“Those sinkings were caused by something in a human form… but more powerful than any man could ever… WAIT!“
While on holiday, the male members of the Fantastic Four decide to investigate reports of a sea monster terrorizing the area. Concluding there is nothing around there, they watch a sea show where a silent marine biologist performs some unexpectedly adept feats. Reed asks if he will guide them through the caves underneath. The biologist — who is revealed to the readers to be the sea monster himself — decides that he shall do so, and sabotage their efforts to find his lair. Their ship crippled, Reed and Johnny lose consciousness, leaving it to Ben to save them. He happens to bring them into the cave where the monster is staying and they start fighting when he appears. It is then revealed that he is an alien and has apparently crashed on the planet and was only staying long enough in order to resupply his ship. This done, he flies away.
This is a more light hearted tale, and would be a welcome change of pace were it not for the few frivolous issues that preceded it. Visually, it’s a rather large change from anything that we’ve seen from Kirby so far which is a delight in itself — he can still bring something fresh to the title after almost 100 issues.
However, conceptually it is riddled with problems. That’s not to disparage Lee since Kirby was pulling equal writing duties by this stage. Once again Sue vanishes — not literally, but figuratively. Aside from a few panels at the front end, she plays no part in the story, leaving all the action and the running around and fighting to the men.
What would have happened if Sue had played a greater part in the story? Would she maybe have voiced some misgivings at engaging a mute guide, apart from the obvious inability to communicate very well. She would probably have enough time to wrap them all in a force bubble to prevent Reed and Johnny from drowning, and there’s a remote possibility that she could have intervened before everyone started punching each other for no very good reason.
Who can say. In any case, the real head-scratcher in this one is the alien himself. At the end, all we see him doing is loading water into his ship in garbage bag sized bubbles. He apparently only needs water to ‘breathe’ on the way back to wherever he was on his way to (or so according to Reed). The only question is, why did he spend so long on Earth, and why the elaborate posing as a human via some sort of transformative serum? Why not just refuel and leave? Or if he needed repairs, why not just repair and leave? Once again, we have a villain actually going out of his way to needlessly engage the Fantastic Four in violence when leaving them well enough alone would have led to them achieving their objectives in no time.
The one point of real drama is actually Ben’s frantic rescuing of Reed and Johnny. Ben shows real human vulnerability, panic in this case, or fear, but not so much at the prospect of his own mortality, but at the prospect of losing Johnny and Reed — that even his incredible strength may not be enough to save them.