A month had gone by, and there was no more welcome sight than a new issue of FANTASTIC FOUR arriving on the Spinner Rack at my local 7-11. This issue was one of those odd books where my younger brother Ken subsequently bought his own copy a week or two later, so there were two of them floating around our household. That’s a nice enough George Perez cover, but I’m not wild about the brown background–especially as it’s almost identical to the brown on the wagon that Namor is holding aloft.
FANTASTIC FOUR had been facing scheduling woes for a number of issue in the last days of writer/editor Len Wein, and so incoming writer/editor Marv Wolfman needed to do something to get the situation back under control. It looks to my eye like he got three issues working all virtually simultaneously, pulling artist Keith Pollard back to breakdowns and substituting mainstay inker Joe Sinnott with Pablo Marcos on this issue. In this manner, Pollard would be able to get ahead, and his later issue (actually, two hence) could be inked by Sinnott, making sure that Joe would be able to do all of what would be the oversized issue #200. That all said, as a kid I didn’t like the art on this issue. There’s nothing really wrong with it, it’s a fine, solid job. But it doesn’t have that Joe Sinnott finish to it, and that’s the look that I had come to associate with FANTASTIC FOUR. So right there, that was strike one on this book for me.
The status quo at the moment still had the Fantastic Four disbanded after Reed Richards lost his elastic abilities, the team scattered to the four winds. While her husband was off working on a clandestine scientific research project (which he thought was for S.H.I.E.L.D. but was actually–but why spoil it?) Sue had gone back to Hollywood to star in a film. The occasional Sue Storm dalliances with Hollywood never sat well with me. Sue never struck me as a person who was interested in fame or notoriety, nor did she evidence any particular acting chops in most of her adventures. But if the FF broke up, at least a third of the time, Sue would go to Hollywood to make a picture. In the opening, she chases off the Impossible Man, who finally exits the series at this point, and then proceeds to confront the head of the Studio that has hired her, whom she had glimpsed last issue, the Sub-Mariner.
Namor, it turns out has his own problems, and they loom much larger than the chance to shack up with Sue now that her husband isn’t around (though if that’s in the cards, too, he’s not going to complain about it.) See, he recently restored his Atlantean people, who had been stricken for many years by a deadly Nerve Gas and lay comatose. But once his people were restored, they came to look upon Namor, their savior, almost as a God. You would think ol’ pointy-ears could get behind this, but it turns out that a life of being worshipped and genuflected to didn’t hold much appeal for him. And so, he fled–and learning that the FF were on the outs, he reopened his movie studio from way back in FF #9 (which I assume must have been operating in the interim even without the sea-king’s direct involvement) and invited Sue to star in a movie they would make. Really, this is a pretext so that Namor had somebody to share his troubles with (and possibly his bedchambers? )
Sue shuts him down on the gettin’-together thing, but she’s willing to do whatever she can to help him platonically. Which is good, because after a brief intermission with Ben and Johnny, in which the latter comes to visit the former, essentially so that they can both get some page time in this issue, the soundstage where Sue is performing and Namor is producing is attacked by the Retrievers of Atlantis–a pack of underwater robots that have been dispatched to drag Namor back to Atlantis, where he can be properly enshrined. It’s a weird disconnect that the Atlanteans have so much regard for their Prince that they send out a bunch of robot goons to bodily drag him back home, but hey, who am I to question the culture of such a storied people?
So, quick pause here, this story is meant to be a solo outing for the Invisible Girl, but it’s a good example of the manner in which she was treated for a solid 25 years or so. Because especially once the action starts, Marv isn’t confident in having her hold her own, and so this issue becomes less about Sue herself and more about Namor. Even as the fight breaks out, Su is tested–and she thinks to herself, “What would Reed tell me to do?”As though she wasn’t capable of making her own decisions or having any agency over her affairs. So yes, she’s a combatant in beating back the Retrievers, and yes, she does come up with the winning hit at the end–but most of this fight is Namor’s show, and she’s once again reduced to being an ineffectual second stringer. This didn’t really bother me at the time, but I sure notice it today.
Anyway, the fight goes on, with Namor doing most of the punching and Sue doing most of the fretting–until she’s able to work out that the lead Retriever is the only one that ever speaks, and he doesn’t appear to possess any individual power himself. Making the huge leap that he must be the power source for the others, she makes Namor invisible just as the robots are about to blast away at him, and their assault hits their leader instead, destroying him and cutting power to the rest. Bravo, Sue. In the aftermath, though, Namor has realized that he can’t run from his troubles (and the need for him as a guest-star has passed) and so he chooses to return to his homeland of his own volition. What this will mean for Sue’s budding movie career remains to be seen–but let’s be honest, she’s just killing time on that film set until the FF get back together in the first place.