Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #273 is famous for its female empowerment themes, yet it also has She-Hulk getting kicked in the face on the cover. Let’s all prepare ourselves for some mixed messages.
To recap: The FF have traveled into the Microverse so Sue can enact revenge against Psycho-Man for him taking over her mind. They defeated the villain, but not before She-Hulk got zapped by Psycho-Man’s fear ray. Overcome with fear, She-Hulk gets sentenced to work in a Microverse mine. That’s where we begin, where she’s using her strength to pull a gigantic wagon full of boulders. She has apparently lost her strength as well, because her new masters are beating on her, and denying her food and water. This goes on for a few pages, and it’s pretty harsh.
She-Hulk is contacted by Princess Pearla, former ruler of this part of the Microverse. Pearla explains how she escaped when Psycho-Man showed up and conquered her realm. Pearla wants She-Hulk to join the revolution against Psycho-Man, but She-Hulk is too petrified with fear. One of the guards, a guy named Dutta, finds them and captures Pearla. She pleads to She-Hulk for She-Hulk to overcome the fear and remember who she really is. It works, and She-Hulk punches Dutta out, and proceeds to fight the rest of the guards.
Back in Psycho-Man’s lab, Reed is using the computers to search for She-Hulk, when Johnny reveals that Psycho-Man just escaped. (That was quick.) Sue is still hell-bent on revenge, insisting on finding him immediately. Reed collapses with worry that Psycho-Man might go on to hurt someone else. It’s all a trick, as Psycho-Man is right around the corner zapping him with the fear ray. Sue sneaks up on Psycho-Man invisibly and snatches the emotion-manipulating machine out of his hands. Sue pins him against a wall with a force field, and says he will pay.
She-Hulk and Pearla catch up with the rest of the FF by smashing through a wall. Johnny and She-Hulk catch each other up to speed. Then they hear Psycho-Man screaming. We don’t see what happens, but Sue steps out of the shadows, ominously saying that Psycho-Man will never bother anyone ever again. Ever.
Later, Pearla’s people have this big celebration now that they’re no longer under Psycho-Man’s reign. Sue steps out saying that she’s grown up a lot from this experience. In a big dramatic speech, she announces that from now on, her FF codename is no longer the Invisible Girl. She is now the Invisible Woman.
Unstable molecule: Reed admits he didn’t properly check Psycho-Man’s cell to be certain it was escape-proof. Could this be him secretly trying to protect Psycho Man from Sue’s vengeance?
Fade out: It’s a rare, rare thing when a comic book character changes permanently, but Sue’s new Invisible Woman moniker has indeed lasted, even in the many reboots and other media that later came along.
Flame on: Johnny and Pearla met previously in Fantastic Four annual #5, where they had a hint of a romance. They talk things over in this issue, and agree to remain just friends.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Dutta, the guard She-Hulk punches, is named after Barry Dutter. Back in the day, this guy wrote tons of letters to Marvel and to various fanzines in the hopes of getting She-Hulk out of the FF. He got the last laugh, though, because years later he landed a bona fide writing job at Marvel.
Commercial break: Bonk!
Trivia time: It’ll later be revealed that Psycho-Man survived Sue’s vengeance, and he’ll go on to menace Spider-Man and Captain Marvel before encountering the FF again.
Fantastic or frightful? What to make of this one? It’s the payoff to a good 20 issues of character development for Sue, which is good, but it’s the “female character becomes stronger only after a traumatic experience” which can be a problematic trope. The good outweighs the bad, I guess, with some great art and high drama.
Next week: A.I.M. to misbehave.
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