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Fantastic Four #3   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #3

The only credits given are a simple “Stan Lee + J. Kirby”

SYNOPSIS

The third issue the Fantastic Four opens with a magic show being performed by The Miracle Man. He is hovering above the stage and points out the four celebrities in the audience: Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl, The Thing and the Human Torch. He then proceeds to mock their powers, saying they are nothing compared to the miracles he can work. Miracle Man grows into a giant, turns into a cloud, controls lightning bolts, and says the FF are nothing next to him. The Thing flies into a rage and MM challenges him to a test of strength. Miracle easily wins, and even takes a right cross from the Thing that does nothing. The FF leave the performance in their new flying Fantasticar, saying they are grateful Miracle Man isn’t a criminal. As if on cue, Miracle Man is shown getting ready to commit a crime.

The FF arrive at their new skyscraper headquarters and we get a cut away view of the layout of the building. The FF have acquired a pogo plane, a helicopter, a missile that can reach any part of the world in minutes, an observatory, and various other gadgets and rooms. They are also revealed to own the entire building. Apparently they came into some huge money. Maybe they are making a fortune on milk from the Skrull cows in last months episode?

Once inside their new headquarters/home, the FF kick back and relax. Johnny turns on the world’s biggest TV screen to watch the premiere of a new movie called “The Monster From Mars,” which is showing at a nearby theater. The theater has a huge statue of a monster on display to help promote the film. As the three male members of the FF watch this, Susan shows up wearing a costume she made. She said if they are going to be a crime fighting team, they should look like a crime fighting team, and so made colorful costumes for each member. Just as the FF are trying on their new duds, the monster statue on TV comes to life and begins to terrorize the people outside the theater.

The FF spring into action, each taking a section of the Fantasticar, which splits into 3 separate flying vehicles. Mr. Fantastic finds the monster first, and traps him by turning his body into a giant net. However, The Miracle Man is there and he defeats Reed by hitting him with a brick. Seriously. Not the best start for the leader of the world’s greatest super hero team. As if that isn’t enough humiliation, the commissioner hauls Reed into his office and berates him for failing to apprehend the gigantic monster that is destroying the city. I wonder if he is this harsh with all of his police as well?

Johny Storm is the next member to encounter the beast. he leaps out of the Fantasticar and flames on, only to be grabbed by the monster. However, since the monster is only made of wood, it quickly burns to ashes. Why this weakness wasn’t evident when bullets were bouncing off of it is not explained. Seeing the Torch save their new atomic tank from capture, the army thanks Johnny by shooting him with chemical foam and extinguishing his flame. The FF members get yelled at when they fail and attacked when they succeed. Looks like the poor guys can’t catch a break.

Susan and Ben show up on the scene, Thing ripping his shirt apart and tossing off his helmet for better mobility. He attacks Mircale Man, telling Sue to hide in case he needs her later. Thing then charges MM, but is quickly dispatched when the ground opens up and swallows him.  Sue decides she has to handle this on her home and turns invisible, sneaking into the stolen tank as Miracle Man makes his escape.

Back at the FF headquarters, the other three members await Susan’s signal as Thing once again recaps their origin from the first issue. Reed says fate was good to them and they have the ability to fight evil. Thing counters that fate was kind to the other three members, but he himself has been turned into a monster. He wants to look like himself again, in the hopes that Sue will look at him the way she looks at Reed. Johnny gets upset at this remark and once again Thing and Torch fight. Reed yells at them and they break it up, but Johnny gets mad and storms out while reed wonders what’s wrong with them.

Meanwhile, Miracle Man brings his shiny new atomic tank to a junkyard and proceeds to cover the tank with old cars to hide it. Sue sees all of this from her invisible hiding spot, but a dog catches her scent and alerts MM to her presence. Miracle Man hypnotizes her and forces her to turn visible, then summon the rest of the FF so he can defeat them once and for all.

Mr. Fantastic and The Thing arrive at the junkyard, but The Miracle Man fights them off with a machine gun. He tries to make his escape, but The Human Torch arrives and the three give pursuit in an antique race car that they find at the junk yard. They lose a tire, but reed takes the shape of one and becomes a spare as the Torch flies on ahead, increasing his flame and blinding Miracle Man.

With his eyesight gone, Miracle Man is now powerless. It turns out he is not a true Miracle Man, he is just a master of mass hypnosis. Reed knew that a real Miracle Man wouldn’t have needed to steal jewels, he could have just conjured them from thin air. He also wouldn’t have fled from the FF, he could have easily dispatched them. With the threat over, Thing and Torch begin arguing once again, and TJohnny announces he has had enough and quits, flying off into the distance. Reed wonders what they could do if he decides to turn against them?

COMMENTS:

Issue #3 of the Fantastic Four is a mixed bag. The villain himself is very forgettable. Unlike the adversaries from the first two issues of the comic, I don’t believe Miracle Man ever makes another appearance, while the Mole Man and the Skrulls appear in Fantastic Four, along with other Marvel comics, to this day. However, in every other way, Fantastic Four #3 is a huge step forward for an already great comic book.

It is in this issue that the Fantastic Four come as close as they ever will to embracing the qualities of a true super hero team. They get a high tech headquarters, suped up vehicles, and even costumes in this issue. The costumes were so iconic that they remained basically the same design as this one for he next 50 years. The Human Torch also underwent a visual change in this issue. In the first 2, he was drawn as a human shaped mass of flame, with no real form to him. In this third issue, he is drawn with a much more refined look. He no longer looks like a burning Christmas tree with arms. Now he is drawn in a clearly human shape, colored red with black lines to indicate the flame. This is the way Johnny will be drawn in his “flamed on” appearance for the vast majority of the next 50 years.

While the Fantastic Four are now clearly a super-hero book, they never quite completely embrace the specific traits of the super-hero genre. Yes, they are a crime fighting team with colorful costumes, but they stop just short of being totally formulaic. They still fight amongst themselves, which is actually mentioned as something realistic and refreshing in the first ever Fantastic Four letters page in this issue. Also, while they wear bright costumes, they don’t maintain secret identities. If you have ever seen the original pencils by Jack Kirby, you know that the FF were originally supposed to wear masks. In between the pencilling stage and the inking/coloring stage, somebody changed their mind, and the FF never got secret identities. They are publicly known right from the start. In fact, the beginning of this story is the first inkling that not only are the Fantastic Four known by their civilian as well as their super hero names, they are also celebrities in their own right. This is something that will be expounded upon a lot in the future, as the Fantastic Four become almost America’s equivalent to the Royal Family in later years.

The high tech headquarters, the imaginative vehicles, the classic uniforms, the public identities, the fame and celebrity, the over the top villains, the in-fighting between the group, almost all of the elements that make the Fantastic Four so special are already in place by the third issue. Almost every single staple of the FF over the last 5 decades can be traced back to the first three issues of the title, specifically the third one. Stand and Jack clearly have a vision for this title and in this issue, it has become almost fully formed.

Posted April 24, 2011 by John V. Ferrigno in Uncategorized