The Fantastic Four #2
The Skrulls. A war-like intergalactic empire. Constant cosmic threat to the Marvel Universe. Total ass-clowns.
Arriving in issue two, we find that the Four are famous. Intergalactically famous. Based, apparently, on that one time they beat up that ugly guy in a cave.
Fame and public presence have always been a key part of the Four. In fact, I’d say Marvel in general is more concerned with the public perception of its heroes (we’re talking within narrative here) than DC. But the Four, the First Family of Marvel, are always public figures. I guess I thought that would develop a little more organically.
In this issue, shape-shifting Skrulls from outer space impersonate the Four and wreck an oil derrick, steal a diamond and melt a statue so that the world’s militaries will hunt down the Four and destroy them, freeing the Skrulls up to invade the earth. Because the only thing currently stopping them is the Fantastic Four. Who can be defeated by the military, which doesn’t really present a threat to the Skrulls. Got it?
The Four is chilling in an isolated hunting lodge while all this goes down. Probably to deal with all the fame. Despite the isolation, they still make Ben dress up in his Claude Rains duds. Ben has a couple “This man, this monster” rages, throws a bear head out the window. Then they all get captured by the army. Then they all escape.
Interesting quirk of this particular reproduction: whenever Sue goes invisible, she’s rendered in white with some dotted lines. Meaning there’s no ink on the page, a true blank. It's more noticeable in the reprint. In a pulp printed comic, the ink soaks a little deeper into the page, rather than sitting on top of it and giving the page an added sheen. Here's a picture that entirely does not illustrate what I'm talking about.
Because the Four is awesome at planning, they come up with a plan. What if one of us actually destroys something, in order to confuse our impersonators? Brilliant! Johnny wrecks a rocket, then gets picked up by Skrull Reed and Skrull Sue in a Studebaker, which may or may not be a Skrull. Luckily for everyone, none of the Skrulls is in Johnny form right now, because actually that was a huge potential flaw in an otherwise flawless plan.
But here’s my favorite part.
The Four decide to impersonate the Skrulls and go to the Skrull mothership, which has been waiting in orbit for that one last obstacle to invasion to be removed. Then they fool the Skrull leader by showing him pages from other Marvel comics. But not superhero comics, pages from Strange Tales and Journey into Mystery (which would later feature Thor, but at this point I guess had giant ants?). The Skrulls, despite the fact they’ve been monitoring the planet and have found no evidence of scary-ass troll monsters and giant ants, are like “Oh crap, let’s hightail it.”
And they do. Menace defeated.
On the return trip, they pass through some more cosmic rays. Which, understandably, Ben gets pretty upset about. Of course, everyone else is less than sympathetic, because they are jerks to Ben all day.
And finally, because Reed has not had a chance this issue to prove that he is a dick, he forces the three Skrulls who remained on earth to turn into cows. Permanently. This is an awesome idea and nothing bad could ever come of introducing aliens into the food supply.
My plot summary might seem snarky, but this issue is exponentially better than the first. Sure, the various plots and schemes are ludicrous, but they’ve got room to breathe a bit. This issue seems competent, on the plotting front. The art has some standout moments, particularly Ben’s brief reversion to human form. Some of the panel pacing is odd for a narrative that’s so compressed. Like this sequence.
There’s plenty to say about Sue, and as she develops, I’ll want to say more about her here. But one thing worth noting is that invisibility is not a particularly fun super-power to draw. Kirby seems to revel in panels of Johnny leaving flame trails in his wake and Reed’s limbs distending across the frame (although none of the Reed panels can touch Jack Cole’s Plastic Man, which rivals Eisner in its early formal innovation). But when it comes to Sue, there’s not a whole lot to work with other than showing the consequences of her visual absence.
Next issue: costumes! The Fantasti-car! The Miracle Man (but not MiracleMan).