I knew what would be coming up ahead of time in each issue of MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS, as I owned the George Olshevsky FANTASTIC FOUR INDEX
So I knew that we were honing in on FANTASTIC FOUR #100, an issue that I was interested in entirely due to its centennial nature. Even then, the back issue prices for centennial issues would be much higher on the whole than the issues around them .I also knew that we were getting close to the end of Jack Kirby’s time on the series, but as a kid this didn’t bother me especially. I had read a bunch of what came after and I liked it just fine. Anyway, it was always a good week when an issue of this series wound up at the 7-11 since i was such a big Fantastic Four fan at this point.
On a batch of his final issues on the title, Kirby would open up the story with a splash page that was relatively domestic and comedic. And I loved them. These images made the Fantastic Four feel more like real people to me, with real lives that they lived even in-between issues of their series. It’s been correctly said that Kirby was pretty much coasting at this point, waiting for his forthcoming DC deal to be completely set up so that he could tell editor and scripter Stan Lee where to stick it. And accordingly, the plot for this story turns on the Human Torch needing to be a dangerous jerk. But that too seemed all right to me as a young reader. I really didn’t question it all that much. And the combination of Kirby and inker Joe Sinnott always made it the Fantastic Four for me.
A bunch of issues earlier, Medusa of the Inhumans had shown up to bring her little sister Crystal back home to the Inhumans in the Great Refuge. This despite her unwillingness to go and leave Johnny Storm behind. Now, after a number of stories in which Crystal’s absence has been barely mentioned, this story opens up with the Torch, fed up with waiting and no word, having headed out solo for the Great Refuge himself, to bring Crystal back with him. Discovering that Johnny has embarked upon this dangerous course of action, the remaining members of the FF pursue him in the captured Skrull spaceship we saw again just a few issues prior. But as they give chase, they wind up happening into one dangerous situation after another that slows them down.
The Torch, meanwhile, has made his way to Europe, dodging missile attacks and NATO fighters all the way, until finally he winds up on the outskirts of the Great Refuge. He’s accosted by an Inhuman that doesn’t recognize him, a sentry of sorts, and this sparks Johnny’s anger–so much so that he blazes his way into the structure on the attack. He’s tackled by a couple of different Inhumans, but proves to be skillful enough in the deployment of his flame to get past all obstacles. And then, he makes it to Black Bolt’s throne room. Kirby had taken to dropping full page splashes such as this one into virtually every issue he drew at the end. They were a simple way to kill a page without doing much work, although his compositional skills and sense of design made them a little bit more than just empty calories. As an introduction to the Inhumans, this image certainly makes a statement.
This being a Marvel comic of the era, nobody stops and simply talks–it’s action that we’re here for! So the members of the Royal Family leap forward to defend Black Bolt and the Toch is pissed off enough to take them all on. You wouldn’t think that Johnny Storm could hold his own against Karnak, Triton and Medusa, but he does a pretty fine job of it. Crystal tries to explain what’s going on, but not very hard or very quickly, and so Johnny snaps at her. Big mistake, as now crystal is pissed at him, and whammies him with her elemental force.
The Torch has had enough by this point–he’s so out of his mind that he’s not even sure why he’s fighting. But he’s determined to win–so determined that he begins to craft a massive fireball that’ll devastate the Great Refuge and all of the Inhumans. Hardly the act of a hero. But before anything truly permanent can happen, a metal rod zips in from out of nowhere and absorbs the heat of Johnny’s fireball, breaking it up. It’s the Fantastic Four, who have made it here just in the nick of time.
And now, it’s everybody on Johnny–but finally with words rather than punches. Sue in particular calls her younger brother out for acting like a complete child. And she’s absolutely right. And now, at last, the Inhumans speak up, revealing to the Torch that Black Bolt had been stricken after an experiment, and Crystal was needed to provide his body with micro-shocks to keep him alive until Gorgon could return with the needed medication to cure him., Which he does right at this moment. Now, this is all something that Medusa could have told the FF about issues ago, when she first came to get Crystal, and it’s something that could easily have been brought up earlier, before teh fighting got out of hand. But that wasn’t the Marvel way. Nonetheless, with the danger now passed, everybody immediately forgives the Torch for his destructive actions, and Johnny and Crystal are reunited. It’s a dumb story, but it’s got a strong emotional through-line to it that makes it all more or less work regardless.
3 thoughts on “BHOC: MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS #80”
The original version of the cover’s better than this one.
I can understand why they made most of the changes they made, but they still diminish the cover. And even some of the smaller changes — like coloring that metal thing Medusa’s holding a color that blends in more with her costume and giving it a rim-light rather than a shadow, screwing up the light source and weakening its silhouette against the white — just hurt it a little more.
I say bah.
I started with Buscema and Sinnott being the artists on F4 so I never had any Kirby to miss. I have to admit too that I never warmed to his art, not even to this day. I know he’s one of the greets and foundational to my favorite comic book company so it’s just me and my taste. I did enjoy these reprints more than his new stuff and what I did follow was more about the story than art. The Demon, Eternals, Kamandi, and Machine Man were books I enjoyed following and Devil Dinosaur though I’ve never understood why the last one appealed so much.
This was the sort of story that, precisely because it’s so dumb and ill-reasoned, highlights the problems of crossovers between the FF and the Inhumans. It was OK to have characters like Black Panther and Silver Surfer pop in and pop out, but the romantic tie between Crystal and Johnny put the creators in a bind. Were the characters eventually going to marry and unite the two “tribes,” as it were? I get the impression that Stan wasn’t all that fond of the Inhumans because they created problems for him as an editor. The rather hurried breakup of Johnny and Crystal under Roy Thomas was not a great solution, but I guess it was better than the one Gwen Stacy got.