Fantastic Friday: Regarding globules and bathyscopes

Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue 14 is another supervillain team-up… of sorts.

The story begins right where the last issue left off, with the Fantastic Four returning from their trip to the moon. A crowd of fans and reporters are waiting for them and mob them upon arrival. This is the issue’s “the characters show off their powers for a few pages to get new readers up to speed” thing. Reed stretches away from his fan club (Reed has a fan club!?!), Ben tosses a phony wrestler from a promotional scam into a trash can, Sue of course turns invisible to sneak away from the crowd, and Johnny finally does the fly around in a circle and create a vortex thing, using it to get everyone back to headquarters.

Back home, Reed decides to check in on Sue, only to find her using his “experimental roving eye apparatus” to spy on the bottom of the ocean. Reed surmises that Sue is looking for Namor, the Submariner. Cue the angst! Reed mopes because he thinks that, despite all his accomplishments, Sue likes Namor better. Sue meanwhile, mopes because she can’t decide which hunk she likes better. (If these had been published today, would fans have divided into “Team Reed” and “Team Namor” camps? Let’s hope not.)

Elsewhere, a stranger is released from a sanitorium, and immediately starts plotting revenge against the Fantastic Four. It’s revealed to be the Puppet Master. He breaks out the ol’ radioactive clay and starts crafting a puppet of the Submariner, because Subby is the one villain the FF haven’t flat-out defeated yet. At the bottom of the ocean, we catch up with Namor, who is still searching for the lost people of Atlantis. The Puppet Master’s mind control takes over Namor’s body, and here’s where we’re introduced to an ongoing theme in this issue — insanely impossible sea life. He uses a “mento-fish” to send a telepathic message to Sue, asking her to meet him. She goes to the docks, where Namor is waiting for her. He then uses a flying “hypno-fish” to hypnotize Sue. The hypno-fish seals Sue inside a “globule” (I swear I’m not making this up), and Namor takes her to the bottom of the sea.

Puppet Master then commands Namor to send a projection of himself to the other members of the FF, challenging them to try to rescue her. On the way to the rescue, Ben takes a side visit to Alicia, where there’s two pages of comedy bits about a jerk charging Ben way too much to park the Fantasticar in his lot. Alicia fears that if Ben dies, she’ll have no one to be with. To quell her fears, Ben somewhat questionably decides to take Alicia with him on the rescue. Why? Because the plot demands it, I guess.

Reed, Johnny, Ben and Alicia take an “experimental bathyscope” to the bottom of the sea, fighting more crazy sea life on the way, including an undersea porcupine and a giant “scavenger clam.” They reach Namor, to find Sue still trapped in the globule, and threatened by not just an octopus, but “the mightiest octopus of the seven seas.” Of course a fight breaks out. Namor defeats Johnny using a “ravenous unthinking flame-eater” (we’re supposed to believe that’s a type of sea creature) to douse his fire. Namor then uses a “dagger-needle coral” against Ben. Somehow the coral transforms into a fungus, immobilizing Ben. Reed stretches his arms around Namor as a cage, and, amazingly, this works.

Now free from the fungus, Ben fights the octopus, sending it swimming. Puppet Master is watching all this from his private submarine (where’d he get that?), and decides it’s not enough for Namor to defeat the FF, he must go the distance and kill all four of them. Alicia says she can sense her father nearby, and that’s all the exposition Reed needs to figure out what’s happening. Namor is about to douse our heroes with poison gas, but tries to resist the Puppet Master’s control, thanks to his having the hots for Sue. Puppet Master wins out, though, and Namor fires the gas. The FF survive, thanks to the unbelievably convenient “flex-o-glass packets” Reed just happened to have on him.

The octopus shows up again and smashes up the place. It then turns its attention on the Puppet Master’s sub, grabbing it and dragging it down the depths. This frees Namor from P.M.’s control. Namor demands everyone else leave — everyone but Sue, that is. Sue turns him down, saying she hasn’t yet decided where her heart lies, but for now her loyalty is with Reed.

Unstable Molecule: Reed puts up a good fight against Namor, restraining him for some time. His “flex-o-glass” protects the team from the poison gas.

Fade Out: She gets captured again, and this time doesn’t engineer her own escape.

Clobberin’ Time: Ben fights a giant octopus and a giant octopus, but his biggest achievement in this issue is chewing out that overcharging parking lot guy.

Flame On: Johnny bends physics all over the place, first with creating a vortex, and then by flying around underwater with his “white flame” protecting him.

Trivia Time: Continuity gets all messed up here. When we last saw Puppet Master, he had fallen out a window, seemingly to his death. Reed in this issue even does the old “I thought it was dead” routine. Did no one check P.M.’s pulse or anything? How did he get in the sanitorium? How’d he get his own submarine? And so on.

Fantastic or Frightful: Not a standout issue, but nothing necessarily wrong with it, either. Basically, it’s an excuse for the FF to duke it out with Namor again, and for Jack Kirby to draw all kinds of crazy undersea monsters. Nothing wrong with that.

Like to read? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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