Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Let’s see, how to summarize this plot? The Thing is trapped on a planet of Skrulls who have taken the form of old-timey gangsters, who want him to fight in some gladiatorial games. Got it? Good. Here’s issue #92:
The “gangsters” collect Ben from his cell and say it’s time for him to train for the games. They take off his power-inhibiting collar, and he starts to wreck the place, but he can’t. Ben’s roommate/future opponent Torgo (no, not that Torgo) explains that they’re all under a “hypno-glow” that mentally prevents the prisoners from fighting back.
Ben’s first opponent is Magno-Man, and this is where we get this panel, which has become something of an internet meme over the last few years:
What you don’t see in this panel is that Magno-Man actually puts up a good fight, throwing Ben all over the gladiator arena. He nearly defeats Ben before Ben rips up the ground underneath him.
Back on Earth, Johnny and Crystal conclude that Ben is not in New York and that Reed was right about suspecting the Skrulls. Inside HQ, Reed is modifying the Skrull flying saucer, which the team took ownership of way back in issue #2. (!) Sue wants to join the team as they head into space, but Reed insists she stay behind to take care of the baby.
The Skrull gangsters continue to blast Ben with nerve rays so he doesn’t fight back, and they test his strength by putting him under a “Hydraulo-press,” which looks really painful. Later, word is spread throughout the planet that the great games are going to start. We’re reunited with Ben’s “owner,” Boss Barker, and his rival Lippy Louie. Louie is the one who has bet against Ben in favor of Torgo. There’s a weird bit where Louie sets off a bomb in Barker’s headquarters, which Barker takes to mean that Louie’s getting scared he’ll lost the bet. Barker travels to the games, where we get another mention of Machine Gun Martin, the Earth gangster who inadvertently inspired this alien society.
Inside Ben and Torgo’s cell, Torgo gets all robot-emo, saying he longs for freedom. Ben tries to convince him to fight against their captors, but Torgo won’t go for it. They start fighting, right there in the cell, before the gangsters break them up. They’re taken to the arena, along with a bunch of other kooky-looking aliens. Ben continues to argue for fighting back, but Torgo says that if any slave fights back, that slave’s home planet is destroyed. (Why is Ben just learning this now?)
The games begin, with the first fight between a “primitoid” and a “cat-man.” Ben watches, worried that there will be no escape. Elsewhere, Reed, Johnny and Crystal have taken off into space in the flying saucer, to the rescue.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed not only gets an alien spacecraft up and running, but uses the alien navigation system to find the planet Ben is on. Brains!
Fade out: Sue is sidelined again. And they still haven’t named the baby.
Clobberin’ time: Ben spends most of the issue in a weakened state, but he manages another killer put-down: “You got a real anti-social hang-up there, Melvin.”
Flame on: Johnny flies around not in his FF uniform, but in a sweater and jeans. We’re not told these clothes are made of unstable molecules, but we can assume that, right?
Fantastic fifth wheel: When speaking to Johnny, Crystal calls Reed by his full name, “Reed Richards.” Is this to remind us that she’s an Inhuman and still new to the outside world, or just clumsy exposition for new readers?
Commercial break: Man, I used to love these “new fall season” ads for the Saturday morning cartoons. Unfortunately, haven’t heard of most of these shows. Cattanooga Cats?!?
Trivia time: Torgo will show up a few more times in the Marvel Universe after this, getting his sci-fi back story fleshed out a little more. Basically, he’s from another galaxy, where sentient machines overthrew organic life. You know, the usual. The Marvel Wiki informs me that Torgo has “a bit of a sweet tooth.”
Fantastic or frightful? This issue is a tease, building up to the big games, and then cutting to the cliff hanger just as they start. So, it’s all set-up. The rumor is that although Jack Kirby was fed up with Marvel by this time, he loved drawing this gangster stuff. I can believe that, seeing a ton of Kirby’s trademark imaginativeness in the gangster/alien designs.
Next week: The brawl to end it all!
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