Fantastic Friday: The issue about nothing

Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. This week, it’s the historic issue #90, in which… nothing happens.

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After all that business with the Mole Man ended last issue, you’d think that the plotline about the mysterious subterranean house would be over, but no. Our heroes are still hanging out in the weird underground house. Reed and Sue reconcile over his almost dying in the fight with the Mole Man, and there’s some exposition reminding us they have a baby at home. Then, the house is rocked by an earthquake.

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But, wait, it’s not an earthquake — Ben is tearing up machines the Mole Man left behind. The machine is booby-trapped, giving Johnny a nasty shock when he joins Ben. Ben and Johnny confront the Mole Man, who is tied up (!) as the FF’s prisoner. We then spend a couple of pages with the FF trying to get the Mole Man to talk, only to have him make a run for it. Even without his high-tech staff and blinded without his special goggles, the Mole Man is nonetheless spry, evading further capture. He escapes into “Subterranea,” his underground kingdom.

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Reed and Sue get all lovey-dovey again over Sue showing compassion for the Mole Man, and Ben decides to take off, wanting to go back to the city and visit Alicia. In the woods outside the house, we’re reunited with the Skrull Slaver, whom we met last issue. He disguises his ship to look like a big rock, he speechifies about how he has a special gun miniaturized inside his glove, and he impersonates a passerby, making himself look human.

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Still inside the mystery house, Reed says they won’t be living there (so why are they still hanging around?) and he hooks up the visophone. He contacts Alicia, who’s been babysitting, and we some cute “they’re a family” shtick where everyone dotes on the baby. Reed and Sue still haven’t chosen a name for the baby, though Sue suggests “Reed Jr.” The house is then rocked by an earthquake again. Our heroes flee as the Mole Man (everyone assumes it’s him) sucks the entire structure into the ground. Now stranded in the woods, Reed finally decides that everyone should head back to New York.

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In the city, the Slaver tracks down the one human he’s come to Earth to find. It’s Ben, who’s on a street corner signing autographs for a bunch of pretty ladies. (Way to go, big guy!) The Skrull changes shape, making himself look just like Reed. He tells Ben that they have to stop an alien invasion. We then cut to the real Reed, who’s with the rest of the team at a police station (why?) unable to track down Ben. He calls Alicia, who says she hasn’t heard from Ben. Alicia frets over Ben, calling him “the strongest, yet tenderest, most wonderful man in the world.”

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The Slaver leads Ben back out into the woods. (Where, exactly, are these woods just outside Manhattan?) In a ballsy move, the Skrull reveals his true form to Ben and announces that he’s there to take Ben prisoner. The Slaver re-bigs his gun, which is a nerve gun that can knock Ben unconscious. He loads Ben onto his ship and takes off for outer space, saying “We must not keep your masters waiting!”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed says they can’t take the Mole Man to the police, because there are no laws against trying to conquer the world. Let’s all try to remember this later on, when Reed will admit to She-Hulk that intricacies of law are like another language to him.

Fade out: Sue shows compassion for the Mole Man, which gets the house destroyed but, we’re told, is still a good thing.

Clobberin’ time: Ben signing autographs further shows how far he’s come — he’s no longer the monster, but accepting of who/what he’s become, just as others have.

Flame on: Johnny survives a point-blank attack from one of the Mole Man’s machines, saying it only hurt his pride. Either the machine was weak, or Johnny’s gotten a lot tougher.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Crystal makes a comment about “house-hunting.” Is this a thing among the Inhumans’ royal family, or does this show how well Crystal has acclimated to human life?

Commercial break: Baseball fans are CRAZY!

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Trivia time: Lots of celebrity mentions in this one, including actor Dustin Hoffman, FBI bigwig J. Edgar Hoover, and televangelist Jimmy Graham, which provides an odd cross-section of 1969 pop culture.

Fantastic or frightful? I have no idea what to make of this issue. Why spend so much time dealing with the Mole Man and the strange house when that plotline is over? Is it just filler, or this more of Stan Lee’s famous “realism,” in that the heroes have to take time to pick up the pieces after a superhero battle? I don’t know. Either way, the whole thing exists as mere setup for the next issue, and it really could have been told in a few pages, not a whole issue.

Next: Planet Thing?

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH. amazon.com/dp/B00859NDJ8
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