Fantastic Four #4   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #4

Credits listed only as “Stan Lee + J. Kirby”

SYNOPSIS:

This issue opens with Reed, Sue and Ben talking about Johnny, who had quit in a huff at the conclusion of the third issue. The three do the usual bickering that has quickly become a staple of this title, as Ben is reminded it’s his fault that Johnny ran off in the first place. The three remaining members of the FF split up and search for him, each being shown in a short little segment that shows their powers. In each issue of the series so far, Stand Lee and Jack kirby have done a great job of showing what each character is capable of right in the beginning of the book, making each issue an easy entry point for new readers.

After Sue and Reed have no luck, Ben plays a hunch and goes to the garage where Johnny was always working on hot rods whenever he had the chance. Johnny was shown working on car engines when we first met him back in Fantastic Four #1, and he is shown doing so again now in #4. Working on cars is a passion for Johnny throughout the characters history from this point on. It is while he is working on a car that the Thing bursts onto the scene and the two fight once again. During the fight, the Thing once again reverts to his human form. Overwhelmed with joy, Ben doesn’t care that the Torch takes this opportunity to fly away/ However, his happiness is short lived, as he once again reverts to the Thing. heartbroken, the Thing falls to the ground, upset and enraged that he is once again a monster after a few brief moments of humanity. The Thing is a character who has a great sadness underneath his gruff exterior. It is a big reason he is a lot of people’s favorite member of the Fantastic Four.

Johnny makes his escape to the Bowery, hoping to hide amongst the derelicts of the city and plan his next move. He finds himself in a flop house, where he discovers an old beat-up Sub-Mariner comic rom the 1940s. Johnny enjoys the comic and wonders what ever happened to the Sub-Mariner. He is informed that one of the bums in the building is as strong as the Sub-Mariner was said to be. The other tenants harass the bum, until the shaggy, bearded guy proceeds to beat them all up with ease. Johnny uses his flame to burn off the long hair and beard of the man, revealing him to be the Sub-Mariner himself! Realizing the Sub-Mariner is suffering from amnesia, Johnny flies him out of the building and dumps him in the ocean. The water revives him and gives him back his memory, just as the Torch predicted. Remembering who he is, Prince Namor swims to his undersea kingdom, only to find it has been destroyed by nuclear testing. Namor returns to the surface, yelling at Johnny and announcing that the human race will be destroyed in retribution for destroying his homeland.

Realizing he will need help to stop Namor, Johnny summons the other members of the Fantastic Four, just as Namor does some summoning of his own, awakening the largest creature on Earth, Giganto! Giganto, who looks like a gigantic whale with arms and legs, makes his way towards New York City, which is ordered to be evacuated for the first time in history. The Fantastic Four try to stop Giganto, but they are no match for the enormous beast. In a last ditch effort to save the city, the Thing gets a nuclear bomb from a military depot and straps it to his back. (Nuclear bombs are very easy to get in the early issues of the Fantastic Four.) Thing runs inside of the open mouth of a resting Giganto, setting the bomb and barely making it out in time as the nuclear weapon explodes, killing Giganto.

Namor is unfazed by this defeat. he proclaims that with his horn, he can summon countless creatures to do his bidding. As if on cue, the Invisible Girl runs up and grabs the horn from his grasp. Namor chases the floating horn, grabbing Sue, who turns visible while struggling with the Sub-Mariner. Namor, taken in by Susan’s beauty, says he will spare the surface world if she agrees to become his bride. The other three members attempt to save her, but Namor quickly knocks them all back with ease. Sue, realizing they can’t stop the Sub-Mariner and wanting to save mankind, agrees to become Namor’s bride.

The rest of the FF won’t stand for this, and Johnny springs into action. Flying high above Namor and  going in ever increasing circles, he creates a man made tornado that sucks not only Namor, but the gigantic, dead, radioactive carcass of Giganto out of New York and deposits them in the middle of the ocean, where Namor drops the sea horn, losing it forever. Without the horn, Namor can not control the hordes of sea creatures he was going to use to conquer the world. However, he still promises he will one day enact his revenge on the surface world and defeat the FF in the process.

COMMENTS:

This is the first issue that mentions the FF living in New York. In the first issue, they were said to live in “Central City.” No mention of the city’s name is given in issue #2 or 3. In #4, we have now entered a real life city, not the made up cities that were a staple of super hero comics to this point. While DC comics were taking place in Metropolis, Gotham, Keystone, etc, Marvel Comics were now taking place in New York City, making Marvel a universe that operated in something that more closely resembled the real world. It was a subtle, but important shift in super hero books, one that went a long way in Marvel’s quest to update and modernize a tired genre.

In another first, this is also the first issue with the slogan “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” over the title. This would be used in practically every issue for decades from this point on. While that might be a bold claim, and seen as Stan lee’s famous hyperbole, the letters received from the previous three issues certainly show that some fans agree with this. The letters page is full of people who are amazed that their are actually super heros that behave more like real people, fighting amongst each other instead of acting like two dimensional do-gooders. People particularly liked when The Thing complained about wearing a costume, saying it was goofy kids stuff and he didn’t need one. It was a breath of fresh air for the comic book gnre, and one of the many little touches that put the Fantastic Four ahead of the curve when it came to modern, hip comics.

Last issue, the Human Torch underwent a drastic change in the way Jack Kirby drew him. In this issue, the Thing undergoes a bit of a change of his own. While it’s not quite as drastic as the change in the Torch’s appearance, Thing, over several issues, begins to more closely resemble the classic look he has had for the last fifty years. When he was first drawn in Fantastic Four #1, his skin was more lumpy than has been his usual look. As the issues go on, his skin tone looks more and more like interlocked bricks than the more solid rock-like look he had in his first appearance. It is a gradual change and one that gives his visual identity more personality. In another personality quirk, this is the first issue in which Johnny yells “FLAME ON!” when activating his fire based powers. It is something that will become a staple of the book, appearing in the vast majority of issues from here on out.

This issue also reintroduces Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, to the modern day marvel universe. A very popular character during the 1940s, Namor still had a place in modern day comics. Fantastic Four was the perfect place to bring him back. Not only was he a match physically for the foursome, his greatest opponent during his first run as a comic book character was against the original Human Torch. it was only fitting that the book the updated the Human Torch for a modern audience would be the place to bring Namor into the modern era as well.

The Sub-Mariner would go on to become a both a foe and an ally of the FF, as well as a major player in the Marvel universe as a whole. Sometimes a hero and sometimes a villain, Namor was a character with a great deal of depth and a personality that fit in perfectly with the new type of super hero book that marvel was putting out. After the forgettable Miracle Man from last issue, Namor was a huge step forward in the villain department for the Fantastic Four. However, the greatest leap forward of all was still to come.

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Posted April 24, 2011 by John V. Ferrigno in Fantastic Four

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