Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"...And So It Ends!"

For the Fantastic Four, things were about as dire as they could be, following a fierce struggle with one of their own--Ben Grimm, the Thing, who had been turned against them because of the Mad Thinker's interference with a procedure meant to revert him to his human form. But the danger of their situation only increased when the arduous battle left them vulnerable to an attack by the Thinker's killer android, which enters the scene to find only one of the FF standing to meet its threat.

But how can Sue Richards prevail against one of the Thinker's deadliest, unliving creations? Let's find out, as we reach the climax of a four-part story where the Fantastic Four must pick up the pieces from the Thing's brutal assault only to find themselves virtually helpless against a new, super-powered threat--and while the fate of Ben Grimm remains uncertain, the Invisible Girl battles alone!

Granted, back in the day, it was a rare thing to see Sue be given the space or the opportunity to act on her own in an extensive battle sequence without taking her cues from Reed--but watch the Invisible Girl step up to the plate here, for over five pages. It's really something to see.

Unlike her encounter with Klaw, the Master of Sound, where, astonishingly, she basically bailed, the Sue we see here is decisive, resourceful, quick-thinking, and, with Ben's revival, a total team player. Amazing what she can contribute without her husband calling the shots or insisting she stay on the sidelines.

With the threat of the android at least temporarily dealt with, however, Sue collapses, the stress of the last few hours catching up with her (presumably due to her state of pregnancy). The good news is that the Thing appears to be back to normal, following his exposure to Reed's "menta-wave" device at the close of the prior issue; but in trying to shake Sue back to consciousness (you know, Ben, that's really not advised with any unconscious person), Reed and Johnny, who finally awaken, assume the worst and move to attack.

No, Reed, but the android's plummet from a 36-story building could--should--have damaged it severely enough on impact to neutralize it. Would it hurt you to think positively once in awhile?

Unfortunately, you brainiac, you're right. Again.

And so the android renews its attack, just as Reed and the Torch have ceased hostilities with the Thing and brought him up to speed--and it looks like the FF have a fight on their hands against this bruiser, with the battle quickly going against them.

While the Torch and the Thing have kept the android busy, Reed has quickly removed Sue from the scene to ensure she's out of immediate danger. In doing so, he regrettably removes one-quarter of his team's fighting strength--but he's correct that she's more than done her part in the rigors of battling the machinations of the Thinker, and there is the welfare of someone else he must consider along with Sue's.

Once the matter is settled, he races back--and to say that Reed has returned to the fight in the nick of time is putting it mildly.

With the Torch and the Thing out of action, this fight now becomes Reed's to win or lose. And frankly, as much as I enjoy seeing Sue join her team in battle, artist Jack Kirby has also given a good deal of exposure in this story to Mr. Fantastic, whose stretching powers were seen in action less and less following Kirby's departure from Fantastic Four but are used here not only in defense, but to carry out a gambit that may seal the fate of his foe. And it finally becomes clear why such a big deal was made previously of the Thinker discovering the chamber dedicated to the entrance to the Negative Zone--a scene which amounted to nothing vis-à-vis the Thinker but was used to set the stage for this story's climax.

The danger finally passed (though not for the poor denizens of the Negative Zone, where we keep dumping deadly threats like the android and the Super-Adaptoid), Reed is forced to assess the situation with Sue in terms of remaining with the FF: "If there were no Negative Zone... that creature was practically unbeatable! It could have been the end of us!" And he makes a shocking announcement as a result--one that in hindsight prompts a "that trick never works" response from readers today but, in early 1968, tended to reverberate off of the final panel of a story:

Luckily for us, Reed's resolve lasted a grand total of one issue--though in his jail cell, we can assume the news had the Thinker doing cartwheels, at least for a day or two.

Fantastic Four #71

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Sam Rosen


Big Murr said...

I recall another of your posts where the discussion whirled around Thor too often (or not often enough) using his power via Mjolnir to send enemies off and away to uncanny realms.

Seems the F.F. could be brought under the same cross-examination for dumping foes into the Negative Zone. Killer android, Super Adaptoid, Galactus,...

Comicsfan said...

Yes, Galactus must surely have been the last straw for the inhabitants of the Negative Zone. No wonder they dreamed up reprisals like the annihilation wave.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that really a problem caused by inconsistencies or, if we're being kind, a changing view of the Negative Zone, Comicsfan?
Seems to me that the original idea from the Kirby-era FF of an anti-matter universe was different to what it became later (although I suppose after Annihilus and Blastarr it was inevitable more inhabitants would appear).


dbutler16 said...

It looks like Sue was actually written well for a change. This must have been one of her most useful outings up to this point.

Comicsfan said...

Sean, your question takes me back to a stimulating com-versation between myself and alert reader Chris Tolworthy concerning the evolution of the Negative Zone and its roots in sub-space. All things considered, I prefer to think of it as the environment it finally stabilized as during the run of Lee and Kirby, an anti-matter universe with (as we discovered with the first appearances of both Blastaar and Annihilus) its own life forms--highly dangerous, and certainly deadly if its anti-matter denizens should come into physical contact with our own. (A danger presumably compensated for with the use of Reed's gateway, which appears to process users with some method of conversion? What do I know.) I'm not thrilled at all with, for example, its use as a prison facility during the events of Civil War. What's next? Colonization?

dbutler, I agree completely! Though I admittedly have to make an effort to look back on these classic FF tales with a perspective that realizes Sue's behavior and demeanor will at times reflect her beginnings in the early 1960s.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, the Negative Zone has been a convenient dumping ground for berserk robots and other unsavory characters more than once; first this guy and later the Super-Adaptoid. Even Galactus wound up there for a while. Janus and the Brute, too! Remember them?
You'd figure the Negative Zone's Chamber of Commerce or some other local regulating body would get steamed after a while and maybe send an angry cease-and-desist letter, probably addressed to Reed Richards. No doubt threatening legal action for illegal dumping of assorted weirdos.
To be fair, they got their own problems, without us treating 'em like some cosmic New Jersey.


Comicsfan said...

Well, M.P., Janus pretty much took care of his own problem--but, yes, although the Brute would fit right in with some of the other undesirables in the Negative Zone, he's not exactly going to be a sterling addition to any civilization he comes across. Maybe all of these "throwaways" should form their own team, eh? How about "The Losers"? (Heh. Nah.)