96. The Mad Thinker and His Androids of Death

Fantastic Four Issue ninety-six 96 cover

Issue Ninety-Six, March 1970

“I must crush you… as I am programmed to do!”

Reed, Sue, and Ben are catching a little R&R in between escapades. Leaving Ben alone to spend some time in the city, he is soon overpowered by an android replica of Johnny. Sue is subdued and replaced, and then Reed. The Mad Thinker invades the Baxter Building as his androids reassemble. One of them reveals himself to be the real Reed Richards, and he manages to waylay the evil androids, wake up Ben, and together they defeat the Thinker, whose plan has been completely thwarted by Reed’s unpredictable defeat of his android duplicate.

The only reason this issue is interesting because it is very nearly the first issue that Johnny is not in. His robot replica is, but we only see the real Johnny’s face through the window of a metal tube, once, on the very last page of the story (I very nearly didn’t tag it, but there he his, inactive and passive).

Fantastic Four Issue ninety-six 96

The Reed Richards shown here is not an android, but what he says — for the benefit of absolutely no one but the readers — is just as the android would talk, and revealing knowledge of a plan that he could only know if he were the android. It shows a lack of narrative responsibility to lie to the readers like this, instead of to make an ambiguous comment. Indeed, why does Reed have to say anything at all?

Come to mention passive, Sue is noticeably ineffectual, as far as the plot goes. All she does is shop, get captured, and then get rescued.

This is the second in a series of standalone issues, which Lee and Kirby are usually pretty good at, cramming an issue fuller than many others would be capable of. But nearly ten years on the title seems to be taking its toll. And although they very recently gave us the spooky issue 94, the invention and reinvention is on a low ebb. Again, the villain is extremely motiveless. That the Thinker wants to get his hands on Reed’s inventions is fair enough, but why? I’m not sure we’ve seen anything that Reed has designed that is a whole lot better than superpowered androids, so where’s the percentage? And his inane second-by-second countdown is very wearing, and his defeat by something unexpected happening is now repetitive.



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2 Responses to 96. The Mad Thinker and His Androids of Death

  1. Albert Steg says:

    I got hooked on FF around issue #109, around the time I figured out you could get a nickel for an empty bottle you scrounged up in Central park — 3 of ’em got you a comic book in those days! One day at a friend’s house I found this issue, #96, and it was like some sort of deep history was being revealed. Even as an 8 year old, that problem with Reed talking like an android felt like a cheat! one thing I think the review misses is the fun Lee/Kirby are having setting the FF in a sort of ‘film noir’ setting — something I felt instinctively was kinda cool before ever seeing a Bogart flick.

    So . . . what’s up with this site? THANK you for these summaries — they’re really letting me re-live my whole FF-mania issue by issue — just enough text/images here to bring it all back. Any plans to move into the #100’s? (I stopped reading around #150 or so). Would enjoy posting more comments on these issues if there was more of a community here – is there anyplace else with a similar mission?

    • The Reader says:

      Thank you for your comment, Albert. When I started reading FF it was in the mid-300s, so you have quite the lead on me! It’s like hearing from a vetran. That’s a very good point about Noir. I missed that aspect, and it’s made me think better of the issue now.

      I’m not aware of anyplace that is doing the same thing I’m doing (which is good as it would have discouraged me from doing the same). I remember there used to be a guy on a comics site that would read every Marvel issue from every month and blog about what the shape of the company was, but I don’t know where that was now. It (understandably) took him quite a while just to get into year two. Let alone moving into the 100s, I fully intend to blog every single issue, but can really only put up about one a week, on average.

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