal assert herself over male chauvinism in issue 68.
That Reed has been unconscious is proven after this assault since he wakes up and mistakes Ben for Sue’s attacker, since he’s the only one standing. Surely if Reed had been awake and warned Sue of the robot’s attack then he would know about it?
But moving on, it’s really not such a bad issue for all of that. And even though the threat of the robot isn’t so great, the Fantastic Four are all so spent by the end of it, all of them having collapsed due to exhaustion or trauma at least once during the Thinker’s ordeal that Reed quite rightly — no matter how assertive and capable Sue could have been — declares that a super-hero adventure team is no place for a man and a woman about to start a family, and so he declares that they shall be leaving. It’s a great way to shake up the status quo, and a meaningful one that is consistent with character.