As always, things begin with the cover. I find that one of the things that made Marvel Marvel was their dynamic covers featuring big epic characters and scenes. At the time, suddenly trailing in sales after being the leader in the industry pretty much since its inception, DC felt the same way. So DC tried to do a bit of what Marvel did, just a bit, Pride prevented them from full-on stealing Marvel’s style. It didn’t work. Marvel’s response put lots of text on the cover, more characters, smaller characters, their books still sold better. As this book is a testament, it’s because of what was inside. As almost always, spoilers.
Inside, the “real” Marvel-style cover, big dynamic and thoroughly dramatic Kirby art, kicks things off.
The story begins as the team gathers, an iconic Fantastic Four trope. As it begins we learn that Reed created life. Is Reed God? It’s presented in a very, “Oh by the way,” fashion, however, this will probably be important later.
Our villain is an ugly dude with no personality other than smartness and that aforementioned ugliness. He is The Thinker! Great name for a statue, not for a villain. That said, this story works really well and is classic Kirby/Lee storytelling. It’s a slow build with a nice payoff, I just wish Stan and Jack had swapped Dr. Doom or somebody in for The Thinker. Thinker has a convoluted plan involving stopping machines, however, his “thinking” really seems more luck than anything. He’s Domino, but again, ugly.
The team all gets opportunities, such as Johnny’s cousin from the circus inviting him along, to go do their own thing. Speaking of The Thing, he wrestles, Reed does science, and Sue gets a lead in a movie (no more co-starring with the rest of the Fantastic Four). The point here is that they team splits and it is somehow all set up by The Thinker. The team members, however, don’t care for their new jobs.
They return to the Baxter Building to find it encased in an impenetrable crystal shielding. We are on page 15 and the true conflict has just begun. That is brilliant storytelling. That is Hitchcockian suspense. You show the team torn apart, the villain amassing his power, implementing his plan, the team has no idea what they’re in for, but the audience does and now they’re in for it.
The team has to retake their home. The action is Kirby at his best as the team faces several challenges. Battling an android, Sue saves the day, good for you Sue! However, it’s somehow diminished as she did so with her “sensitive touch.” I guess that’s a touch-only women have?
The FF wins, naturally, because Reed outthought the Thinker. Also, that created life deal. Since Reed created it he could stop it, basically, he knew the weakness. Point being, Reed is smarter than the Thinker. Reed had Lumpkin press a button at 4:00 PM. The button then neutralized all of Reed’s gear, as he knew that the Thinker would use his own gear against him.
Overall, great build, nice payoff, lame villain. Good news on the villain front, we’ll get a new bad guy, well an old one. I won’t spoil it for you. Okay, I will, it’s Dr. Doom. Dr. Doom is back. It’ll be awesome.
Josiah Golojuh is a writer, who is excited to visit his family soon (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).