Thursday, May 12, 2011

137: Fantastic Four #26

Fantastic Four #26
February 11, 1964

  • Concluding the two-parter that began in last month's Hulk vs. Thing slugfest - and this time everybody else gets in on the action too. And it really is everybody, as this time out the Avengers are bona fide guest stars! Last issue they appeared only for the first few pages, setting up the continuation of the Hulk's story from Avengers #3, but after that the story belonged once more to the FF (and more specifically the Thing). This issue, though, delivers exactly what's promised on the cover, as the Fantastic Four meet the Avengers for the first time, and they have their very first official team-up! As a result, this comic really is something of a three-way feature starring the FF, the Avengers, and the Hulk, and all of them get what feels like equal time.

    This may not be the most realistic of ploys ... but it sure is funny!

  • And the superhero thrills are in plenty supply. Not only do we get the requisite number of punches and brawls, but the FF - largely sidelined by the events of last issue - show the indomitable wills they possess, as half the team is forced to overcome rather serious injuries to offer the aid they know their city needs. Reed had been felled low by a malady caused by the improper handling of dangerous chemicals, while Johnny's brief contact with the Hulk had landed him in hospital as well. (Certainly no better way to show just how dangerous your antagonist is!) But upon waking, the first thought for both is concern at the thought of The Thing taking on the Hulk himself. Though in no state to fight, each one leaps up to lend his strength - sapped though it may be.

    This dame just won't stop bugging him.

  • Meanwhile, the Hulk really is cast almost as villain. The destruction he leaves in his wake is fueled by nothing more than untrammeled rage, as he wants to take down his former teammates - wreak vengeance on Avengers - just because he feels that they wronged him. Compare this to any number of Human Torch baddies, such as the Wizard or Paste-Pot Pete, whose motivations quickly became little more than "beat the hero now because he beat me".

    Look at these two pages. 
    You'd never guess it was from an issue of
    The Fantastic Four, would you?

  • Finally, a neat side detail that Stan and Jack include is the media coverage of the super-battle going on downtown. (After all, remember that this is the first time two super-teams had ever joined to vanquish a common foe; the sight of such powerhouses going at it could surely have seemed like the end days to those on the sidelines.) And the news reporters go to some ridiculous lengths to follow the story, first hanging off a rooftop to better gauge the action, then later taking a jeep into the war-torn battleground itself! Perhaps this was Stan's commentary on the real-life media and war correspondents - that the men and women who put themselves at risk to cover such stories really are the unsung heroes of our day.

    And the readership was certain - and very quick - to agree!