Every time I take these short breaks from the Fantastic Four I feel a strange void in my life. It’s as if I’ve been apart from my family and need them. I don’t always like them and they aren’t always perfect, but I always love them and need them. I need the Fantastic Four, I need Stan Lee, I need Jack Kirby. With that, we return to the Fantastic Four with issue 14! The cover promises us the return of The Sub-Mariner and teases the return of another villain? Spoiler alert, I will spoil it later.
The story picks up where the last issue left off, the team is returning from having defeated the Red Ghost on the Moon. They return to Earth and they are the super-hero Beatles. A mob of rabid fans and media is there to greet them.
Johnny uses a tornado to transport them home, his powers, in particular, are REALLY all over the place in early issues and he’s insanely powerful. Certainly the most powerful member of the team.
At home the men folk rest, they’re tired. So is Sue, but she decides to clean. Reed is okay with her cleaning, as long as she does so quietly. Sigh. Anyway, when Reed isn’t being a jerk he’s lamenting his inability to win Sue’s heart… I wonder why that is Reed? Maybe help her clean, or say thank you? No, you decide to tell her to be quiet when she cleans.
The story can finally begin and it begins with that super secret second villain, The Puppet Master! The Puppet Master had been living in a rest home for several months but is now out and ready for revenge. To get that revenge he mulls over which FF enemy to use and decides to use Namor.
A zombie-puppet Namor calls to Sue. Sue, unsure if she still has feelings, decides to go to him to find out once and for all. She’s immediately taken prisoner, again. This happens a lot to Sue, like every other issue.
Before heading to the ocean and Namor, the Thing goes to visit Alicia. There’s a moment that is the epitome of why I love the work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but also why I hate it. The Thing gets overcharged for parking his part of the Fantasticar. In between, Alicia is mopey and convinced Thing to take her with him. Before they leave, Thing stacks the double parked cars that were blocking the Fantasticar. It’s hilarious and wonderful. In the next panel, however, it’s sort of all for naught as Stan Lee seemed afraid of insulting parking lot attendants and had Ben say something about “putting all the cars back.” It shows the conflict between Jack and Stan. The stacked cars with a bit of a justified “screw you” is pure Jack, then what Jack would later call “Sniveling Stan” enters the picture and tries to make nice. Again, as I shared in previous entries, things got bad between these guys later on.
The Fantastic Four, minus the captured Sue, but plus Alicia, go under the sea (so we are still at four, it’s up to you if you still feel they’re all fantastic or not). They fight with Namor for awhile. There are several pages of great Jack Kirby action crowded by Stan Lee dialogue (I am really taking it to Stan Lee this issue, not my intention, I love Stan! But I call it like I see it).
The Thing finally rescues Sue and the Puppet Master decides to make Namor not just “defeat” the Fantastic Four but to actually kill them. Alicia also reveals why she’s here as she “senses” the Puppet Master. That’s pretty much all she does, in fact, that IS all she does.
Namor resists or at least tries to. Meanwhile, the Puppet Master, nearby in a submarine, attempts to control a giant sea creature and fails. Namor is free of his possession and he lets the FF go. They are all unsure if it was actually the Puppet Master. It really makes for a cool end. Reed hopes it isn’t the Puppet Master because if it is, the world is in great danger. Hey Reed, it IS THE PUPPET MASTER!
It’s the definition of suspense in the Hitchcockian sense. You show the bomb under the table to the audience, but the characters don’t know. Will they figure it out? Or will they get blown up? Stay tuned to find out!
Josiah Golojuh is a writer, who can’t think of a joke because it’s nearly 2 AM (find his collection of short stories here), he’s also a YouTube commentator (where, among other things, he does things similar to these Retro Reviews).