After a dip in quality for issue 3 (even though tons of elemental FF elements were introduced, it’s elementary really) we very much return to form here in issue 4, where the cover is dynamic and boldly (and accurately) proclaims “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” Stan took credit for saying it with his typical style, but credited the fans for the sentiment, insisting it came from feedback from the fans (letters and phone calls in those days). Once on the inside, not the credit “Stan Lee + Jack Kirby,” just their names, classy (the good old days).
The first act isn’t bad, but it’s really here to resolve the “Where’s Johnny” plot from the previous issue. I also have to stop and point out the quality of Kirby’s work here. At times Kirby’s work can be sloppy (I know hearsay) but only because he worked crazy fast, however, his quickest panels are better than most as they tell more of a story. The story here is all done via character expression. The Thing in the very first panel is full of rage and pain. Even when Stan Lee’s dialogue is at its most corny (which is often a good, or at least enjoyable thing) the drama remains in the images. Moving on from any controversial opinions…
Thing says Torch is a brat (he’s right). Reed blames Ben (he’s right). The previous issue is recapped, without a mention of Miracle Man, because he was lame. The recap focuses on the cool monster and shows us how Torch saved the day, twice last issue.
The gang splits up to find Johnny, leaving in the Fantasti-Car, which is really more a boat than a car. Invisible “I’m not yet a woman” Girl has a drink, why she can’t wait or turn visible first I’m not sure. Reed kicks a guy off a bike. Generally, we have a few fun character moments. It’s nice.
Of course, The Thing finds Johnny, punching through the freaking wall. They fight. Why? Beats me at this point. Ben transforms back and forth. For a moment, he’s happy. Sadly, everybody but Ben seems to realize any transformation is only temporary. More of the beautiful sadness of Kirby’s Thing art.
Johnny is hiding out at a homeless shelter, reading a Sub-Mariner comic from the 1940s, more Meta-Marvel. A bearded drifter mumbles about not knowing who he is. Johnny knows, and burns off his beard! Once years ago a fire singed my face, burning off part of my eyebrows, the smell was horrible. This is a terrible thing for Johnny to do to anybody, but it gets both better and worse. Johnny is now sure who he has found, so he chucks Namor into the ocean to restore his memory. How does Johnny know this will work? Must have been in the comic he was reading.
Namor swims to Atlantis, it sits abandoned and devastated, ravaged by time and neglect. Namor seeks revenge against humanity. That is how you make a villain by the way, he’s full of hate, but quite justified in it. He begins his revenge by awakening a giant sea monster. Another giant monster! The best of 1950s Marvel and the best of 1960s Marvel!
To bring down the undersea goliath, The Thing straps a bomb to his back and crawls into its mouth. He may be sad, he may be angry, but Ben Grimm is a hero through and through. Inside the monster, Thing fights another monster! Sue steals Namor’s horn, the horn he used to awaken the sea creature in the first place. Good news bad news, Namor digs Sue. He hesitates long enough for Johnny to create a vortex, separating the horn from Namor.
Great end and set-up. Loved this issue.
Josiah Golojuh is a writer who once got into an argument with Neil Adams (find his collection of short stories here, Josiah’s not Neil’s), he’s also a frequent YouTube commentator (he’s quite friendly, Neil Adams, less so).