Thursday, June 16, 2011

147: Fantastic Four #27

Fantastic Four #27
March 10, 1964

  • Guest-starring Doctor Strange - and the fury of the Sub-Mariner! When Sue Storm is kidnapped by Namor, the Torch decides to call on the master of the black arts for aid. Though Johnny has only heard vague rumors of the man, he gambles on their truth and leaves a message asking for help. And so we get not only the first story mixing Doctor Strange with the rest of the Marvel Universe, but also the first instance of Strange drawn by someone besides Ditko (not counting covers) - specifically, Marvel's other giant of this era, Jack Kirby! An interesting note is that although Strange helps the FF locate Sue and successfully spies on the Sub-Mariner, Strange and Namor don't actually meet. It's rather appropriate, since in eight years' time they both would form one half of the greatest "non-team" in comics!

    Oddly enough, the scene doesn't bear much resemblance to his home as
    portrayed in
    Strange Tales.  Perhaps it lacks the claustrophobic intimacy of Ditko's pen?

  • This issue finally brings to a boil the love triangle between Reed, Sue and Subby that's been simmering since Namor's initial return in Fantastic Four #4. Early on, Reed declares to Ben & Johnny his intent to marry Sue; and yet, in typically ironic timing, this is exactly when the Sub-Mariner decides that he can't live any longer without her. Hence the abduction (a tried and true component of every love story, yes?). The effect this has upon Reed clashes marvellously with our usual conception of Mr. Fantastic as a stuffed shirt, interested in his lab and little else. His passions and his fury roar into life, and both Johnny and Ben are taken aback with their force. If this is Stan Lee addressing any reader complaints about the team's "dull" leader, it's certainly an effective reply!

    You get the sense of two scared kids watching their father seriously freak out!

  • The only complaint with the romance subplot, really, is that readers might feel they've read it somewhere before. In fact, readers in 1964 would have seen it just last week! For isn't it remarkably similar to the most recent Giant-Man story, and the burgeoning romance of Hank and Jan? Think about it: At the start of the tale, Reed openly declares his love for Sue. Check. He's even bought a ring! Check. But before he can pop the question, chaos ensues, and at the end of the tale there's some measure of doubt in Reed & Sue's hearts about the true depths of the other's feelings - and the question goes unasked. Finally, finally: Check. Look, recycling stories is fine, and was done quite often in these early years of comics. But repeating one's stories in the very same month?! That's a new record, even for Stan! But at least the postponement of this resolution will be much, much shorter than that facing Hank and Jan - in fact, it will be only a year.

    "Hey, Doc, we got a problem.  Think you can help us out?"
    "Sure thing, man.  I'll just jump in the ocean and read the mind of a fish!"

  • On a lighter note, the story begins with Reed working in his lab, perfecting a new invention: The thought projector! As a device which allows a person to project their thoughts for all to see, it seems remarkably similar to certain powers we've seen Professor Xavier display during the first few issues of The X-Men. Could we perhaps conjecture that this might have something to do with the Torch's recent run-in with Iceman, and that a later report on the same might have got Reed to thinking about their leader, the mysterious Professor X? It could be, it could be ... and after all, the X-Men are set to guest-star in the very next ish!