98. Mystery on the Moon

Issue Ninety-Eight, May 1970

“Only seconds left! I’ve got to reach — the machine! I’ve got to!”

The story opens in 1969, the day of the Apollo moon landing. Reed Richards intercepts a Kree transmission which he decodes, reading just one word “tranquility”. Eventually realizing it to refer to the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, he races with Ben and Johnny to the source of the signal, which is an island recently created by a Kree sentry. They battle the gigantic robot who has set in motion a device that will sabotage the moon landing. Defeating him, Reed and Johnny find themselves helpless against the sabotaging machine’s defensive mechanism. Ben arrives and destroys it and carries Reed and Johnny to safety.

The Fantastic Four went to the moon back in Issue 13 (April, 1963) roughly six years before the actual moon landing in 1969. And here were are in 1970, reading a story about an event that took place about six months earlier. On the face of it, it’s a fun little jaunt where nothing really of consequence takes, we get to see the FF involved in current world events. However, it would have been more enjoyable perhaps to see them a little more integrated in it. The launch and landing is just something that happens somewhere else. Why not have the FF work alongside the actual astronauts, or covertly helping them from some danger within the moon’s Blue Area, alongside The Watcher? Instead we get a tale involving a Kree sentry, who is an interesting enough foe, but not really one with much of an aim.

Reed Richards: genius, scientist, misogynist.

It’s become a recurring disappointment, this lack of antagonist motivation. Indeed, there’s little that can be said about it that hasn’t been said about the previous one. It shares all of the same benefits and weaknesses of it. Sue is left ignominiously behind, not even offered a place in the rocketship, foisted off on baby Franklin. The promise that Agatha Harkness offered in being engaged as a child watcher — and in Crystal leaving, presumably, to make way for Sue again — has yet to come good. The only purpose Sue serves in this issue is someone to begin offering Reed some food before she is told to be quiet. Then she abandons herself to hand-wringing while the men zip off, not even telling her where they’re going. Any woman reading this issue would have little doubt about what the creators of it considered her gender to be worth.

As in the previous issue, just about everything rests on Ben’s ability to smash things, and he even makes a surprisingly repetitive escape with unconscious team members Reed and Johnny, although this time from a flaming cave, rather than a watery one.


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