Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Need a quick and easy story idea to crank out a comic on deadline? Evil twins!
Issue #96 begins with some comedy shtick as the Yancy Street Gang has mailed Ben a “Muscles Galore in Six Easy Lessons” book. Ben crushes the book in his hand and whines about how superheroing is boring when there are no bad guys around for him to clobber. Reed and Sue take off for a night on the town, and Johnny shows up, having just returned from an auto rally. He’s not acting like himself, though, and he zaps Ben with a high-powered stun blast.
Not-Johnny exposits that the real Johnny was taken out just as easily with an ice ray while at the rally. He opens a door and a Ben lookalike walks in. The two of them talk about how everything’s going according to plan. The duplicates are androids, and we turn the page to learn they’re working for the Mad Thinker. He says the FF always manage to defeat him because of some small detail he overlooks in his brilliant plans, but this time he think he has them.
Sue is shopping in the “young marrieds” department of some fancy store when she’s attacked from behind by her duplicate. Reed’s duplicate attacks Reed just as his car passes an alley. The Mad Thinker plans everything out to the second, remember, so he knew just when Reed would drive by this spot. The android has the same powers as Reed, and they fight. It’s hard to tell what happens in a flurry of stretchy arms and fists, but the android wins, knocking Reed out.
The Mad Thinker makes his way inside the Baxter Building. (A line of dialogue says the Thinker built this hidden entrance back in issue #84, while our heroes were in Latveria. You’d think Reed and company would have noticed it by now.) All four androids are there with him, and he boasts about how all the FF’s secrets are his. But wait, the Reed android punches him out. That’s no android — it’s the real Reed!
Reed says that although the android could stretch like him, it didn’t have his training or battle tactics, and this gave Reed the edge. The other three androids then attack, and it’s several pages of fighting. Reed finds Ben, wakes him, and Ben joins the fight. There’s a great series of panels where the two Bens fight, just wailing on each other. Ben and Reed defeat the androids, but the Thinker says he still has the upper hand, because Sue and Johnny are still his prisoners.
Reed remembers the secret entrance. They follow the Thinker down into it, where they fight a bunch of the Thinker’s henchmen, with Ben taking out the Thinker himself. Reed finds Sue and Johnny, and he wakes Sue with a kiss, just out of a fairy tale. Aww…
Unstable molecule: I know Reed is a super-genius and all, but where, exactly did he learn advanced “battle tactics?” Could this be another reference to his rarely-mentioned past as a WWII vet?
Fade out: Sue’s “intuition” warns her of danger, but not fast enough. Also, she mentions that Franklin is still with his nanny, and she won’t see him until the weekend.
Clobberin’ time: Ben makes with the comic relief big time. His final defeat of the Mad Thinker is to throw the Thinker at his henchmen while cheering, “Strrrike!”
Flame on: Johnny only appears in one panel, after his teammates find his unconscious body at the end. The rest of the issue is his android clone pretending to be him.
Commercial break: It’s Hulkerific!
Trivia time: The Mad Thinker has been busy since the last time we saw him. He formed an alliance with Puppet Master and Egghead (yes, there’s an “Egghead” in the Marvel Universe) and they fought Captain Marvel, the Avengers, and the Sub-Mariner. Puppet Master’s influence seems to have rubbed off on the Thinker, as he called his androids “my puppets” at one point in this issue.
Fantastic or frightful? A fun issue with a lot of big action, but nothing of any real substance. It’s an “all they do is fight” story, and an indicator of the more generic stories we’re going to get now that we’re in the middle years.
Next week: Wait, which lagoon?
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