Monday, March 30, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Fantastic Four #40-43

I'll admit it, I'm finding The Fantastic Four to be a tough slog.  You'll notice my issue count is down this week, despite social distancing.  Part of it is finding other interesting things to do, which is certainly a good thing.  However, I'm finding the series itself to be a bit tedious, especially compared with The Amazing Spider-Man.  Mind you, many of the problems I have with the FF are shared with the Spidey saga: the villain of the week, good guys always win formula becomes tiresome.  While there is more dimension to the heroes than there had been in the 1950s, there isn't much moral ambiguity with anyone, good or bad.  The Dr. Doom origin story in Annual #2 (see here) offers moments of sympathy for the guy but he went all in on the megalomania too quickly for it to last.
Marvel in the Silver Age: Women of Marvel: Sue Storm Part 1 - Fade Out
via Marvel in the Silver Age
Both series are also problematic when it comes to female characters.  This is not entirely surprising given the era.  However, the women in Peter Parker's life are the primary drivers of the more compelling threads in the Spider-Man stories.  Aunt May, Betty Brant, Liz Allan and Gwen Stacey are all more assertive and more nuanced than the FF's Sue Storm.  Sue has cool powers but is nauseatingly deferential to the others, especially Reed Richards.  She is certainly not an equal member of the Four.  The villain Medusa has a lot more backbone.
Medusalith Amaquelin (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
via Marvel Database
Obviously, I don't have to stick with the series or the project at all really.  However, an important character introduction is coming soon: The Silver Surfer.  His solo series is the next stop on the Comic Book Herald tour anyway so I'd hate to miss the debut before moving on.  I might skip ahead, though.  There are surely other fun villains in store, too, but I could always come back.  We'll see.

My Recent Reads

Fantastic Four #40
Originally Published July 1, 1965
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
  • Part 3 of a 6-part arc
  • Villain: Dr. Doom
  • Ally: Daredevil
  • The FF's powers are restored via Reed's power ray.
  • Doom is defeated but let go, Reed believing the wound to his pride is punishment enough.  Yeah, that line of thinking always turns out well in the long term...
  • The Thing is not entirely happy with his powers being restored.  If anyone gets an interesting story through this thread, it's Thing.  While the others enjoy being superheroes, it's a burden for Ben Grimm, just as it is for the Hulk and, eventually, Wolverine.  He is understandably a bit resentful of Reed for essentially making the decision for him this time.

Fantastic Four #41
Originally Published August 1, 1965
  • Part 4
  • Villains: The Frightful Four
  • The Wizard uses an "Id Machine" to convert an already bitter Thing to the Dark Side.  Oops, wrong franchise...

Fantastic Four #42
Originally Published September 1, 1965
  • Part 5
  • The Human Torch is turned to The Frightful Four's cause as well!

Fantastic Four #43
  • Part 6: the finale
  • Apparently, the Id Machine didn't actually work on the Torch and he's been faking his allegiance.  So clever.
  • The Frightful Four are defeated, though Medusa escapes, her feminine allure too much for young Johnny Storm to look past at the consequential juncture.


  1. Except that if anyone in the early FF were to fall to an Id machine, it probably would have been the Torch. Or maybe Reed.

    1. I don't know. At least as the characters are drawn, so to speak, Thing wears his emotions on his sleeve more than the others, thus theoretically being more susceptible to an appeal to his base nature.

    2. TAS: Yeah, sort of true, but he also kept himself the most in control. He had to. So I think the case can be made that he had the strongest Super Ego of the group, which would have made him most resistant to his Id. Johnny, on the other hand, had almost no Super Ego, thus his rep as a hot head, which had nothing to do with the pun involved.
      Or maybe I'm layering over them with the later re-tellings of the origins.

  2. Never a Fantastic Four fan, although the Human Torch and Sue are interesting characters.