Fantastic Four #7   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #7

Credits listed as “By Stan Lee and J. Kirby”

SYNOPSIS:

The issue opens on a bizarre looking alien with a gigantic head. This is pure Kirby, plain and simple. The guy had some out there designs and Kurrgo from Planet X is certainly one of them. Kurrgo informs us that he has been watching the Earth for weeks and has learned of the Fantastic Four. He proclaims how superior he is to earthlings in every way. He then laments the fact that is vastly superior planet is going to be destroyed by a giant meteor, and he needs the FF to save him. He WOULD just put all of his people on space ships and evacuate the planet, but his people never really cared for space travel, and as a result, have only two space ships on the planet. I guess his super advanced race of people couldn’t build more in the time it takes them to travel light years to Earth, capture the FF, bring them back to Planet X, and hope tat they can save the day.

Back on Earth, the FF have been invited to a dinner in their honor being held by the US Congress. Johnny doesn’t want to go because he is afraid he will be asked to make a speech, get nervous, and burst into flames. Ben doesn’t want to go because he knows he will lose his temper and trash Congress in a fit of rage. Sue doesn’t want to go because she will be too embarrassed to meet important people. Reed tells them they are all being silly babies and to quit their whining and go get dressed. After all, he is doing an important rocket fuel experiment that he has to abandon to go, and he isn’t complaining, even though he is the only one with a valid excuse.

Johnny leaves to get ready and hits the showers. Ben sneaks up and turns the water all the way to it’s hottest setting. johnny gets scared and flames on, turning all of the water to steam and causing the Baxter Building to be enveloped by fog.

The Fantastic Four jump into the Fantasticar and head to Washington. Sue had complained she had nothing to wear to a fancy dinner and I guess she was right, as the FF are going to this high class dinner dressed in their FF uniforms. On the way, they see a space ship entering Earth’s atmosphere, but mistake it for a secret test flight by the Americans. The ship arrives on Earth and a robot gets out, using a high tech scanner to search for the Four. The FF all get a weird feeling they are being watched, but the amazing coincidence of all of them becoming paranoid at the exact same time doesn’t faze them and they go on to Washington anyway.

At the dinner, the FF are treated like heroes and presented with a trophy as a token of appreciation for their hard work defending the country from evil. At this same time, the robot that Kurrgo sent to capture them blankets the city of Washington DC with a “hostility ray,” making everybody in the city hostile and angry, getting into fights with little or no provocation. It basically makes everybody act like The Thing. This doesn’t seem like the wisest course of action to me. How would making an entire city an unruly mob make it easier to kidnap the FF? And why kidnap them at all? If Kurrgo had been monitoring them for weeks, as he claimed, didn’t he realize they are heroic do-gooders? If he had just asked Reed to help with Planet X’s problem, I’m sure Reed and the rest of the FF would have not hesitated for a split second to help save the planet.

The Congressmen in attendance flip out and everyone attacks the FF, yelling that they are a menace and should be driven out of the country. The army quickly shows up, as in the 1960s Marvel U an army brigade is never more than a block away from any situation, and the FF use their powers to make their escape. As they fly away in the Fantasticar, the space ship from Planet X follows them. Reed tries to do some fancy flying to shake it, but the ship can’t be lost and it follows them back to the Baxter Building. Once they arrive on the roof, the giant robot comes out and says he has come to find them and give them a message from kurrgo, Master of Planet X. Hopefully, Kurrgos message is better than his plan so far.

The robot explains that no place on Earth is safe for the FF and that they will eventually be captured. He then tells how each of them could be detained despite their amazing powers. He offers them asylum on Planet X, in exchange for one favor that will be asked of them when they arrive. Reed agrees, despite protests from The Thing, who knows it is a trap. Reed says he has to go because of the curiosity facto of why they are needed on Planet X. So basically, all of the trickery and mob inducing wasn’t needed. Reed would have gone just to find out why he needed o be there. Looks like Kurrgo and his advanced race of aliens went through WAY more trouble than necessary. The Ff would have gone just if they were asked.

the FF arrive on Planet X and Kurrgo gives them the update on the problem. The planet is in disarray because a runaway planet is heading straight for them. Tides are rising higher and higher, volcanoes are erupting everywhere and the citizens are rioting in the street. Kurrgo informs them that if the FF doesn’t solve the problem, they will perish along with everyone else. Thing throws his usual tantrum and attacks the robot that brought them there, but to no avail. Johnny gets mad and goes to attack the robot, getting hotter than he ever has, as hot as a star! I guess he has amazing control over this ridiculous level of heat, as nobody standing inches away from him is at all effected by it. Sue jumps in front of the robot an Johnny deflames so he won’t hurt his sister. Kurrgo yells at them for fighting amongst themselves when they should be working on a solution. He obviously didn’t learn anything for all those weeks he was watching them.

The planet looms closer and a shock wave rattles the room. Reed says he has to think of something to save them. Kurrgo says he doesn’t care for the useless lives of the FF. It is always  good idea to call the only people in the universe who can save you “useless” minutes before your world is about to be destroyed. he also says he doesn’t care about his 5 billion subjects, he only wants them to be saved so he can continue to be their master. Nice guy, this Kurrgo. Reed has Kurrgo take him to a lab so he can whip up something.

And whip up something he does! We are treated to the first in what will be a LONG running series of Fantastic four splash pages, the “Reed makes an invention with the help of the FF” page. All of these pages are very similar: Reed is working on a delicate piece of equipment, while Johnny uses his flame powers to weld something and Ben carries some huge piece of equipment. Sue usually has little to o in these pages. here she is shown carrying some cables over to the boys. Reed coming up with some wacky invention to save the day is a staple of the FF to this day. The wacky invention in this particular instance is a giant cannon that shoots “reducing gas,” which Reed demonstrates by shrinking down some of Kurrgo’s subjects to 1/1000th of their size. The nice part about being on Planet X is that you can skip all of the clinical trials and go right to human test subjects.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Reed is going to shoot the reducing gas at the runaway planet so it gets really tiny and harmlessly lands on Planet X, doing no real damage, right? If you thought that, you obviously don’t know about the zaniness that is Stan lee and Jack Kirby! No, that solution is far too easy for The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine! What Reed does instead is to shoot the reducing gas all over Planet X, covering the entire surface of the world, so that all 5 billion people on it will shrink down and they will now all fit on one space ship! They can then make their escape and find a new world to live on. When they get to the new world, they can exit the ship, open a canister of “enlarging gas” and then regain their normal size and live in peace on this new world.

Kurrgo, power mad tyrant that he is, decides he isn’t going to return his subjects to their normal height. Instead, he is going to just grow himself, then keep the enlarging gas hidden so his subjects will be like insects to him! Why he needs them to be insects, since they seem perfectly fine to be in his control as normal sized aliens, is anybody’s guess.

The 5 billion Planet Xers shrink down and get into a space ship to make their escape. If you wondering how they got so organized that 5 billion people from an entire planet could get shrunken down to the size of an insect and get onto a ship in an orderly fashion instead of running amok when they were suddenly shrunk down unexpectedly, you are thinking way too much about this story. Kurrgo, the rat bastard, can’t put the enlarging gas capsule down and run fast enough and he is left behind as the space ship takes off. It’s a good thing that Planet X had TWO space ships, because the FF use the second one to make their own escape. On the way home, the members of the quartet ask Reed if he is sure the enlarging gas would work, unaware that Kurrgo didn’t make it on the ship with the capsule. Reed informs them that there is no enlarging gas at all! he only pretended there was so the aliens would go along with his hair brained scheme. He figures once they get to their new home, they will all be the same size, so it doesn’t matter if that size is so tiny. It’s great how Reed is so casual about other people’s standard of living as they try to discover a new world to live on. Who cares if they have to float around space forever in the hopes they can find another world to live on? And what difference could it possibly make if once they arrive on that planet, they are one thousandth of their normal size? Reed said he would get them off Planet X alive and that’s what he did!

COMMENTS:

This issue is a little silly, even by 1962 standards of comics. The problem of the people of Planet X, with it’s highly advanced race, has to have a better solution that kidnapping the Fantastic Four. Also, the FF seem very petty and weak in their fear about going to see Congress. Johnny has been portrayed up t this point as a confidant, brash, fun-loving kid. There is no reason why he should be afraid to talk in public. Sue in particular seems very weak by saying she would be too embarrassed to meet important politicians and the like. This is a far cry from the Sue who exists today, who is one of the most strong, stable and confidant heroes in the world. It really shows how far she has come. In the early days, Sue was mostly a damsel in distress, needed to be saved by the rest of the team. Today, Sue is by far the strongest member of the Fantastic Four, not only in terms of power, but in her emotional maturity as well. She has become the heart and soul of the team, the one the others can depend on in all situations, as well as the most dangerous in terms of powers. But in these early appearance, she has none of the poise and grace she exhibits today.

Interesting note from the letters page in this issue: a reader wrote in to ask about the relationship among the members of the FF, if they were all related to each other in some way. The explanation given is that Johnny and Sue are brother and sister and Reed was a good friend of Sue’s. Ben was the pilot hired to fly their space ship. there is no mention of Ben being Reed’s best friend and college roommate at this point. I’m curious at what point that became part of continuity.

Just like issue #3, the main thing this issue provided was some more characteristics of FF stories that will become regular features of the book. It establishes Reed as the smartest scientist on Earth, if not the entire universe. It is the first time Johnny exhibits what will be later known as his “nova flame.” It is also the first time the FF travel to an alien world, something they seem to do on a weekly basis these days. It is also the first time the FF use their powers to make a Reed invention to save the day, which is how they end up solving a great many of their problems in the future.

The plot itself is pretty weak, even by 1962 standards of comic book story telling. The aliens of Planet X are very bizarre looking and it seems the way they went about solving their problem was very strange for such an advanced race. Reed’s nonchalance about their fate after he shrunk them down and rocketed them into outer space was also a little weird. However, the issue did have some fun moments, and introduced  few more classic FF concepts. The FF are not yet fully formed into the characters they are today, but as this issue wraps up, they are well on their way.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: