I should have lots to say about this issue; after all it contains the first appearance of arguably the single most significant and enduring villain in the Marvel Universe – Dr Doom. However, I’m having trouble getting past the fact that Doom throws a large electrified net over the Fantastic Four’s skyscraper headquarters and so they just give up. Seriously, what? Rather than fight back or try to escape they just give him Sue Storm.
Okay, once you get past that there’s actually a decent little time travel story here. Dr Doom sends the Fantastic Four (well, three of them, Sue’s busy being held hostage) back in time to retrieve Black Beard’s treasure for him…only it turns out that The Thing was actually Black Beard! So…if Dr Doom hadn’t sent them back in time, there would have been no Black Beard, so this had to happen and always happened. It’s the use of time travel which most makes sense, and I tend to like stories like this. Of course, Marvel have since had to establish an elaborate explanation for time travel in the Marvel Universe which includes the existence of multiple alternate timelines, but, hey, it’s early days yet.
Sue saves the day in the end, but only because Dr Doom has forgotten about her, rather than, you know, through her actually being any good at anything.
Doom’s origin is covered briefly, of course, and is infinitely more satisfying than the one in the recent Fantastic Four movie. Personally I hate when movie adaptations of comics feel the need to tie the hero and villains origins together (I’m looking at you, Batman). Instead Dr Doom’s origin introduces an occult dimension to what has been a firmly science fiction story until now. Yes, Reed and Von Doom are tied together in a way, they were at college together, but unlike Reed, Von Doom couldn’t find the answers he was looking for in science, and so combined his scientific genius with research into occult lore. The results, quite literally, blew up in his face. The question of what Von Doom was looking to achieve is left hanging here, which is a nice touch.
Okay, the last thing I’m going to touch on here is another of those nice little in-jokes. At one point The Human Torch teases The Thing, telling him he looks like the monster in a comic he’s reading, that comic being The Incredible Hulk. The Fantastic Four are clearly unaware of the fact that the Hulk is real…and one is left wondering if they know that there’s a comic about them too?