Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fantasic Four #3 - Miracle Man Introduction

The Fantastic Four
March 1962
Issue: 3 Reading Order#: 3

In the first two issues for The Fantastic Four, I have periodically poked fun at the ridiculousness contained within them.  Overall, I have accepted that quirkiness and chalk it up as a strange mixture of influence from previous monster comics, the time period itself, and the oddity of Stan Lee in general.  Well, I was okay with it until this issue.  The ending of this comic might be one of the worst things I have ever read. 

I am starting to have a real problem with how the Torch is being portrayed.   There are real inconsistencies with how hot he really is.  It wouldn't be so bad but his power ranges from completely unbeatable to laughable depending on the situation.  I understand the need for dramatic flair but at least establish a base rule set with which to govern this fictional world.  Especially in your main characters.

In this issue we are introduced to a man who calls himself the Miracle Man.  He embarrasses the Fantastic Four during a magic show and then begins this deep internal monologue about how awesome he is and how he cannot be defeated.  The Miracle Man then devises a plot where he will animate this wooden/papier-mâché monster in an attempt to conquer the world.  Never mind the fact the his plan is *ahem* paper-thin, it still manages to confound the super heroes for a bit until Torch comes to save the say by burning it to the ground.  In this initial battle we have discovered new weaknesses for the team.


Weakness Update:

    • Fire. (Fantastic Four #2)
    • Chemical foam will put out his flame.
    • Brick to the head. Blunt force trauma to the head will cause him to spontaneously shrink back to normal size. 
    • Scent gives away her location.  
Who was completely useless in the fight again?  Mister Fantastic.  He should just stay home.  Thing is just always at the wrong place at the wrong time.  I would like to see Thing beat some bad guys soon, by the way.  He deserves some spotlight.

So after the Torch burns down the monster, the Miracle Man douses him in chemical foam to dispose of his only real true threat in the group and he takes off in a new, super cutting edge, nuclear tank.  The Invisible Girl decides to stow away in the tank as her drives off to spy on her enemy.  She plans on alerting the group when she arrives at his junk yard base of operations when she is foiled by a dog.  The dog alerts Miracle Man to her location where he charms her with the snap of his fingers.

Now this is where is gets really bad.  Miracle Man gets her to shoot off her flare gun to signal the team who rushes to save her.  Finding themselves inside Miracle Man's trap a fight ensues. As Miracle Man realizes that the fight is a draw he tries to flee and guess who shows up? Torch, of course. He arrives and turns up the heat so hot that it temporarily blinds Miracle Man. (But no one else.)  He is so devastated by this inconvenience that he immediately gives up and reveals the true source of his power.  Hypnotism.  Apparently he can hypnotize everyone in the Tri-State area with a single snap of his fingers.  It was explained that everything was just an illusion of the mind.  It must have been a shared illusion by the entire city because everyone was in panic.  If he was so powerful and the entire group was under his spell, why couldn't he have just made them realize their were powerless or made them think they were cows and set them off to pasture with the Skrulls? There are so many possibilities for his victory but instead he just mails it in.  The fire was just too bright for him to handle and his will to go on was sapped dry.  The end.

Why was the ending so bad?  On a positive note, they wore their iconic blue costumes for the first time in this issue.  Interestingly enough this is also the issue where the Thing destroys his first suit by ripping out of it.  I might have to make a counter for that if it becomes a habit.  In this issue they also detail the Fantastic Four's base of operations with a weird little diagram and introduce the cheeze-tastic Fantasticar.  Their hovercar breaks into four individual hover platforms that they can tool around town in.  Its great for getting separated and picked off one by one by enemy foes.

NEXT ISSUE IN READING ORDER: Incredible Hulk #1 - Introduction of the Hulk

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fantasic Four #2 - Skrulls Introduction

Fantastic Four #2 - Skrulls Introduction
The Fantastic Four
January 1962
Issue: 2 Reading Order#: 2

In issue number one, I mention on a couple occasions that the public's general distrust in the superheroes was rooted in their questionable actions during the introduction.  This group of heroes had shown the world that wherever they went, chaos ensued.  In this issue, a powerful alien race has taken advantage of this mistrust and has decided to play it against them.  The aliens named Skrulls, are masquerading as members of the Fantastic Four while mimicking their super-human powers with advanced technologies.

Mayhem Update:
  • THE THING - Destroys an off shore oil rig.  Begins a monumental ecological disaster.  Apparently there were zero fatalities in this incident.  Wow!
  • THE INVISIBLE WOMAN - Steals a 10 million dollar diamond.  In today's money, this diamond would actually be worth about 75 million dollars or more.  I believe the only diamond remotely close to this price range is the De Beers Diamond.  That's just for trivia, I guess.
  • THE HUMAN TORCH - Melts a random civil war monument made out of marble.  This made me think.  How hot can a torch get?  Can a torch melt marble?  The answer is it depends on what is feeding the fire.  It seems that it might be technically possible to get a torch to burn that hot.  Never mind that you need some serious stuff powering the blaze and it would have to get as hot as rhyolite magma to melt marble.  Maybe we should call him The Human Magma?
  • MISTER FANTASTIC - Flips a single switch that manages the entire city's power grid.  A bored, probably minimum wage handyman watches a super stretchy arm come into the room and flip off the unguarded switch.  We can presume, that the handyman just says, "too bad I'm off the clock", he then shrugs and leaves to go home for the day.  The city plunges into darkness and chaos.  I am sure this is the point in history that we stop managing whole city electrical grids with a single on/off switch.
So the military comes to arrest the real Fantastic Four who come along quietly.  I guess they knew that once they were captured they would be placed into generic cells with the barest of security staffs.  They all easily break free, ie the invisible woman simple walks out an open door and no one can find her, ect.  Obviously, this whole section was planted here as a reminder of what their super-powers did because its all very redundant.

After some deliberation, the brilliant Mister Fantastic comes up with a simple plan to uncover the imposters.  They will cause more havoc as themselves and in doing so, they hope it will confuse the doppelgangers into revealing themselves.  The plan is a tremendous success. Well, wait.  I am getting ahead of myself just a bit.  There's a little hitch here.  When the human torch uncovers the Skrulls who were impersonating them, a fight betweeen the Skrull-Human Torch and the real Human Torch breaks out.  In the fight, they collide and we learn that somehow they cancel each other out.

Weakness Update:
  • THE HUMAN TORCH - When his fire comes into contact with another fire source, it seems to render his power useless for the period of a few minutes. This is one the of those occasions where you would actually fight fire with fire, as the saying goes.

Human Torch - Fighting fire with fire.
Fighting fire with fire.  How did they know this would even work?

So they turn the tables on the devious Skrulls.  The rest of the Fantastic four burst in and save the day.  Mister Fantastic comes up with a plan that involves posing as themselves in order to infiltrate the Skrull organization. 

Bold move.

The heroes steal the alien's spaceship and fly up to the mother-ship in geosynchronous orbit.  The plan goes off without a hitch and they manage to convince the Skrull leadership that the Earth is full of terrors that will eat them all.  The Skrull get all freaked out and leave Earth's orbit.

When the Fantastic Four return to Earth, the Thing gets hit by radiation and reverts back to normal for a few minutes.  I have to assume that this fact just makes him even more angry than before.  They get out of the spaceship and immediately have to deal with an angry military, who still think that the heroes are evil, and they have to deal with the fact the the 4 Skrulls stuck on Earth have escaped and are causing havoc.  The Fantastic Four use the havoc as a diversion to duck being captured by the Army again and capture the Skrulls, thereby proving the innocence of the Fantastic Four once and for all.

The Fantastic Four punish the remaining four Skrulls to a sentence of impersonating cattle by using hypnotism.  Its easy to see that this hypnotism won't last and it won't be long before they are dealing with Skulls again.  Next time the Skrulls won't scare off so easily.

Aside from the logic issues, the story was fairly decent.  I am glad they wrapped up issues with the public hatred of the hero group.  I am sure that Mister Fantastic could argue that the Skrulls were responsible for all the bad things that happened up to this point and possibly repair their reputation.  I don't quite get why they had to revert The Thing back to a human for a few minutes.  Was it to give him hope that they could someday remove their conditions?  Right now its, kind of unclear.

NEXT ISSUE IN READING ORDER: Fantastic Four #3 - Introduction of the Miracle Man