Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. After spending the last two issues outsmarting Dr. Doom, the FF take on a more physical threat in issue #18, a baddie with souped-up superpowers.
The issue begins with the FF sitting around watching television. (Excitement!) A newscaster talks about the team’s recent defeat of Dr. Doom. Just before showing Ben on the air, the show cuts to a commercial for dog food. Ben is upset, asking “What’ll I tell my public?” Again, here is another example of Ben accepting the fact that he’s a monster, wanting the celebrity his teammates have, instead of hiding himself away from others as he did in early issues. Reed announces that he and Sue are going on a “date” to Hawaii – with the team’s personal long-range passenger missile, they can get there in only 30 minutes. Johnny also has plans, using the Fantasticar to joyride through Central Park.
What our heroes don’t know is that they’re being watched. Back at the skrull homeworld, which we’re told is in the “fifth quadrant of the Andromeda Galaxy,” the skrull leader, referred to only as “Supreme Majesty,” demands revenge against the Fantastic Four after the FF prevented the skrull invasion a while back. He’s then introduced the Super Skrull, the finest example of skrull science and engineering. The big shocker is that the Super Skrull has all the powers of the Fantastic Four combined. This issue’s version of the “characters-spend-a-few-pages-showing-off-their-powers” thing is subverted in that it’s one other person showing off their powers.
A week later, the FF are out shopping (why not?) and are busy avoiding their adoring fans. They get news that an alien spaceship has landed, and they rush off to the scene. The Super Skrull has landed in Times Square (there’s only one billboard, and it reads “Cola”) and he says he’s there to claim the Earth on behalf of the skrull empire.
This next part is easy to summarize: Everybody fights! The Super Skrull uses Johnny and Reed’s powers against them, in ways they never imagined. He also uses the skrulls’ shape-changing powers to turn his head into a huge battering ram to take out the Thing. After round two with Johnny, the FF retreats. Back at headquarters, Reed does the science thing, and determines that no creature can be that powerful. He further deduces that the Super Skrull gets his powers from “ultra-sonic power rays” from space. Reed invents a miniature jammer that will block the Super Skrull’s powers.
More fighting! The FF confronts the Super Skrull on a deserted island, teaming up to fight him all at once instead of one at a time. The Super Skrull surprises them with an additional power, super hypnotism! Sue invisibly places the jammer on the Super Skrull, robbing him of his powers. He tries to catch her, only to fall into a dormant volcano crater. Get this: Johnny seals up the crater and then the FF just leaves him there! “By the time he gets outta there, he’ll be too old to menace anyone again,” Johnny says.
Unstable Molecule: Reed puts up a good fight against the Super Skrull, but gets his arm severly hurt in the fight. Being Reed, he turns to science to defeat his enemy.
Fade Out: Picking up where Reed left off, Sue then saves the day with her invisibility, and she doesn’t get taken captive this time.
Clobberin’ Time: Ben enjoys, or at least tries to enjoy, his celebrity status as a member of the team, rather than sulking about being a monster.
Flame On: Johnny fights the Super Skrull three times, and gets beaten each time. So, maybe it’s not that out-of-character that he’d leave the skrull sealed in a crater.
Trivia Time: The skrulls were last seen in issue #2, referenced in this issue. It’s the first appearance of the Super Skrull, who’ll go on to have a somewhat convoluted history, including the fact that there’s not just one Super Skrull, but several. Another is Prince Xavin, who later joins the Runaways.
This one features three modes of FF transport in a single issue. There’s the Fantasticar, the passenger missile, and the pogo plane. I wonder how they decide which one to use when?
Fantastic or Frightful: The Super Skrull doesn’t have a lot of personality, but he puts up a good fight, so much that our heroes don’t know what to make of him. Kirby’s excellent art carries the issue through the “all-they-do-is-fight” story.
Next week: Walk like an Egyptian!
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.