Friday, September 1, 2017

When Opens The Cocoon!

Previously, we saw the Fantastic Four begin an investigation into the disappearance of the Thing's girlfriend, Alicia Masters--and thanks to a little technology that Reed Richards brought along with him to her apartment, images from Alicia's recent past were pulled up that showed her vanishing from her apartment alongside an unknown male intruder. Eventually, Reed Richards was able to discover that the man used technology embedded in a bracelet he wore around his wrist to transport himself and Alicia to parts unknown, prompting Reed to begin around-the-clock work on duplicating that technology so that the FF could follow and rescue Alicia from whatever forces were holding her.

As the story progressed, we learned that Alicia was taken by a group of scientists based in a mammoth citadel on a remote plateau, a structure which has been described as resembling a giant "beehive." Within the citadel, the four scientists were involved in a project that resulted in the creation of a new species of human--yet their experiment escaped their control and now keeps the Citadel's forces at bay. Alicia has been brought in because of her skill as a blind sculptress, so that she could mold an image of the being who now poses a danger, immune to its blinding emissions.

And now, in Part 2 of this story, in the tunnel designated as Lock 41, Alicia and Dr. Hamilton--one of the scientists who insisted on accompanying her and providing protection for her--move closer to the ever-growing threat of the unseen force that has begun to lash out in warning blasts, while the FF struggle in a race against time to follow Alicia's trail and hopefully arrive in time to save her. But will anyone be able to contain the power of the being now referred to as--"Him"?

With Alicia being the most important person in his life, Ben Grimm has been understandably impatient as Reed diligently works to develop the means to follow her to where she's been taken. For readers, such scenes allow another opportunity to enjoy the interaction between these two friends, even taking into account Ben's harsh mood swings that have at times made the Thing a difficult personality for even his three partners to deal with. Each of these men understands the other--and despite the fact that they come at a problem or challenge in very different ways, somehow they end up on the same page. Even in the lab, which is the last place the Thing wants to be when his every instinct is telling him to act.

Reed may not admit it, but Ben is probably the most congenial lab assistant he could hope to have. (As long as he doesn't touch anything.)

In Lock 41, however, things are decidedly more desperate, as the threat that Hamilton and Alicia move to confront grows more violent in its release of warning blasts. The plan of the Citadel scientists to use Alicia's skills as a sculptress to identify their creation seems a mad one on its face, since such deadly releases of force would pose a clear danger to her life and would hardly pause for the time it would take her to do her work--assuming this being would even allow her close enough to make the physical contact necessary for her to familiarize herself with its features. Furthermore, these scientists designed this creation of theirs and watched as it matured--why is it that they wouldn't already know its physical appearance, even before it emerged from its tank?

It's too late for hindsight, of course, since Alicia and Hamilton are already committed; yet it's also important to note that "Him" is reacting defensively to their incursion, though Hamilton sees the situation a little differently.

You can't help but be reminded here of Alicia's characteristic sympathy, which she's demonstrated with others such as the Silver Surfer and definitely the Thing.

As for the other scientists, who are monitoring their progress (good grief, if they can scan the tunnel, why can't they just bring up an image of Him without having to send a team in?), writer Stan Lee finally shows us their true colors, revealing them to be villains of the first order--who obviously haven't been completely candid with Alicia.

The contingency plan Shinski speaks of involves using a detonator elsewhere in the Citadel to release an anti-gravity wave that would draw their rebellious creation into the depths of outer space. No more Him--no more threat. Since it looks like the scientists aren't going to be able to regain control of their creation, that moment appears to be quickly approaching--leaving Shinski, Morlak and the others to attempt their experiment again once the dust settles.

Meanwhile, not even the chomping-at-the-bit Thing would begrudge his friend some food after two days of non-stop work--would he?

While Reed's deciding whether he wants sugar or cream--though we can assume he meets a glare from Ben that makes him think he should probably just take it black--we should rejoin Alicia, since she's on the verge of making contact with the being that wants only to sequester himself from his evil creators. But his power has allowed him to touch the sincerity of a blind girl who is now drawn to him out of both curiosity and concern--and he implicitly trusts her, as others of great power have.

It's an excellent sequence by artist Jack Kirby, which both fulfills the anticipation of the big reveal and yet holds something back for later, choosing instead to focus on the relationship of trust that Alicia has established with Him.

It seems that Alicia may be out of danger--but does the same hold true for Him? We'll have to hold that thought for a moment, because the FF are revving up to launch their invasion of the Citadel--thanks to Reed, who may have pioneered what would someday become what we would call a 3D printer!

And at last, the Fantastic Four are ready to... to... What's that, Mr. Lee? (mumble-whisper-mumble-mumble) Oh! How forgetful of me. It looks like the FF are headed toward a potentially dangerous situation--which means that the World's Greatest Fighting Team has to be whittled down to three-quarters of a fighting team whenever Mr. Lee thinks their distaff member should be sidelined. (And that also goes for female Inhumans, for no particular reason.)

In all fairness, Sue has only recently announced her pregnancy, which is doubtless what Reed is alluding to here. (So if Reed is intent on keeping her out of action, why is she still in uniform?) At any rate, you'd better get used to this sort of thing, Sue--it's only going to get worse!

Then again, maybe the FF don't need anyone along on their missions who's going to fall apart so easily:

Finally we return to the Citadel, where all hell breaks loose on the FF's arrival. Naturally, since the transport-bracelet has up until now been one of a kind, no one at the Citadel is expecting anyone to be stepping through their transfer grid; but the fighting-mad FF isn't in the mood for twenty questions.  On the contrary, they're demanding answers!

Unknown to the FF at present, Alicia is still deep inside Lock 41, where Hamilton at last rejoins her only to discover that the emergence of Him is imminent. It's to Hamilton's credit that he finally comes to his senses in owning up to his complicity regarding the plans of his fellow scientists--but in seeking to right his wrong, he only sets in motion the inevitable, and forfeits his life in the process. Alicia, caught in the backlash, must fend for herself, despite Him's assurance that she'll come to no harm--nevertheless, help is on the way.

(Whoops! Did anyone catch the small slip-up with one of the FF members?)

As for our disreputable scientists, it's time to face the music, when their contingency plan is sabotaged by Him and they discover that their creation has become a fan of Martha and the Vandellas.

Him would go on to find new life and new adventures as Adam Warlock, though not before a certain God of Thunder comes for a piece of *ahem* Him when he takes the lady Sif captive and plans to mate with her. As for our scientists, they would survive their fate here and continue to attempt to fulfill their villainous ambitions as the Enclave.

Fantastic Four #67

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Artie Simek


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

The small slip up? That would be the Torch wearing his blue uniform in one panel while being on a mufti day everywhere else.

Comicsfan said...

Right you are, dangermash! Talk about unstable molecules, eh?

haydn said...

The rumpled look on his arm in particular suggest that Joe Sinnott inked Johnny in street clothes, but the colorist (was it still Stan G. in 1967? or Marie Severin?) goofed.

Anonymous said...

Great review of a classic issue! There is one thing I never quite understood--why couldn't, er, Him, fly off into space without destroying the "Bee-hive"? People In Marvel Comics people fly off into space all the time without blowing up someone's secret lab. NASA does it on a regular basis.
Maybe Him/Warlock simply wanted to trash the place. He always was a bit on the unstable side.
I've gotta admit, I'm a little curious as to what Adam Warlock is going to be like in the next GotG movie. I know he's gonna be in it; I saw that cocoon at the end of the last one.
Are they going to make him a swaggering jerk, like they did with Ego? Who knows. I'm living in hope that they won't.
Great post!


Comicsfan said...

M.P., my guess is that, given the time Lee spent in making Him a sympathetic figure and a victim of these scientists' ambitions, he didn't want to then turn around and make him an outright murderer--and so he had Morlak seal their own doom, so to speak, by making a loose reference to the fact that they indeed made their creation too powerful. I suppose we have to presume that, eventually, Him gained some control over his power (as Warlock) so that lifting off wouldn't leave a blast crater in his wake!

haydn, could be--though it seems to be a pretty selective goof, assuming only one colorist handled the work. Y'know, a keen-eyed letter writer probably mentioned the panel in issue #71, but I can't lay my hands on a copy--anyone want to check their FF stash and see what's up, out of curiosity?

haydn said...

Checked my omnibus. No mention of the goof. I guess it's about 50 years too late to collect your no-prize?

Comicsfan said...

You may or may not be in luck, haydn, depending on how you interpret Marvel's revised no-prize policy!