Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Marvel Chronology - Fantastic Four v1 #3

Hey, wow, look at that cover! How exciting is that? We have the Fantastic Four in their distinctive costumes at last, we have the Human Torch looking like the Human Torch (and not his Golden Age equivalent), and we even have the Fantasti-Car. From a design perspective, this is great; the red and yellow Human Torch simply leaps out at us when compared with that striking, blue background.

There’s something missing from this cover, though, and that the villain of the month. There’s a good reason for that, the villain in this story is the Miracle-Man and he is, quite simply, rubbish. Indeed, he’s little more than an excuse to get the Fantastic Four fighting a giant monster again!
Not only is the Miracle-Man rubbish, but this story really makes little or no sense. At the risk of spoiling this nearly fifty year old comic, it turns out that the Miracle-Man isn’t capable of performing miracles at all, but is just a very talented hypnotist…so talented that he can hypnotise television cameras into broadcasting images of events that aren’t really happening? Also, apparently, the police in this still unidentified city regularly carry bazookas in case of giant monster attack.

I got excited at one point as Stan and Jack have the Invisible Girl go off to take on the Miracle Man by herself after the men on the team have resolutely failed to defeat him. She even thinks to herself, “One Invisible Girl can sometimes accomplish more than a battalion.” For a moment I thought we were going to see something really progressive, that we were going to see Sue Storm strike an early blow in the battle of the sexes and prove herself to me a feminist icon. But, alas, no, all she does is get easily captured and allows herself to be manipulated into luring the men of the team into a trap…who then have to save her. I’m not the first commentator to lament the obvious subtext of making the team’s female character the “invisible” one.

It’s not all bad though. As I said, we see the debut of the team’s distinctive blue costumes, and Stan and Jack have some fun the absurd idea of putting The Thing in a costume. The Human Torch also gets his now familiar traditional look, setting him apart, visually speaking, from the Golden Age character of the same name who first appeared in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939. Interestingly this new look is not explained within the comic. For example, it’s not suggested that this is the result of him gaining greater control of his powers. Indeed, in a flashback recounting the groups origins we see that the Human Torch has always looked like that. What we have here, people, is the Marvel Universe’s very first retcon. (Note: for those of you who maybe don’t know what a “retcon” is, the term is shorthand for “retroactive continuity.” Basically, a retcon is when you revise the established back story of a character).

So, not a classic issue, but still a lot of interesting stuff going on here.

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