A new issue of what was rapidly becoming my favorite comic book turned up at my local 7-11, and at this point I was clearly an avowed FANTASTIC FOUR reader, if not truly a full-on Marvel convert quite yet. (That event would take place in a few weeks.) A lot of that had to do with the appeal of the artwork of George Perez, who swiftly established himself as a special favorite. The slick inking of Joe Sinnott gave everything that particular Fantastic Four polish that I so associated with the series for so long.
This issue picks up from the last, in a pattern that I was beginning to understand as regarded the Marvel books. The Impossible Man here gives writer Len Wein the opportunity to recap the situation: the Molecule Man has possessed Reed Richards’ body, leaving the other members of the FF stymied as to how to handle the situation.
A brief aside; the classified ads in this issue included this page, touting a new book on the super heroes of the golden age at the upper left. I didn’t order a copy then (not at five bucks I didn’t!) but I did eventually get one (and its sequel, THE GOLDEN AGE REVIEW) one Christmas out of the SUPERHERO MERCHANDISE catalog–better remembered today as HEROES WORLD.
Anyway, back at the ranch, the Molecule Man wants to use Reed’s Psi-Amplifier to make his possession of Reed permanent–a plan that the Thing foils by demolishing the Psi-Amplifier. And irate Molecule man seals the FF inside a cube of adamantium and takes off. The Torch is able to increase his flame to such a degree that the pressure builds up and destroys the adamantium cube from within (writer Len Wein was chronic in both using adamantium in his stories and having it damaged or destroyed, forcing the Marvel Handbook writers years later to invent Adamantium-B to cover these situations.) As the FF set out to pursue their leader, they’re taken aback by the appearance of the Watcher, who only shows up to bear witness in the most significant of moments. But the Watcher doesn’t say a word here, so the FF have no idea what is to come, only that it’s perilous.
The Molecule Man is having his own problems, as Reed’s consciousness is fighting against him like crazy, and if there’s one place that Reed is at his strongest, it’s in his mind. In an attempt to force Richards into yielding, the Molecule Man causes a nearby skyscraper to transform into a huge, rampaging monster, with its inhabitants still trapped inside it. Len’s narration makes it clear that not a single person in the building is killed in all of this, but Reed has no choice but to stand down and let the Molecule man go about his business unimpeded.
At this point, the FF sow up and begin a reluctant battle with the Molecule Man. Even with Reed still holding back the M-Man from within a little bit, the FF are on teh ropes for most of this fight, getting kicked around like crazy. The one advantage they have is that the Impossible Man, who can control all of the molecules of his being, is immune to the Molecule Man’s powers. Unfortunately, Impy doesn’t quite understand the subtleties of the situation, and so when he moves to brain the Molecule Man with a replica of Thor’s hammer, Sue has no choice but to protect her husband. Hurt by this turn against him by his friends, the Impossible Man leaves the story (and the series) in a huff.
And the fight goes on, with the Molecule man sealing up Sue inside a steel shell. The Thing manages to clip MM with a piece of debris by accident, and ben is worried that he’s just killed his best friend. No such luck–the Molecule man is fine, but now the part of Reed that is within him is unconscious, and he can act directly against the FF as he hasn’t been able to before. He blasts the trio, intending to disintegrate them–but the unstable molecules of their costumes causes him a painful feedback, which makes him drop his wand and release Reed. The wand falls into an incinerator, so that seems to be the end of that. And Reed himself is fine and restored to normal.
Except Reed isn’t normal. He’s still lost his stretching powers (a situation that’s been ongoing since issue #178 at this point) and this experience has shown him just how ineffective he is as a member of the team. So as the Watcher observes, Reed declares that he’s leaving the Fantastic Four. Sue opts to go with him, which means that there isn’t a Fantastic Four any longer–the team is splitting up for good! And this is the event that the Watcher has sadly been waiting to witness. To be Continued!