This is the first Fantastic Four comic on sale after I was born, so it seemed like the logical place to start. The Fantastic Four was the linchpin of the Marvel Universe. If you read the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee run, the entire Marvel Universe is built right there. The things that are quintessentially Marvel either started or guest starred there. Wakanda, Vibranium, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., Atlantis, Negative Zone, the Inhumans, the Kree, the Skrull, Galactus all of this came from this one comic, so there was nowhere else I should start.
Synopsis: Fantastic Four 179 had a cover by Al Milgrom and the interior team was Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway on words and Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott on pictures and opened with Reed Richards being exiled into the Negative Zone, by his doppelgänger from Counter-Earth.
Faux-Reed convinces the rest of the team (Sue Richards the Invisible Girl, Johnny Storm the Human Torch and Benjamin J Grimm, the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing) that he is the original Reed and that the exiled one is the Brute, the Reed Richards of Counter-Earth and the team and their house guests Tigra, Thundra and the Impossible Man try to enjoy some TV. Ben spends the time trying to prevent Thundra from hitting on him before he leaves with Tigra who after a steak dinner, pretty much does the same thing. Before the Thing (pining for his girlfriend Alicia) gets more uncomfortable a, large robot pulls a vault out of a bank. The Thing and Tigra try to prevent the robot from getting away and the robot battles Ben as it melts the vault with it’s rising temperature.
The battle is over and we turn our attention to Sue, who is wandering around the Baxter Building, uneasy around Faux-Reed, suspecting he is not the man he says he is. As all this goes on, Reed (who’s powers are long gone) is fighting for his life against batwinged monsters, hunger, cold and just as it looks like he’s surviving, in comes Annihilus.
Notes: This was a lot of fun, made little to no sense at all, but it was fun. Deciding the read the comics in isolation left me with questions, why didn’t Reed have his powers? How did Faux-Reed get to regular Earth? What was that bit with the robot about? The best thing about this era of Marvel… Doesn’t matter. The robot thing will pop up later am sure and the pacing of the issue and sprinkling of exposition meant I had no worries following along.
This was a very 70’s issue, with lots of stuff in it and a very earnest feel to the whole thing. This was a very recognisable Fantastic Four and was a great issue. The last two pages especially, where Sue begins to question, whether the man she just left in bed in really her husband (go on, think about that for a second, I’ll wait) and Reed, in the Negative Zone, realising his only hope is his wife noticing that the other Reed isn’t him before coming face to face with Annihilus while powerless and in his underpants.
Relevance: Not very much from this story has much in the way of future relevance as Reed trapped in the Negative Zone, people pretending to be Reed and random robot attacks are nothing new, but this is a nice little example of what a good comic of the time could be.
Next Time: December 1976