Wednesday, July 7, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: May 1965, Part 1


The Frightful Four is back, kidnapping Sue to lure the rest of the FF to a remote Pacific atoll, where a “Q-bomb” (an ultra-powerful nuke) has been placed.

The issue begins with a playful moment that reminds us of the family dynamic at work among the Fantastic Four, and a few pages reminding us who makes up the Frightful Four (Paste-Pot Pete, by the way, finally changes his name to the Trapster in this issue.)

Then the story takes off like a bullet, moving quickly from New York to the atoll. Jack Kirby has especial fun with visuals involving Reed Richards. The most notable is when the villains are trying to escape the atoll in their spherical aircraft. Reed stretches his body into a large spring and launches Ben up and through the craft’s hull.

Sue spends much of the issue a prisoner, groggy from being hit by sleep gas. But she still gets her moment, using her force field in a clever way to get loose from her bonds.

But in the end, the bad guys get away from the atoll and set off the bomb. Sue’s force field seems to have saved their lives, but the last panel shows Ben turning human again and includes an ominous warning that all four have been affected. This will lead directly into a wonderful two-part story that will take up the next couple of issues.


A psychiatrist publically announces that Spider Man must be nuts and on the verge of cracking up completely. Soon after, Spidey begins to have hallucinations that he’s being attacked by various arch-enemies. Convinced he is going nuts, he visits the psychiatrist.

Well, it’s a trap, of course. The head doctor is really Mysterio, out for revenge by convincing Spidey to spill his secret identity. In this regard, the story is a little weak. It’s a fun idea to have Peter doubt his sanity and it’s handled well, but he really should have at least suspected a trap from the start. Mysterio had played similar tricks with him before.

But the rest of the issue is fun. There’s lots of good stuff with Jameson, Betty, Liz and Flash, much of it centering around Liz’s increasing interest in Peter and Peter’s continued jealousy that Betty is still writing Ned Leeds.

It all sounds very “soap opera” when baldly described, but that’s okay. The characters involved are all likeable and young enough to make their insecurities and bad decisions understandably. Heaping “Real Life” problems on Peter along with the superhero stuff continues to be the book’s main strength.


The Torch/Thing tale isn’t a bad little story. Johnnie’s recruited to help on security on a space program. The head scientist turns out to be a villain, planning on gaining control of all of the U.S.’s satellites.

Eventually, Johnny ends up in orbit, in a space capsule rigged to come apart upon re-entry, while Ben is on the ground caught in a giant magnet. Both escape their respective death traps and come to get the bad guy from different directions—while each is convinced the other is dead. They manage to collide with each other, but catch the bad guy anyways.

Meanwhile, Dr. Strange manages to get back to New York and defeat one of Mordo’s minions guarding his home by—well, pretty much by sucker-punching the guy. Mordo, his power still amped up by Dormammu, attacks Strange personally.

In the end, Mordo seems to have defeated Strange when the Sorcerer Supreme is apparently zapped out of existence.

We also get a glimpse of Clea (still unnamed at this point) to remind us that Strange has a potential ally in Dormammu’s dimension.

Lee and Ditko still do a bang-up job with serial storytelling, keeping tensions high and the action non-stop. This entire story arc really is one of the best Dr. Strange stories ever.

Next week, we’ll continue with May 1965 with a look at Thor, Iron Man and Captain America.

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