Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #31’s cover promises a surprise character revelation that will shock readers. Let’s see…
The story begins with an earthquake striking New York, and the FF respond by Ben and Johnny wisecracking at each other. Reed says the team must investigate, but Sue is more preoccupied with something she sees in the newspaper. It’s an article about an escaped fugitive. Reed can see that this visibly upsets her, but he chooses not to say anything.
Reed, Ben, and Johnny hop aboard the Fantasticar and head out into the city, where they discover a giant sinkhole in the middle of the city. Johnny tries to fly down into it, but there’s ice blocking his path. Deep underground, we see what the cover has already spoiled, that the Mole Man is behind all this. He says he needs a hostage, and he uses his high-tech gadgets to find just the right person.
Reed, Ben and Johnny return to headquarters and find Sue not there. Another earthquake hits. Using his advanced tech, the Mole Man has sucked another city block down into his underground kingdom. His mindless subjects (still not called “Moloids”) round everyone up. Sue is among the captives. She tries to escape while invisible, but her invisibility does no good against the Moloids, who have lost their sight by spending their entire lives underground. Now that he has Sue, the Mole Man believes the rest of the FF will do as he says.
Not so. The remaining three FFers head back down into the sinkhole in their pogo plane. They maneuver through a whole bunch of death traps, eventually crashing the plane atop one of the sunken buildings. They confront the Mole Man, who has a gun on Sue. Suddenly now his plan works, as Reed, Sue and Johnny agree to follow the Mole Man’s orders as long as he doesn’t hurt Sue.
The Mole Man sends the three heroes back up to the surface, where the Avengers are waiting. Surprise cameos! The Avengers are the same lineup we saw the last time they showed up in these pages – Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Giant-Man, and the Wasp. The Avengers are all ready to attack the Mole Man, so now the FF have to fight back, all to protect Sue. The fight doesn’t last long, before Reed fills the other team in on what’s happening.
Back at headquarters, Iron Man lends Reed some “transistor devices,” courtesy of his “employer,” Tony Stark. Reed then cobbles together a new (and goofy-looking) invention, the transistorized detector. It locks onto Sue’s location, where the Mole Man has her trapped in a crystal cage. Reed then unveils another new gadget, his experimental jet cycle (“with increased jet power!” Reed says).
The Mole Man and the Moloids (that’d be a great band name) fight back, but the FF’s powers are too much for them. Sue is rescued, and Reed reverses the machines, sending the sunken city blocks back up the surface. (Where’s the Avengers during all this?) The Mole Man, though, has rigged everything to explode, which it does. Sue is injured in the explosion as the FF race back to the surface.
Sue is rushed to the hospital, where doctors say she needs a delicate operation, and only one man can perform it. Just when it looks like all is lost, that one man shows up. He’s the fugitive from the newspaper seen earlier and… he’s Sue and Johnny’s long-lost father! He performs the operation, saves Sue’s life, and turns himself in to the police – but not before saying a solemn goodbye to his son and daughter.
Unstable molecule: Reed is all about the inventing dynamo in this one, with a number of crazy devices at his fingertips. His stretching power is enough for him to go head-to-head with Thor (maybe the thunder god was going easy on him).
Fade out: This is the lowest sort of “Sue is a captive who has to be rescued” story, as she does nothing. How much better would it have been to have her escape from that crystal cage on her own?
Clobberin’ Time: Wave upon wave of Moloids are no match for Ben’s fists.
Flame on: Johnny gets his fire snuffed out by some bizarre spores, laid out as one of the Mole Man’s death traps. He later fights back by flying in rings around the Mole Man’s deadly zeta rays.
Trivia time: In his first appearance, the Mole Man was found on a remote island. He was last seen in issue 21, just outside of New York, and now he’s moved right under the city. His fate at the end of the issue remains unknown.
Reed makes a reference to Iron Man being Tony Stark’s bodyguard. There’s no caption telling us what Iron Man’s real deal is with Tony Stark. Instead, writer Stan Lee trusts the readers to already know that, or to run out and pick up an issue of Iron Man to see for themselves.
We’ll learn more about Sue and Johnny’s dad in the next issue.
Fantastic or frightful? The basic superhero adventure part of the story is full of plot hole goofiness, but the addition of daddy Storm provides some new opportunities for character development.
Next week: Who’s invincible?
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