Fantastic Four (Vol. 1) #4

Credits:

Cover Date: May 1962

“The Coming of…the Sub-Mariner!”

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Sol Brodsky

What’s Going On?

The remaining members of the Fantastic Four search the city for the Human Torch (Johnny Storm), after he quit the team in a huff last issue. While hiding from his friends, Johnny meets a suspiciously strong vagrant. After burning the man’s beard away, Johnny realizes that the bum is actually Namor, the Sub-Mariner, super-powered hero of World War II!

Johnny brings Namor to the harbor, where the water cures his amnesia; Namor remembers that he is the ruler of an undersea kingdom, and rushes to return to his people. Unfortunately, it seems that his kingdom was decimated by atomic testing, and now he doesn’t know where the survivors went.

Namor declares war on the surface world, and it is up to the FF to counter his attack.

Is It Good?

Yes! This was a fun issue. It is ridiculous in many parts, but the Sub-Mariner is written as a solid villain here — he is brash and somewhat sympathetic, and appears to be a legit threat for the team. I was disappointed that the team had to fight yet another giant monster (creatively named Giganto), but this is overall a notch above the past few issues. The art feels more action-packed this issue, but we have not reached peak Kirby yet. Also, the Thing gets some grotesquely swollen lips in this issue that make me uncomfortable.

Sub-Plots:

  • Johnny quietly rejoins the Fantastic Four
  • Namor is smitten with Susan Storm

  • Ben once again temporarily transforms back into a human. That is the first time it has happened without an apparent cause.

  • The Sub-Mariner is defeated, but vows to return

Continuity:

  • This is the first Fantastic Four cover to proclaim “The Word’s Greatest Comic Magazine.”
  • This is the first appearance of Namor, the Sub-Mariner, in Marvel’s Silver Age. I believe his last appearance before this was in Sub-Mariner Comics #42 (1955).
  • The return of the Sub-Mariner is interesting, because it directly connects these comics to the WWII comics published by Timely and Atlas comics (which later became Marvel). That immediately enriches (and complicates) the world history for the budding Marvel Universe.
  • This is the first issue that explicitly places the Fantastic Four’s base of operations in New York City. Given DC’s preference for fictionalized cities, this is an interesting choice, and one that helps ground Marvel’s heroes in the future.
  • Incredible Hulk #1 was published the same month as this comic. This issue has little notes in the margins hyping up the Hulk’s first appearance:

  • This is the first appearance of the Horn of Proteus. Namor’s monster-controlling horn isn’t named in these pages, but that is the name it is given in future appearances.
  • Despite no mention of it since the first issue, and no on-panel romantic chemistry, Reed and Sue are still engaged.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Good leaders don’t blame others. Reed…is not a good leader.

  • That’s not how shaving works, Johnny.

  • The Fantastic Four: bourgeois snobs

  • None of this exchange is correct. What connection does Johnny have to bikers? How did Reed yank the biker off his motorcycle without hurting him? Didn’t the motorcycle get damaged without its driver? Why would the biker be excited to tell his friends that Mr. Fantastic thought he was worthless?

  • When the Thing finds Johnny, he absolutely wrecks the auto garage Johnny was hanging out in. The Thing is an asshole.
  • Nuclear weapons: a very reasonable first defense.

  • How can Sue pass up such a sweet proposal?

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