Fantastic Friday: Breaking away

Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #59 finds us in the middle of a multi-part tale, with a major turning point for supporting characters the Inhumans.


We begin as we often do, in Reed’s lab, where Reed is vlogging! He’s broadcasting a message to the whole world, telling feuding nations to set aside their differences, because Dr. Doom is too great a threat now that he’s stolen the Silver Surfer’s powers. Then, Reed meets with the “allied chiefs of staff” (basically a bunch of army guys) who don’t think Doom is a threat because he rules a “postage stamp kingdom,” so Reed declares that the FF will deal with Doom by themselves. After hanging up, Reed says he feels helpless despite his power and intellect, and Ben starts a fight with him. After exchanging a few blows, Reed sets off to work on a solution, and Ben reveals to Sue that he started the fight to help Reed get out of his doldrums.


We go from there to the Kremlin, where jets are launched to attack Latveria, Doom’s country. (I didn’t know the Russians kept their jets inside the Kremlin building.) Upon arrival in Latveria, the jets are destroyed in a corrosive cloud, created by Doom’s new cosmic powers. Doom still has the Silver Surfer trapped inside his castle. The Surfer tries to fight back, but he’s so weak he can barely stand. Doom speechifies like you wouldn’t believe, saying, “I must prepare the helpless humanity for the coming of… doomsday!” (If this were a movie, that would be the trailer shot.)


At the Baxter Building, Reed is hard at work and doesn’t want to be disturbed, until Sue tells him they’ve received a message from Wyatt Wingfoot, concerned about Johnny. (The message comes via another of Reed’s inventions, the “Communi-tel,” which is basically Skype. Reed invented Skype!) Wyatt says Johnny believes it’s up to him to stop Doom, so he’s out practicing flying as fast as he can. He tests his newfound speed by buzzing past some National Guard soldiers. Wyatt urges Johnny not to take on Doom himself, but Johnny won’t have it. He then says that once Doom is dealt with, he can get back to his quest to free the Inhumans from their trapped city. (It’s never specified where they are, or why Lockjaw is not with them. The last time we Lockjaw, the big teleporting dog was on the roof of the Baxter Building.)


On cue, we go from there to the Inhumans’ city, still trapped under that big dome. Black Bolt flies over the rooftops, and we get a rare glimpse of Inhuman commoners marveling at him. With a gesture, the silent Black Bolt commands his people to seek shelter. Once the city’s population has left the streets, Maximus appears and urges Black Bolt not to do what he’s about to do. In a show of brotherly compassion, Black Bolt protects his evil brother. Then — are you ready for this? — Black Bolt speaks. Now we know why he never talks, because one syllable of his voice is enough to level buildings. After two pages of sweet Jack Kirby destruction, Black Bolt succeeds, and the dome over the city is destroyed. The Inhumans have their freedom.


Meanwhile, Dr. Doom is being a total dick! Flying around on the Silver Surfer’s board, he uses his powers to make a city live in perpetual night, he covers a tropical seaside town in snow, and he transforms a perfectly innocent gorilla into a giant monster for absolutely no reason. Back in Reed’s lab, Reed has invented a tiny mechanical bat. He tries it out on Ben, knocking Ben off his feet and angering him. Another fight breaks out, but Reed stops it this time, saying his device worked as predicted. It can knock Doom out for a few seconds, which is sure to outrage him, and this might give the FF a momentary advantage.


The Inhumans are relieved that they have fresh air and sunlight again, even if a good chunk of their city was destroyed to make that possible. Crystal demands that she be free to leave and find Johnny. Fearing it would be unsafe for her to run off on her own, Black Bolt and the rest of the royal family decide to accompany her. Left to his own devices, Maximus tries to convince the rest of the Inhumans to make him their king again, but they won’t give him the time of day.

The issue ends on pretty much the same cliffhanger as the previous one – Reed frets in his lab, hoping to improve his solution, while Doom flies around all-powerful and everyone wonders what his next move will be.

Unstable molecule: Reed’s genius becomes “tormented genius” in this issue. He manages to hold his own against Ben in a fight, even landing some powerful blows against the big guy.

Fade out: Sue barely appears in this one, doing nothing but sitting back and worrying.

Clobberin’ time: Ben knows just how to push Reed’s buttons, spurring Reed to action. He does some heavy lifting around the lab, as usual.

Flame on: Johnny develops the power to fly at incredible speed, so that he appears only as a flash of light. Johnny and Wyatt’s car in this issue is a Ferrari Dino V-6 Berlinetta Special. Not bad.

Trivia time: So, when we first met Black Bolt, he was described as “mute.” Then, in an attempt to free his people, in issue #54, he screamed when exposed to the power of the absorba-bomb. Are we to assume the absorba-bomb gave him his super-powerful voice, or did he always have it? (If it matters, the Marvel Wikia says he was born with the power, and had to be kept in sound-proof rooms when he was a baby, so there’s that.) After all this time, they still haven’t revealed what Crystal’s powers are.

Fantastic of frightful? If you were reading these things off the newsstand back in the ‘60s, then a little less than two years have passed since the Inhumans were trapped under their dome, and longer than that since Johnny first met Crystal, so the Inhumans’ escape has actually been a long time coming, and is a real highlight of the issue, especially Black Bolt comforting his evil brother before unleashing hell. The FF part of the story spins its wheels, but the Inhuman stuff is great.

Next week: The tide turns.


Want more? 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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