FANTASTIC FOUR #45
Gee whiz, Stan and Jack jam so much storytelling (and some nifty characterizations) into this issue that I’m not even going to try to summarize it in detail. Suffice to say that the Dragon Man is more or less befriended by the FF, leaving Reed with the problem of figuring out what to do with it.
In the meantime, Johnny stumbles over the hidden lair of the Inhumans. These include Gorgon and Medusa, but we also meet Lockjaw (the huge, teleporting dog and the coolest pet in the Marvel Universe), Karnak, Crystal and Triton. Triton, though, is cloaked in this issue—his big reveal will come next issue. We meet Black Bolt as well, though only in the last panel as the leader of the Inhumans confronts our heroes. We learn no details about the Inhumans yet, but that’ll be coming soon. I’ll talk a little more about the Inhumans then, but for now I’ll just say that they are a fun addition to the Marvel Universe and will be the focal point of a lot of great stories over the years.
We get a great internal monologue from Ben, who is (rather understandable) feeling sorry for himself and wondering if Alicia just pities him rather than actually loves him. It’s a bit melodramatic, but Ben has become so likable that it does generate quite a bit of sympathy for the big galoot.
There’s a great line of dialogue for Reed: When Sue expresses concern for him at one point, he snaps at her to “Stop acting like a wife and start acting like a team member!”
Johnny’s love life is also in flux. He gives Dorrie Evans a call, but she blows him off. That’s pretty much Dorrie’s exit from Johnny’s life. She’d been his girlfriend almost since the FF began, but had never really been given much personality. So Johnny will be falling for Crystal. Actually, he’ll be falling for her a little too quickly to be believable, but at this point, the Fantastic Four is so much fun that I can forgive minor missteps like that. I don't think Dorrie shows up again for years--when Johnny tries looking her up and discovers she's a married mother of two.
SPIDER MAN #31
Peter’s off to college. It’s in this issue that we meet Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy, both of whom will become very, very important in Peter’s life in the months to come. At first, though, it looks as if he’ll never make friends with him. Aunt May takes ill just as classes begin. When Harry and Gwen try to make friends with Peter, he brushes them off so he can hurry to the hospital to see May. They begin to think he’s stuck up.
Stan Lee has been handling the characterizations in Spider Man exceptionally well, but all this comes across as a little contrived. All Peter had to do was say “Sorry, the woman who raised me is ill. I gotta visit her” and there wouldn’t have been a problem. Oh, well. It’s still a lot better than the awkward romantic shenanigans going on in other Marvel books.
Peter’s relationship with Betty Brant is also coming to its culmination. Ned is still making goo-goo eyes at her as she unsuccessfully tries to get in touch with Peter. This is all a part of shoving Betty out of the book and giving Gwen the center stage in the pretty girl category.
But this is s superhero book, so all this mushy stuff is wrapped around the story of some high-tech thieves who are stealing scientific equipment. Spider Man clashes with them a few times, but as of yet has no clue who the mastermind behind the crime wave is.
This issue moves along at a steady and entertaining pace, but it’s really just a set up for the next couple of issues, which represent some of the best and most intense storytelling from the Lee/Ditko era.
Kang, in the meantime, is making goo-goo eyes at Ravonna, the leader of a small country that he has not overtly conquered (holding back for her sake). But when she continually rejects him, he orders his troops to move in. This leaves the Avengers in a Last Stand situation against Kang’s army.