Fantastic Four (Vol. 1) #23

Credits:

Cover Date: February 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos

“The Master Plan of Doctor Doom!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: George Roussos

What’s Going On?

Doctor Doom hatches a plan to maroon the Fantastic Four in deep space! Will the heroes be able to stop arguing amongst each other long enough to save themselves?

Details:

  • After some hijinks that resulted from Ben and Johnny’s bickering, Reed got angry with the rest of the team. In response, Ben, Johnny, and Sue decided that they should elect a new team leader.

  • Elsewhere, three seemingly random criminals found themselves out on bail, thanks to a mysterious benefactor. It didn’t take long for them to learn that their benefactor was actually Doctor Doom, and that he wanted to use them against the Fantastic Four!

  • Meanwhile, the election of the new FF leader didn’t go smoothly —- everyone (except Reed; he didn’t participate) voted for themselves!

  • That led to Ben and Johnny scuffling, and Sue trying (and failing) to calm them down. Eventually, Reed stepped in and basically told them all to behave or quit.

  • Elsewhere, Doctor Doom gave his new underlings superpowers that correspond to the Fantastic Four’s.

  • Doctor Doom’s plan involved approaching each member of the FF individually, and capturing them. Once that was accomplished, he sent his underlings to another dimension (!) instead of rewarding them.

  • Doctor Doom allowed the FF to be kept in the same room together, so naturally they helped each other escape their bonds. Little did they realize why Doom kept them together…

  • Apparently, “solar waves” are a thing, and they can teleport matter into space. More importantly, the room that the FF were in was designed to be especially susceptible to the solar wave; the FF had only moments before they were sent into deep space, along with the rest of the room!

  • Unfortunately for Doom, Sue made sure that he didn’t escape. Even worse, Doom’s attempt to stop the solar wave process was too late to change anything!

  • Doctor Doom fell into the nothingness of space, presumably to his death.

  • The team managed to sneak out of the room before the solar wave could transport them away.

  • Afterward, it was agreed that Reed should continue to lead the Fantastic Four.

Is It Good?

This is one of the weaker Fantastic Four issues in a while. The plot is truly convoluted, and the pseudoscience is absolutely ridiculous. Now, the plot may be downright silly, but it is still pretty entertaining. We get to see Reed treating the rest of the FF like they are insolent children, Sue capturing Doom, and Doom acting like a total coward. It’s a dumb issue of mostly fluff, but it is still fun to read.

Continuity:

  • The Fantastic Four have taken Doctor Doom’s time machine from his dilapidated castle and brought it to the Baxter Building.

  • Asbestos is used to stop Johnny again.

  • Doctor Doom creates a Cosmic Ray gun that can temporarily transform the Thing back into Ben Grimm.

  • Doctor Doom has a device that can give people super-powers.

  • Doctor Doom was last seen drifting, unprotected through space.

  • This is the first appearance of the Terrible Trio, even if they don’t use that name in this appearance. They are Bull Brogan (super-strength), Yogi Dakor (invulnerable to fire), and Handsome Harry Phillips (super-hearing).

Comics Are Goofy:

  • How stupid is Johnny? Well, he read that a maharajah wanted to give him a free,one-of-a-kind car and didn’t question it at all. Not even a “Why didn’t the maharaja contact the Baxter Building?” or “Who is this guy, and why is he giving me a car?” Nope. His reaction is “whee!”

  • Why does Doom even need underlings? He built two robots (are they Doombots if they don’t look like Doom?) that were extremely useful and successful, and yet he destroys them at a whim.

  • I love Doom’s pose in this panel. It looks like he’s in a commercial for wine coolers, or something: “After a long, hard day of being evil, I like to kick back and enjoy a Seagram’s Golden wine cooler —- it’s wet, and it’s dry.”

  • Smart: tailor your restraints to each member of the Fantastic Four that you have captured.  Dumb: leaving the Fantastic Four alone, unsupervised in a room, so they can use teamwork to counter your tailor-made restraints.

  • I love that there is no scientific explanation for what the solar wave does. Instead, it teleports things “in some strange way” to space. It’s hard to disprove that, I guess.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • In case you are unfamiliar with “Gunga Din,” this would be about the same as calling a Native American “Tonto.” It’s not a slur, but it’s the titular character in a racist poem (and slightly less racist movie). Also, Johnny wouldn’t have called a Caucasian “Gunga Din;” this is another example of Silver Age Marvel comics mis-coloring the skin tone of people of color (specifically Indians).

  • “If only he understood females better!” – Sue Storm, hopefully talking about the man scripting her dialogue, Stan Lee.

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