Fantastic Four 1 by 1 http://www.ff1by1.com Every Issue, One by One Sun, 23 Jul 2017 22:51:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 174. Starquest http://www.ff1by1.com/174/ http://www.ff1by1.com/174/#respond Sun, 23 Jul 2017 22:50:38 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=2036 “Damn Galactus! So, he would consume my Counter-Earth, would he? Use it — as he’s used countless other worlds to quell his cosmic hunger for a passing moment! I must challenge him, then. Challenge him to a fight to the … Continue reading

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Fantastic Four 174 cover

Fantastic Four 174, Sept 1976

Damn Galactus! So, he would consume my Counter-Earth, would he? Use it — as he’s used countless other worlds to quell his cosmic hunger for a passing moment! I must challenge him, then. Challenge him to a fight to the death!

SUMMARY
Sue is left alone with the High Evolutionary, and seeing that the other members of the Fantastic Four are in peril, she uses the teleporter to go and help one group. However, she inadvertently sends herself to the third, seemingly barren planet where she makes a shocking discovery. Meanwhile, Reed and Ben are on the robot planet of Mekka, being held prisoner. Ben escapes his bonds by slipping out of the robotic Thing suit and during the ensuing fight against Torgo and the other inhabitants of Mecca, Reed throws a master switch which causes all the robots to deactivate. He then turns it back on and Torgo allows the two of them to leave. Meanwhile, Johnny and Gorr are prisoners on a planet with a society almost exactly like medieval Europe. Gorr enters a tournament fight and a dragon breaks out of a cage and is killed. This is revealed to be the true native of the planet and everyone else is a Skrull. The Skrulls leave the planet and Johnny and Gorr wait to get picked back up by the High Evolutionary, but the appointed time comes and goes. Meanwhile, back at Counter-Earth, the High Evolutionary has decided that he must physically defeat Galactus and grows to his size in order to challenge him.

COMMENTARY
This is a true continuation of the disappointing last issue and it has all the flaws of that issue. Once again there is a laborious amount of back story which completely ruins the momentum at the front half of the issue. One possible explanation for this is that Stan Lee once said that every comic book is somebody’s first comic book and so each issue needs to be completely accessible to a new reader, and for a time this was enforced by editorial. And you can see the obvious weaknesses of this idea when you reach issue 3 of a 4-part story, and also a story that is dependent on continuity from other titles in the past.

Certainly one of the most surreal frames to appear in The Fantastic Four. And bear in mind that this is no dream sequence–this is an actual plot moment.

The little side-quests that the FF engage in are almost totally nonsensical. Even in the 70s it’s ridiculous that a planet of robots would have a master control switch just randomly accessible to anyone walking by in the open. It’s not even a metaphor for anything. And there’s no excuse for whatever craziness allows Ben Grimm to just step out of his suit.

And as for Johnny’s mission… I can’t even. It’s a nice twist that the dragon happens to be the actual native inhabitant of the planet, but there’s nothing that comes of that. And the Skrulls just all call it quits after revealing themselves–which no one forced them to do. It makes no sense.

And all of it, all of it, is made pointless by the comic’s last panel, that of the High Evolutionary about to get into a dust-up with Galactus. If the High Evolutionary was just going to wade into a physical conflict, then why go through all the motions of finding an alternate solution? He didn’t even wait to find out how those panned out. Obviously the resolution of the plot is going to hinge on whatever it was that Sue found on her supposedly barren planet and it’s therefore annoying that we aren’t given even the slightest bit of information to go on with that. It’s not tension building, it’s exasperating, because it means that there’s no plot-worth to this issue at all.

Galactus High Evolutionary

EVALUATION: 4/10

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173. Counter-Earth Must Die… At The Hand Of Galactus http://www.ff1by1.com/173-2/ Sat, 08 Apr 2017 01:35:44 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=2026 “My reasoning was simple, apeling. It is whole worlds I must devour, one life is worth nothing to me. To one who hungers mightily, what good is a meagre crumb?“ SUMMARY Ben Grimm confronts Galactus, who announces his intent to consume Counter-Earth. Running out of oxygen, he is … Continue reading

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Fantastic Four 173 cover

Fantastic Four Issue 173, August 1976

“My reasoning was simple, apeling. It is whole worlds I must devour, one life is worth nothing to me. To one who hungers mightily, what good is a meagre crumb?

SUMMARY
Ben Grimm confronts Galactus, who announces his intent to consume Counter-Earth. Running out of oxygen, he is rescued by Reed and drawn back into the artificial asteroid where the High Evolutionary has his base. Reed negotiates with Galactus–if he can find a substitute planet where every being is willing to sacrifice themselves in place of Counter-Earth, Galactus will consume that planet instead. Three contenders are found and the Fantastic Four split up. Ben and Reed go to Mekka, a robot planet, where Torgo (introduced in issue 93) lives. They quickly discover that the planet will not sacrifice itself and are prevented leaving in case they disclose the planet’s location to Galactus anyway. Johnny and Gorr arrive at a planet which bears a striking relationship to Earth’s Medieval period and, while trying to rescue a princess from a dragon, are both hit from behind and captured.

COMMENTARY
Fantastic Four 173 GalactusThe opening pages of this story promised an exciting change-over: Roy Thomas back as full writer, and fan favourite John Buscema back on as artist. And, yes, that’s Jack Kirby illustrating the cover as well.

Alas.

Although there are two bright spots in the tale’s narrative, there is no inspiration. Nine of the nineteen pages of this issue–almost half–are devoted to rehashing the story so far, whether that be of recent issues of the FF, other of Galactus’s recent appearances, or the past history of Counter-Earth and Galactus. Even at the time this story was written–a time where back issues or histories were not as universally available as they are now–this is way overdone. The plot is at a dead standstill for the first half of this issue and the second half is concerned with an obvious fool’s mission to find a planet just as life-inhabited as Earth where every sentient creature is willing to die in place of a previously unknown planet. Halfway through his mission, Reed “smartest man on the planet” Richards admits that he hadn’t really thought the whole thing through. Sue gets sidelined again, when Reed, literally, pulls rank on her.

Ultimately it’s an issue of little consequence. It’s nice to see Torgo again, but he doesn’t add much to the narrative. Galactus’s lore is not expanded upon, despite his lengthy dialogue, except that he now can speak telepathically with anyone. This serves no purpose except as an expedient to allow everyone to talk in space.

EVALUATION: 4/10

Reed Richards – genius, jack ass.

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172. Cry, The Bedeviled Planet http://www.ff1by1.com/172/ Sat, 25 Mar 2017 20:16:54 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=2012 “He’s here! I can hear his voice inside my head! Galactus!“ Summary The Fantastic Four are interrogating Gorr, the Golden Gorilla. As revealed last issue, he has come to warn them about Galactus’s imminent arrival. Gorr escapes and steals the … Continue reading

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Fantastic Four 172 cover

Issue One Hundred and Seventy-Two, July 1976

“He’s here! I can hear his voice inside my head! Galactus!

Summary
The Fantastic Four are interrogating Gorr, the Golden Gorilla. As revealed last issue, he has come to warn them about Galactus’s imminent arrival. Gorr escapes and steals the Fantasticar, taking it back to his landed spaceship. The FF pursue him, following him into the ship, which suddenly takes off. Now in space, Gorr confronts them, disclosing that he intended to trap them and bring them to Counter-Earth, which is Galactus’s truly intended target.

Commentary
Another confused and frankly uninspired issue. Not that there isn’t anything to enjoy. George Perez is a very able illustrator–he is able to make a very ridiculous character, Gorr, seem realistic and even menacing. He has also provided us with two very compelling double-page spreads. John Buscema’s name is intricately linked with this title, but Perez’s deserves equal recognition for his energy and dynamism–and likely would have if he hadn’t developed into an even more astounding artist into the years to come. Sue Storm also has a moment of protective aggression when Reed is threatened which is exciting and it’s a shame that these moments are so infrequent.Fantastic Four 172 Sue Storm

But there’s no getting around the issue that a great deal of this issue is recycled. Far beyond the fact that there is a full page recap of the last issue, as well as a three-page history of the High Evolutionary and the Counter-Earth, this is the third time that Galactus has appeared in the Fantastic Four since his introduction, and even his herald is a recycled character from Thor. Gorr stealing the Fantastic is an idea that was last seen only two issues ago–an event so strikingly unoriginal that even one of the characters in the story comments on it.

This is what the writing trade calls “Hanging a Lantern On It”.

The only truly original aspect of the story isn’t even that great. Why should Gorr have to trick the FF into helping? Why wouldn’t they do that anyway. It could be argued that Gorr, humanised as he has been, is still an animal at his genetic heart, his erratic actions in no way compel any main character into interesting or revealing action. It just makes them look like putzes.

Evaluation: 5/10

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171. Death is a Golden Gorilla http://www.ff1by1.com/171/ Sat, 21 Jan 2017 03:27:01 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=2000 “Anyway, I’m sure the police can handle that overgrown ape, soon as they can get some heavier guns. At least — I hope they can!” SUMMARY The Fantastic Four are training in the Baxter Building. Ben and Reed are testing … Continue reading

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Fantastic Four 171 cover

Issue One Hundred and Seventy-One, June 1976

“Anyway, I’m sure the police can handle that overgrown ape, soon as they can get some heavier guns. At least — I hope they can!”

SUMMARY
The Fantastic Four are training in the Baxter Building. Ben and Reed are testing out the exo-suit that Reed designed, and Sue is practising her ability to use multiple invisible shields at the same time. Ben exhibits frustration at the fact that he is no longer as strong as he used to be and that there are so many other super-strong individuals around. Meanwhile, Johnny is taking Frankie Raye out to the Central Park zoo, when an apparent spacecraft crash lands not too far from them. Inside of it is a golden gorilla that, when released, begins to grow and attack those around him. Johnny begins to confront the beast as the Human Torch, but he backs off when he remembers his vow to give up super-heroics. Now larger than most of the buildings around him, the giant ape spots the Baxter Building and heads for it. As he passes the 38th floor he sees Susan Richards in the window and predictably grabs her, taking her to the roof. The rest of the group engages the beast, attempting to free her, although she manages to free herself in time. Johnny arrives, realising that he can’t stay away if his family is in danger, and with a combination of his and Sue’s powers, they manage to calm the beast which also has the effect of shrinking him. Now at normal size, Reed studies the strange simian, who awakes and tells them his name is Gorr and that he has come to warn them about Galactus.

COMMENTARY
The publishers of DC Comics once noticed that any time there was a gorilla on the cover of a comic–or if the main character was crying on it–then the sales for that issue spiked. Pressure was then put on writers and artists to create stories that contained one of these two elements. In this case however, it’s more probable that the staff at Marvel were attempting to cash in on the anticipated release of Dino De Laurentiis’ King Kong (1976), which was building itself up as THE motion picture event of the decade, the production of which could have turned into as big a tragedy as the story itself depicted.

In any case, this is an exceptionally uninspired issue. Even Roy Thomas’ knack of turning a clever tale from a stock premise fails him here. There seems little point to the conflict at all. It manages to bring a little bit of character from some of the participants of the battle, but not much. Johnny wrestles with his conscience in battling an immediate threat when there’s no reason that he should. We are not on his side and don’t understand his quibbling at leaping into the fray, particularly when it is so out of character for him to back off. Some melodrama is supposed to be had with Frankie Raye, but she comes off as fragile and reactionary in this episode. Ultimately she just wants Johnny to run and hide with her, which doesn’t make her an attractive foil.

Stay gold, monkeyboy. Stay gold.

Sue keeps getting backhanded by the creators of this series. First she is shown in this issue as expanding her powers and abilities, and even hitting back at Ben for his sexual prejudices. But next she is seen in a ridiculous pink apron, berating Reed for not spending time with her. Moments later she is snatched up by the now Kong-sized gorilla and made at once a symbolic plaything as well as a treasure to be recovered. Eventually she frees herself, not needing to be rescued, but ultimately in this issue it’s been one step forward, two steps back, and one step forward again–netting no gain.

And as for the issue’s final twist, it completely trivialises all the action in the issue. If the ape came to warn them and ask their help–what was all the rampaging about? In this issue he managed to do as much destruction to New York as Galactus’ first visit did.

Also, go back in this issue and see how many characters are sweating in it. What’s that about?

EVALUATION: 4/10

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170. A Sky-Full of Fear http://www.ff1by1.com/170/ Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:37:37 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=1989 “Alicia guessed my little secret too late to do you any good! Once I have my little puppet in my hands again! Now, Power Man, now!“ SUMMARY Reed’s surprise is revealed to be a “The Thing” suit which is calibrated specifically … Continue reading

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Fantastic Four 170 cover

Fantastic Four Issue One Hundred and Seventy

“Alicia guessed my little secret too late to do you any good! Once I have my little puppet in my hands again! Now, Power Man, now!

SUMMARY
Reed’s surprise is revealed to be a “The Thing” suit which is calibrated specifically for Ben’s body, and allows him most of the strength that he enjoyed in that form. He puts it on and gives it a quick test. Then they realize that Alicia Masters is missing, and they deduce that she must have figured out who was behind the mind control of Luke Cage. Knowing this, Ben and Reed also deduce who it may be and so they head to the same location in the old Fantasticar. Alicia has gone to “a certain maximum security prison not too far away”, where her step-father, the Puppet Master, is being held. After an investigation by Alicia’s deft fingers, she discovers the hiding place of the special models that he uses to control people. He grabs the statue of Power Man to summon him and he arrives and carries the Puppet Master off in the new Fantasticar, just as Reed and Ben arrive. They fight, and in the course of their battle, the statue of Power Man falls into the ocean, releasing its control over Luke Cage’s mind. As they all fly back home, Ben contemplates his relationship with Alicia and decides that, since he is able to retain his human form, it may be time to propose to her.

COMMENTARY
Thing Suit Fantastic Four 170Even though the plot is told in pretty broad strokes, there are some nice subtle nuances which are coming to characterize Roy Thomas’s run on the title. That said, the complete recreation of Ben’s powers in a suit designed to look exactly like his old form is outright implausible, especially coming so closely after his reversion. A power suit This seems like such an absurdly useful item, it’s a wonder that Reed hasn’t made more of them–not exactly mass produced them, but made more than one, at least. It’s an outlandish solution to a problem that didn’t need to exist in the first place. There are so many character opportunities for Grimm outside of the FF, and so many opportunities to see his replacement(s) inside the FF, this immediate backtrack feels unsatisfying. And that’s not to mention the tension that we’ve lost with a lot of Ben’s character and his internal character now that he can have super-powers and be a normal person at the same time.

Classic Luke Cage

Classic Luke Cage

Fantastic Four 170That said, in the last page we see him having a very real internal struggle where he questions his relationship with Alicia following the conflict she just faced with her father. This is definitely a character development that we want to see pay off, and why wouldn’t it? Reed and Sue famously courted and got married within the pages of the Fantastic Four, as did Crystal and Quicksilver.

As for the Puppet Master, it’s nice to see him return to these pages, and it is natural that he would plot this kind of escape, even if it doesn’t make sense that he would know that Power Man would be able to help him–if Ben didn’t work, why not choose Johnny?

On balance, the good outweighs the bad and this is an enjoyable issue.

EVALUATION: 7/10

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169. Five Characters in Search of a Madman http://www.ff1by1.com/169/ Tue, 01 Mar 2016 20:49:06 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=1977 Fantastic Four 169 Perhaps an unusual number of FF comics start in bars, but the difference with this one story is that it is six pages before a super-powered person shows up. Continue reading

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Fantastic Four 169 cover

Fantastic Four 169, April 1976

“Somethin’–somebody in my head! Grabbin’ hold of my brain–hard! Gotta–fight back! Gotta–got– to– got to kill! KILL!

SUMMARY
Ben Grimm is wallowing in a bar, lamenting the loss of his powers and also the fame that came with them. A lady in red accosts him, leading to a bar fight, which Reed and Johnny break up, intimidating the brawlers with their powers. They bring Ben back to the Baxter Building where Luke Cage has been talking to Susan, Alicia, and Franklin. Suddenly, Luke experiences some sort of mind control and he turns on the women, who fight him back just as the rest of the Fantastic Four arrive. They attempt to restrain Luke, but he escapes, heading towards Reed’s lab where he starts trashing the place. The FF chase after him and he escapes in the Fantasticar, referring to an unfinished mission which even he doesn’t know the object of. Back in the Baxter Building, Reed unveils a secret project in an armored room, which he reveals to Ben contains–The Thing!Ben Grimm Human

COMMENTARY
This is another nice break in pace from the standard Fantastic Four story. Perhaps an unusual number of FF comics start in bars, but the difference with this one story is that it is six pages before a super-powered person shows up. Rich Buckler seems to improve with every issue, and here he is able to convey a seediness which is almost Kurtzman-esque in its grotty vitality. A good use is made of flashback panels as Ben, fighting as a human, can’t help but thinking back to all his superpowered fights, which effectively communicate the feeling of loss of his powers that he feels to us, the readers.Luke Cage Susan Sue Storm Richards

There is also a nice scene with Power Man and Sue playfully teasing each other. Their light humour very nicely counteracts the serious and conflicted scenes we’ve just seen, and it’s rare how often we see team members getting along with each other.

And it just makes the development of that scene more tragic as Luke loses control and starts tearing up the place. And as for the reveal, it’s certainly a twist that makes us want to read the next issue. Even if it does mean that Luke’s tenure is going to be cut short. He’s an interesting character and has already added a new dynamic to the team, even as he fills the same space that Ben does. He deserves a longer shake on the team.

EVALUATION: 7/10

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168. Where Have All The Powers Gone? http://www.ff1by1.com/168/ Wed, 23 Sep 2015 16:11:55 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=1961 “It’s that Luke Cage guy — Power Man!” SUMMARY Johnny flies into the Baxter Building and demands a leave of absence, he is thinking about quitting the Fantastic Four. Reed convinces him to stay by reminding him that they are … Continue reading

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Fantastic Four 168 cover

Issue One Hundred and Sixty-Eight, March 1976

“It’s that Luke Cage guy — Power Man!”

SUMMARY
Johnny flies into the Baxter Building and demands a leave of absence, he is thinking about quitting the Fantastic Four. Reed convinces him to stay by reminding him that they are down a member, now that Ben has reverted back to human form again. Out on the streets, Ben is with Alicia but finding adjustments hard. He is not recognized wherever he goes, and it is hard even to get back into the Baxter Building. Once he does, he finds that the team is auditioning a new member — Luke Cage, Power Man. Cage is given Ben’s place on the team on the spot, just as a television interview that Ben conducted is being broadcast. The interview is a character assassination, intended to show him in the worst light possible. Becoming aware that someone is breaking into a bank, the FF and Power Man take off to stop him in the Fantasticar, along with an angry and powerless Ben Grimm. This turns out to be The Wrecker, who Grimm attempts to subdue. He needs to rescue by the rest of the team, ignominiously being caught by Power Man himself when The Wrecker throws him off a building. Power Man manages to defeat The Wrecker and a disconsolate and powerless Ben Grimm walks off into the distance.

COMMENTARY
There is a potential depth to the story in this issue, which is never really fully explored. Readers are left to pretty much fill in the blanks themselves for any sort of character dimension. What is actually shown on the page lacks any real depth. The fact that Ben Grimm finds that he is unhappy in his human form — which he has been lamenting the loss of for pretty much the last 167 issues — is plausible. But coming so quickly, not just in mere panels of the comic, but in probably just a day or so of story-time, it makes Grimm seem less pathetic and more petulant and whiny. His feelings are like those of a three-year-old; powerful but capricious. We just needed more time with him to feel all that he was feeling, we needed a better situation than not being asked for an autograph to set off his melancholy. More than that, it would have been nice to open with him actually enjoying being a human again, in some respect, to give some contrast to the negative emotion about to come.Fantastic Four 168 Power Man

And if Ben is fickle the rest of the Fantastic Four are just as off-hand with him. Even after the incident where he walks into the training room and almost gets killed — which is a good, realistic moment — they are unusually insensitive to his feelings about replacing him. They basically rub it into his face, as if Ben was less a family member, less a team member, but rather a girl they once dated who they want to score points against by showing that they’ve found someone else. Which isn’t to say that this isn’t how they might feel in that situation. Perhaps the rest of the FF would feel abandoned by Grimm regaining his humanity and the strongest member of the FF not able to stand with them any more again Dr Doom and any other threat… but would they all react in the same way? Would Sue react like Reed, or Reed like Johnny?Fantastic Four 168 Power Man

This was the problem for superhero comics for so long, and it’s still something that’s in the back of people’s minds and which prevents many one-time readers from returning: emotional intensity is sold up the river in favor of showing someone hitting something so hard that it explodes. If this issue was just focussed on Grimm’s emotions and his team members’ reactions towards him, no one would have felt short-changed.

Which brings us to Power Man, who is actually the only character in the issue with anything approaching nuance. His role seems well thought through — he is aware of the awkwardness of his situation, but he is also determined to play the role given to him.

EVALUATION: 6/10

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167. Titans Two http://www.ff1by1.com/167/ Wed, 29 Apr 2015 21:24:06 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=1955 “No! Hulk sees what you are trying to do! You are trying to rob Hulk — of Hulk’s one new friend — and Hulk won’t let you!” SUMMARY The Thing and The Hulk break out of the military installation and … Continue reading

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Fantastic Four 167 cover

Issue One Hundred and Sixty-Seven, Feb 1976

No! Hulk sees what you are trying to do! You are trying to rob Hulk — of Hulk’s one new friend — and Hulk won’t let you!”

SUMMARY
The Thing and The Hulk break out of the military installation and take one of the aircrafts which Ben pilots to Missouri. They set down there so that the Hulk can sit on the Gateway Arch. Already, however, the army has found them and Ben tries to prevent the Hulk from attacking them. The rest of the Fantastic Four arrive and as the Hulk is attacking them, Ben has a change of heart and turns on the Hulk. As the Hulk is beating him, The Thing starts to change, back into his human form, and he falls off the Gateway Arch. He is caught and lands safely, now thrilled, Ben and the FF leave.

COMMENTARY
This is now the fourth of the Hulk/Thing match-ups (previous bouts were issue 12, issues 25 & 26, and issues 111-113), and the spin on the concept plays off well, even if it never fully develops. It would have been nice to see a little more development in Ben and Hulk’s relationship, but on the other hand, there is something very true in there not being any developments. That is to say, in Ben suddenly realizing after he has committed to running away with this stranger, that they have very little in common once the pressure of circumstances is no longer on them. And if the relationship between them is not exactly homoerotic, even if Ben does refer to himself and “green-skin” as “an item”, it certainly parallels an intense but brief romantic entanglement.167hammerin

There are some quiet but strong character touches taking place with Sue, who has still seen her powers increase lately, and who is shown withstanding the assault of both Ben and the Hulk, rescuing herself from a crashed aircraft, and then virtually walking on water. It’s nice to see her not only being engaged in the story, but showing some power at the same time. And Ben slowly coming back around very nicely compliments his reversal in the previous issue — and this is made all the more poignant when it is shown that Hulk really is stronger than Grimm, he has always been stronger, and Grimm and the FF know it even if the rest of the world don’t. To step in front of him is basically to sacrifice himself.

167punyThe weak link in this issue, which really should have been stronger, is the Hulk. Ultimately, all that he wants is just to sit on a bridge, which, however humble the aim, is pretty pointless. If Hulk had to reach someone, or stop something, or get to a certain point at a certain time (for whatever reason), then that could have carried the story a little further and actually made us feel for him at the same time. As it is, we don’t really care that he jumps off into the blue void at the end of the issue.

And neither does anyone else, apparently. Once again, the FF have let a violent threat flee the scene of a crime and walked off calling it a win. Why, oh why, after pursuing the Hulk to Missouri from Nebraska, do they not pursue him to the next state as well?

EVALUATION: 6/10

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166. If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be The Hulk http://www.ff1by1.com/166/ Mon, 27 Apr 2015 17:30:34 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=1951 “Why do you four have all this sentiment about a monster that tried to kill you?” SUMMARY The Fantastic Four travel to Nebraska on a mission from the U.S. Government to capture the Hulk. To this effect, Reed has brought … Continue reading

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Fantastic Four 166 cover

Issue One Hundred and Sixty-Six, Jan 1976

“Why do you four have all this sentiment about a monster that tried to kill you?”

SUMMARY
The Fantastic Four travel to Nebraska on a mission from the U.S. Government to capture the Hulk. To this effect, Reed has brought a miniaturized psi-amplifier. On the way, their plane is hit by the Hulk and they are forced to make a crash landing. Briefed by Colonel Sellers, the FF gain his assurance that he intends to turn the Hulk over to them once he has reverted back to Bruce Banner. The FF find the Hulk by tracking his gamma radioactivity and render him unconscious fairly quickly. In the military lab, Reed manages to revert the Hulk back to Banner, but when Colonel Sellers reveals that he doesn’t intend to give Banner to the FF, The Thing frees him. This changes Banner back to the Hulk, but instead of recapturing him, The Thing says that he’s going to fight with the Hulk for his freedom.

COMMENTARY
Hulk vs Fantastic Four George PerezThis is a low-key issue with some up-front annoying elements, but also some quiet, deft touches. The annoyances are easily stated — neither Perez nor Thomas are, superficially, up to their best. The faces never quite fit on the heads, art-wise, and the pages are absolutely filled with needless narration boxes that don’t inform, that just add noise and clutter.

However: the story is very well paced and there is great flow between the panels and the pages — something that is hard to do, something that is often only noticed when it’s done badly. From a story point of view, it’s nice to see the FF (or any superhero) use their powers for something other than violence. And when they do actually fight the Hulk they do it very quickly, very methodically, and with no joy. In fact, this joylessness is important to the story, being one of several plot points that add to Ben Grimm’s reversal on the last page of the issue — a reversal which actually makes sense. This unexpected inevitability is quite hard to pull off, but it’s done very subtly and very well here.

EVALUATION: 7/10

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165. The Light of Other Worlds http://www.ff1by1.com/165/ Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:47:14 +0000 http://www.ff1by1.com/?p=1944 “Amazing! That Horace Grayson should be alive on another world — and requesting a loan–!“ SUMMARY After last issue’s attack on a private citizen, who turns out to be the president of Franklin Pierce/Grover Cleveland National Bank, Reed finds out that Crusader … Continue reading

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Issue One Hundred and Sixty-Five, Dec. 1975

Issue One Hundred and Sixty-Five, Dec. 1975

Amazing! That Horace Grayson should be alive on another world — and requesting a loan–!

SUMMARY
After last issue’s attack on a private citizen, who turns out to be the president of Franklin Pierce/Grover Cleveland National Bank, Reed finds out that Crusader has something to do with a man called Horace Grayson. In the following weeks, Crusader makes more attacks, all on the same bank. The FF almost always keep missing Crusader, who attacks quickly and leaves abruptly. But they arrive in time to interfere in an attack at a bank in the Bronx. We find that Crusader is waging a vendetta against the bank because it refused his father a loan and thereby indirectly caused the civilisation on Uranus, where he was then living, to be destroyed. Crusader tries to lure the FF outside but Reed, surmising that Crusader’s powers are solar-based, manufactures cloud cover to deprive him of these. This is then raised when Crusader turns the power intake of his solar gauntlets up. The resulting overload apparently destroys Crusader, leaving just the power gauntlets behind.

COMMENTARY

George Perez displays a very accomplished Marvel Style, already bringing a higher level of detail to his work.

George Perez displays a very accomplished Marvel Style, already bringing a higher level of detail to his work.

Rather an odd issue. The Crusader promises quite a lot as a character, but there’s definitely something to be said for not overusing a character, and for creating a story that’s fast and rather ruthless, plot-wise. Despite what is said in the dialogue of the first few pages, Calvin McClary certainly died. And reading on it is alluded to that Crusader is killing others — he definitely isn’t one to be satisfied with just hurting people.

The reason for why he’s killing all these people is a little ropey. The back-story of a father taking his infant son to Uranus to flee the rise of the Nazis, while certainly an over-reaction, was already established, but what is continued here is the revelation that, at one point, the oddly humanoid society on Uranus became jeopordised to the point where they needed medicine from Earth. And for some reason, Marvel Boy (as Crusader was then known) did not apply for aid from any government, as he might, but went the route of a personal bank loan. When Marvel Boy got back to Uranus, he found that society had collapsed, a war had broken out, and the protective dome was damaged enough to wipe everyone out. Clearly, the bank that had refused to lend another planet money was to blame, and Marvel Boy began his crusade as Crusader.

It’s an odd little tale. It has so much energy, and it’s such a different thing to do with a character, to make a former hero a villain is not exceptionally rare, but to make him a villain and to keep him in the same uniform that he was a hero it… that is exceptionally rare, and effective. And the unfeasible bank vengeance angle could easily have been made good if it was just widened in scope to encompass absolutely anyone that had anything to do with Marvel Boy’s frustrations.165father

It’s a very different story for the Fantastic Four, and I think there is another reason for that. Marvel was a company that would quite shamefacedly use a character just for an issue or two in order to keep the copyright renewed on them, and I would lay odds (despite the very final tone of Crusader’s denouement) that this is what has happened in this case — but to good effect. Crusader was a character who was destined to burn brightly, and to burn fast.

 EVALUATION: 6/10

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