Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Before there were crossovers, there were team-ups. Issue number six brings us the first villain team-up in the FF’s history, with the baddies we just met in the previous two issues
Once again, the first couple of pages are an excuse for the four heroes to show off their powers. The Human Torch and the Invisible Girl are hurrying to get to the team’s skyscraper headquarters. (Still not called the BaxterBuilding – it’s just “headquarters.”) Sue uses the electric doo-hickey on her belt to call for the FF’s private elevator, as we get another of Jack Kirby’s cutaway drawings of the skyscraper. This one features, among other things, a “long range passenger missile, able to reach any place on Earth in minutes.”
Why were Sue and Johnny in such a hurry to get back to base? Reed’s called them there to – get this – answer all their fan mail. Reed stretches across the street to an adjoining skyscraper to say hi to a young fan, while Ben bends some steel as his response to a jokey letter from the Yancy Street Gang.
Meanwhile, out at sea, the Namor the Submariner is playfully swimming with some dolphins (he doesn’t seem too heartbroken about the whole “losing my kingdom” thing), when he’s approached by Doctor Doom, flying an “aerosub,” a combo of an airplane and a submarine. Doom catches Subby’s attention, and they retire to the bottom of the sea to talk. Doom gives a big speech about how the surface world’s nuclear testing is what destroyed Atlantis. Doom calls for revenge, and Subby buys it, despite a photo of Sue on display in his home (where’d he get that?). Doom then introduces his new invention, a magnetic “grabber,” which can lift thousands of times its own weight.
There’s a bit of business with Namor flying around and walking down a New York street before we go back to FF headquarters where Johnny discovers Sue has a photo of Namor hidden away (where’d she get that?). On cue, Namor shows up, saying he got inside through an open window. So much for all that high tech security. Despite Ben and Johnny’s protestations, Namor says he’s only there to talk. He says he’s “on a holiday” and just wants to take Sue on a date. Before we can process that, Doom’s “grabber” grabs the entire building and lifts it up into the sky.
Aboard his plane, Doom tows the skyscraper into space. Thanks to some fishbowl helmets, the FF and Namor are able to breathe in space. The next few pages are all about the characters trying to get out of the building and attempting to reach Doom’s plane. Johnny’s flame snuffs out in the vacuum of space and Reed can’t stretch that far. Doom threatens to toss the building into the sun, but Namor won’t have it. (If Doom’s plan is to suck the FF’s headquarters into space, what does he need Namor for? A distraction?)
With an epic three-panel leap through space, Namor shouts, “Go! Go! Go!” and he reaches Doom’s ship. Doom tries to electrify Namor, but Namor absorbs and returns the charge (“like an electric eel,” he says), blasting Doom into space. Doom grabs hold of a passing meteor and escapes. Namor uses Doom’s ship to return the skyscraper back where it belongs. We’re told that New Yorkers who see this believe it is, “a hallucination resulting from the anxieties that plague our nuclear society.”
Namor buries the grabber and Doom’s plane at the bottom of the ocean, and… that’s that for this issue.
Unstable Molecule: Reed can stretch across buildings in New York, but not from headquarters to Doom’s plane. Because… space?
Fade out: While everyone else wants to deck Namor, Sue pleads for them to give him a second chance. She totally wants him.
Clobberin’ Time: Every time Ben starts to fight Namor, someone, usually Reed, stops him. Then, he does nothing during the space adventure.
Flame on: First, Johnny burns a hole in the floor beneath Namor, forgetting he can fly. Then he forgets that flame doesn’t work in the vacuum of space. When he did get so forgetful?
Trivia time: Doom would later headline his own series, simply called Super-Villain Team-up. You can see the precedent for that series starting in this issue.
I believe this is our first reference to the Yancy Street Gang, the rarely seen but often mentioned hoodlums from Ben’s old neighborhood who delight in pulling pranks on him.
Fantastic or Frightful: Villain team-ups are often criticized, in that they tend to dilute the characterization of each one. In this issue, it’s the FF heroes who are diluted, turned into bit players as Doom and Namor duke it out. The four heroes are ineffectual, failing at everything they try. Tim Story must love this issue!
On the plus side, Jack Kirby’s art is exceptional in this one. There’s a stellar bird’s eye view drawing of the skyscraper being lifted into space, looking down on Manhattan. It takes your breath away. The undersea scenes also give Kirby a chance to shine, with all kinds of crazy creatures and designs.
The issue sets itself up for being something huge and epic, but it doesn’t quite get there.
Next week: More outer space fun, with a guy who looks like he could be a Dick Tracy villain.
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