89. The Madness of the Moleman

Fantastic four Issue Eight-Nine 89

Issue Eight-Nine, August 1969

“But you live on in hate… blaming others for what’s bugging you! If pity’s your bag, you won’t find it here!

The Fantastic Four fight the Moleman, awkwardly flailing around due to his machine-induced blindness. Eventually they manage to knock his glasses off and destroy his staff, and during the struggle regain their eyesight and defeat the Moleman. Meanwhile, a ship containing at least one Skrull calling himself The Slaver lands on earth looking for a being to put in a contest.

Although this issue betrays a couple narrative mis-step, it actually rather works. And in fact, other elements of the story and the art are so strong that it actually makes up for the overall awkwardness.

Fantastic four Issue Eight-Nine 89Which overall awkwardness is, specifically, the Fantastic Four running around, knocking into things and tripping over themselves. It skirts dangerously close to slapstick, in fact. But more than that, it’s repetitive. One by one, the Moleman defeats them and then he seems to just wait around for them to regroup and try again. And they do, and by degrees they manage to take his glasses off of him, blinding him, and then try to snatch and eventually destroy his staff. It’s all rather inelegant, and doesn’t show the FF at their best and most composed, but that’s partly what’s so interesting. The FF are rattled and it starts to show, most strikingly when a frenzied Sue Richards starts clawing at the Moleman’s face, undignified, frightened.

Reed also take a blow and stops breathing. It’s a tense moment, especially as the Moleman is running amok. Luckily, one of Reed’s blind shots at the wall restores everyone’s sight (yeah…) and it falls to Johnny to end the conflict. And he does so very well. It’s a big moment for him, in fact. Once disarmed, he doesn’t hit or physically incapacitate his enemy, he pulls him up by the front of his shirt and gives him a good talking to. As awful as it is to say, we don’t see superheroes using an absolute minimum of force.Fantastic four Issue Eight-Nine 89The Moleman also has a very human reaction to being defeated — he immediately takes the role of victim. He goes from being in total control of the situation to making petulant emotional pleas, bemoaning a need for justice and restitution before breaking down into a litany of self-pity, repeating that no one understands him. It’s a brilliant deconstruction, and not an inch overplayed (even if the rest of the issue’s dialogue is).

Ben manages to bring Reed back to life, after being dead for a matter of minutes. The last we see of the FF, they are shaken, relieved, as a dispirited Moleman mopes in the corner.


Fantastic four Issue Eight-Nine 89

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