Wednesday, October 12, 2011
History of the Marvel Universe: November 1967
FANTASTIC FOUR #68
I suppose you could say that this issue is slow-paced in comparison with most FF stories, but it doesn’t feel that way. Reed has invited a top chemist to the Baxter Building to help in his quest to find a cure for Ben. While they are waiting, we get several fairly quiet but emotionally resonate moments that remind us the Fantastic Four is a family; that Reed will never give up in his attempts to help his best friend—whether its to find a cure or simply start some playful antics with his wife to cheer Ben up; and that Ben, despite his complaining, ultimately recognizes that Reed really IS his best friend.
That makes the cliffhanger at the end of this issue all the more emotional. An as-yet-unidentified villain kidnaps the chemist and takes his place, using some experimental equipment not to cure Ben, but to turn him into an enraged killing machine that wants to now destroy those he loves.
The plot here doesn’t involve the sort of cosmic level stuff that is usually a part of the best FF stories. There’s no Earth-shattering threats, time or interdimensional travel, or alien super-beings. But it doesn’t matter. The story’s human moments carry it along nicely and the ending really does carry a lot of impact.
SPIDER MAN #54
Doctor Octopus rents a room from Aunt May. Stan Lee has some fun with this. May has heard news reports about Ock being wanted by the cops, but when he assures her that’s just a misunderstanding arising from his attempts to stop that awful Spider Man from committing a robbery, she believes the well-spoken scientist.
In the meantime, Peter meets Robbie Robertson for the first time and also has some roommate problems. Actually, the roommate problems were first hinted at last issue—Peter’s secrecy and tendency to disappear without explanation are starting to get on Harry’s nerves.
That’s not the least of Petey’s problems, though, when he discovers whom his aunt’s new boarder is. He can’t just attack Doc Ock without endangering May, so he instead tries to lure the villain outside.
This all results in a fight against a bunch of Ock’s henchmen, then a fight against Ock himself. This, in turn, results in Aunt May fainting from shock. Ock gets away, Peter calls a doctor (who prescribes complete rest for May), and the story continues on into the next issue.
John Romita handles the action scenes with consummate skill, especially the free-for-all between Spidey and the henchmen. But November 1967 seems to be Stan Lee’s month for providing honest human moments, despite the overall situation being a little contrived. Between the Fantastic Four and Spider Man, he’s continuing to provide some of his best characterizations ever.
Thor, still without any powers except his super strength, is hypnotized by the Ringmaster into helping steal a giant golden bull—an artifact kept in a local museum.
What follows is a fun sequence in which the Circus of Crime uses their various skills Mission: Impossible style to distract the museum guards and break into the place, so Thor can carry out the bull. But Thor breaks free of the hypnotism just as the Circus is making a getaway. The issue ends with Thor and Princess Python (currently trapped under the golden bull) surrounded by the cops.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Mission: Impossible museum theft sequence. As I mentioned last time, I’m becoming more willing to forgive the lack of cosmic-level threats in recent issues simply because the current plot is a lot of fun.
That’s it for November. In December 1967, Ben Grimm tries to kill his friends; Spider Man’s ongoing battle with Doctor Octopus takes an unusual turn; and Thor goes to the hoosegow.