78. The Thing No More

Fantastic Four Issue Seventy-Eight 78

Issue Seventy-Eight

One of the first things that we learn in this issue is that the last issue is of no consequence in relation to this story. Which is frustrating to anyone caught out trying to make sense of what exactly was going on with the whole Sub-Atomica Saga.

This issue is really an issue of two parts — the set-up, and then the conflict. This has become typical of the Lee and Kirby single-issue-story plot line. The set-up is pretty by-the-numbers: Ben and Johnny bicker, and Reed antagonizes about one of the things he usually antagonizes about, appropriately in this case, his wife and his difficulty in turning Ben back into a human being. His concerns over his wife are quickly brushed to the side with the excuse that “it’s still too early”. Early for what? We don’t know, but it isn’t much later before we see two doctors puzzling over an enlarged x-ray scan of Sue’s child and expressing some concern over what’s going on inside her.

Fantastic Four Issue Seventy-Eight 78

A progressively more dramatic transformation of The Thing into Ben from the last time.

But apparently that’s not so important. What Reed’s really concerned with is his oft deferred quest to change The Thing into Ben Grimm. Which, this issue, he actually accomplishes! …Just as The (Wingless) Wizard dashes into the room and attacks them!

The Wizard’s short lead-in is handled very dramatically. Kirby uses a higher proportion of quarter-page panels and their size complements the Wizard’s stature, giving him a physical dominance for most of the scenes he appears in. He has two shiny new gloves that he’s quite pleased with and he decides to head on over to the Baxter Building to try them out.

Fantastic Four Issue Seventy-Eight 78

It would have been great to end the conflict with this decisive, sentence-sundering K.O., but there were obviously more pages to fill.

He is unsuccessful, of course, but the quick sparing between The Wizard and Mister Fantastic, in particular, is one of Kirby’s most dynamic, if also one of his most modest. The entire issue takes place in basically one room (or several interchangeably nondescript Baxter Building rooms) but the last half of the issue is full of people, limbs, and energy bolts hurtling towards the reader with a furiously psychedelic intensity. It’s a pure joy to read as Reed goes zipping after his would-(but-never-will-)be nemesis in a particularly vicious manner.

Fantastic Four Issue Seventy-Eight 78Ultimately, it’s Johnny that puts the damped on The Wizard’s ambitions, and he does it by using Reed’s contraptions himself. It’s an inventive wrap-up, and we are treated to a cheery Johnny sitting triumphantly next to a completely blitzed Wizard. It’s a shame he gets away, he should have been carted off to jail.

But in the last three panels, we get the hook for the next issue: Ben Grimm is human, and he must decide if he wants to stay that way, or if he’s going to turn back into The Thing. This is important because if he does decide to turn back, we are told, he will stay that way permanently. We suspect we know what his decision will be, but we are intrigued as to how he’ll get there…


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