Fantastic Four #10   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #10

Script: Stan Lee

Pencilling: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

SYNOPSIS:

The story opens with a classic Fantastic Four scene: Reed Richards performing an experiment. This time he is trying to use a fancy X-ray camera to take a picture of Sue while she is invisible. In the early days of the FF, Reed was always performing experiments on his teammates, trying to get a better understanding of their powers and how they work. Johnny is there taking notes, but he “forgot” he was flamed on and the heat he is generating is making Sue uncomfortable. I know Johnny is portrayed as bit of an airhead in these early issues, but not realizing you are on fire is a bit of a stretch. Reed is able to get a faint outline of Sue with his special camera when they notice the FF emergency flare, which must have been fired by The Thing, as Ben is the only one not there.

The FF try to spring into action, but they can’t because the door is locked. Seriously. There is some nuclear powered lock on the door and it is jammed. Johnny tries to burn his way out, but Reed warns him that the nuclear lock is very sensitive to heat and they will be blown up. He then tries to stretch his arm under the door and pilot the Fantasticar to the window, but Reed, the smartest man on the planet, can’t figure out where the hangar for the Fantasticar is, ending up in the Pogo Plane hangar instead. Meanwhile, Johnny makes a discovery: he can burn his fire so hot that it doesn’t give off heat. I don’t understand that either. It’s also nice how Johnny decided to test this theory about his power on the super heat sensitive nuclear powered lock that could have killed them all.

Having finally escaped the dreaded locked room, the FF take to the streets, where they are harassed by everybody they meet. The FF use their powers to get past the throng of fans that are pawing at them as they try to rush to the Thing. They arrive at the apartment of Alicia, who is Ben’s blind girlfriend and the step-daughter of the Puppet Master. The team bursts in expecting an emergency, but instead find out that ben just wants to show them what Alicia has done. It turns out that even though Alicia is blind, she can make amazingly accurate sculptures. She has made small statues of all of the villains that FF have faced up to this point: The Mole Man, the Skrulls, Dr. Doom, the Miracle Man, Korrgo, and Namor. She seems to have forgotten her own step-father was also one of the villains the FF faced.

The team marvels at the detail and skill Alicia has shown, although Sue wonders why Namor was included in the gallery of evil, as he is not bad like the others. Reed takes this moment to finally confront Sue on her feelings for Sub-Mariner, and Sue refuses to talk about it, saying she doesn’t know how she feels.

At this point, the story is interrupted, as it is as far as Stan and Jack were able to get before they had a strange visitor at the Marvel offices: Dr Doom himself! Doom has returned to Earth after being shot into space on a runaway meteor. Doom doesn’t have time to tell the creative team how he survived, let alone returned to Earth. he has much more important things to do, and he needs Lee and Kirby to help him. They have to call the Fantastic Four and say exactly what he says, or he will kill them!

Stan Lee does as he is told, calling the FF and asking Reed to come to their office to discuss a plot. Reed thinks it’s odd, since he just agreed on a story with them yesterday. Ben complains about how ugly they make him look and Reed asks why Ben is in such a bad mood all the time. Uh, Reed? Maybe because you didn’t listen to him about the dangers of cosmic ray exposure and turned him into a deformed, stone skinned, hideous freak for the rest of his life? For somebody who is supposed to be so intelligent, Reed is pretty stupid at times.

Mr. Fantastic takes the bait and shows up at the Marvel offices, where he is knocked out with a sleeping gas gun by Doom. Doom then instructs Lee and Kirby to call the rest of the FF, who will come to save their leader. He gives the writer and artist a card with his address on it and uses mystical means know only to him to vanish. I love the fact that when Doom got back from outer space, not only did he make a new plan to destroy his enemies, he got new business cards made up.

Doom arrives at his new home, where he commands Reed to awaken and tells him his story. Doom was rescued by a super-evolved race of aliens called the Ovoids, who took him in and shipped him back to Earth. However, before Doom went back to Earth, he learned much from the Ovoids, stealing some of their technology, as well as learning the secret of “body switching.” Doom uses this power now to switch bodies with Mr. Fantastic. Doom’s mind is now n Reed’s body and Reed’s is in Doom’s. Reed tries to stop Doom, but Doom uses his new stretchy powered body to make quick work of Reed in Doom’s body. It’s interesting to note that when Doom’s mind is in Reed’s body, he can dispose of Doom’s body with Reed’s mind in two panels, yet when Doom is in his own body, he can take on the entire Fantastic Four. Maybe Doom is just better at having an elastic body than Reed is.

At this point, the rest of the Fantastic Four storm the building, smashing through the door looking for their missing leader. The find Doom and Reed and start to beat up Doom, not knowing it’s really Reed. Doom, as Reed, is urging them on, while Reed tries to tell them that he isn’t actually Dr. Doom, but Reed Richards in Doom’s body. Naturally, the team thinks it is a desperate lie and don’t believe him. They then try to come up with a variety of ways to keep Doom trapped where he won’t do any harm to anybody ever again, like keeping him a flame cage or covering him with a huge boulder. No wonder Reed seems so smart all the time, he is surrounded by idiots. “Reed” then tells them to just keep Doom where he was going to keep them, in a giant glass cage with an oxygen supply. They dump Dooms body in there and take off, leaving fake Reed to taunt fake Doom, telling him he has enough air for an hour and then will die.

Back at the Baxter Building, Doom has settled into his role as Reed Richards. The rest of the FF are hanging around when a collection of tiny animals comes racing out of Reed’s lab. Miniature bears, horses, elephants and others are running around the room as the FF scamper around trying to gather them up. Reed/Doom arrives back and sees the team collecting his tiny animals, which he shrunk with a reducing ray. He tells the team he is going to use the reducing ray to increase their powers. I know what you are thinking: how can a reducing ray make somebody more powerful? It just so happens that Reed/Doom has an answer, and its a doozy!

His theory is that the dinosaurs once ruled the Earth, but their bodies grew huge while their brains stayed the same size. If the dinosaurs were smaller, they would probably rule the Earth to this day. He then says he will shrink the FF members down to tiny sizes, but their powers will remain the same. Then, when he grows them back to their normal sizes, their powers will increase to enhanced levels. If you are thinking this is ridiculous, you are correct. You are also much smarter than the other members of the Fantastic Four, who proceed to brawl with each other hoping to be the first to get the ray used on them. Doom says he will use the ray on all of them, but he needs time to perfect it. The other members leave and Doom reveals his real plan: he will shrink them, but he will keep on shrinking them until they vanish forever. He also says he knows that his explanation was ludicrous, but only Reed Richards was smart enough to realize it. In this issue, the FF are portrayed as being really scatter-brained.

Meanwhile, Reed is trapped not only in a giant glass bowl, he is also trapped in doom’s body. He tries to smash his way out, but it is no use. he then uses the two oxygen tanks to make an explosion, freeing himself. He makes his way to Alicia’s apartment, hoping to convince her of what has happened. However, Alicia is not alone, as an invisible Sue smashes Doom/Reed over the head with a vase and knocks him out. Doom is a very dangerous man, until you put Reed’s body in him. Then he can get manhandled by anybody who crosses his path. Alicia thinks something is wrong, as she senses nobility in Doom’s body. At that moment, Thing and the Torch show up, and Ben is about to kick the Hell out of Doom, but his instinct stops him. He knows something is wrong, but not what. They toss Doom’s body in the Fantasticar and head back to the Baxter Building.

At the Baxter Building, the truth comes out. The Thing and the Human Torch get the feeling that Reed isn’t talking like Reed, and Johnny comes up with a wacky plan. There are some construction workers excavating a building foundation nearby. Johnny super heats up the air around the dynamite, creating a mirage and making it appear as if the dynamite is in the room. Why this didn’t make the actual dynamite explode and kill the workers is not explained. Seeing the dynamite, Reed, in Doom’s body, leaps on top of the dynamite to save his teammates. Doom, in Reed’s body, tries to slither up a vent to escape and save himself. Thing grabs a hold of him and drags him back into the room. The shock of being discovered snaps Doom’s mental concentration and he and Reed switch back to their original bodies.

Surrounded by the FF, Dr. Doom tries to fight his way out of the situation. He fires a blast from his armor at Reed, but Mr. Fantastic dodges it. the blast hits the reducing ray and triggers it, bathing Doom in the beam. He then shrinks down to nothingness and vanishes as the FF realize how smart Reed is.

COMMENTS:

The cover of this issue is of particular interest. Not only does it show the intriguing prospect of Dr. Doom as a member of the Fantastic Four with Reed Richards being evil, it also shows a rear view of the creators of the FF themselves, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The issue promises that Stan and Jack would be in the actual issue.

I really like that the love triangle between Reed, Sue and Namor is mentioned in this issue. When the book first started, Reed and Sue were engaged and in love. Early on, Sue became enthralled with Prince Namor and Reed didn’t seem to mind. In this issue, Lee and Kirby seem to remember that Reed and sue are supposed to be an item and have Reed finally call Sue out on her blatant lusting after another man.

I also enjoy the relationship between Ben and Alicia. Before Alicia was introduced, ben was just angry and bitter all the time, flying off the handle at the smallest provocation. After Alicia shows up, Ben begins to show the inner sensitivity and soul beneath his gruff exterior he is now known for. Alicia, being blind, can’t see how hideous Ben has become and it allows him to be himself around her. Around everyone else, he always seems self-conscious and defensive. but with Alicia, he can just be himself. Alicia isn’t bothered at all by Ben’s appearance. she only cares about what kind of man he is on the inside. There is also the interesting factor that while Ben desperately wants to look human again, Alicia actually prefers him as the Thing. They have a great relationship, one of my favorites in comics.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby appearing in the issue is a classic Marvel move. This issue establishes the concept that the Marvel characters exist in our world and the comic book that the reader is holding in their hands is based on the heroes actual exploits.  It’s an idea that will be referenced from time to time in the Marvel Universe to this day.

There are some nice little touches in this comic. The Reed/Sue/Namor stuff is nice and the Ben/Alicia relationship is always great. The introduction of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby into the Marvel U is a lot of fun. However, the plot itself for this issue is pretty weak. The science logic is bizarre and the FF are written as being power hungry idiots for most of the issue. The main thing about the plot that is good is that Dr Doom has returned to Earth, even if he was shrunken down to nothingness at the end.

We all know that won’t last long.

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