The Fantastic Four Meet the Skrulls from Outer Space!
We begin this story with the most obvious of stories: the Thing is destroying more shit. It really seems like the Thing doesn’t really like things all that much. He swims out to “a lonely Texas tower.” That’s what they called oil rigs back in the day. He dives down and rips apart a support for the rig, causing it to topple. Everyone gets out with their lives. No harm, no foul. The men in the boats see the Thing and realize angrily how their rig went down. For some reason, none of them wonder how the fuck the Thing can swim. He’s gotta weigh a ton, right?
Next we go to Sue Storm checking out a gigantic diamond. She holds it in her hand and then turns invisible! The man showing it to her is shocked. SHOCKED! But wait! Why is the Invisible Girl turning to crime?! And why did the diamond turn invisible?! I’m sure there’s something else afoot.
We then head to “the midwest” where they are unveiling a statue that took 5 years to carve out of solid marble. Then Johnny Storm shows up all ablaze and flies around it, melting it into nothing. I just want to point out the melting point of marble is 2,442 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously that’s nothing for the Human Torch. Just something I wanted to point out.
And finally, we see Reed Richards who uses his elongated arm to squeeze through a window and flip the single, solitary power switch it takes to plunge an entire city into darkness. I’m not sure why the guy that’s watching it happen can’t just walk right over to the switch and turn it back on, but maybe that’s not his job, and it’s time for his union break anyway.
So far, there has been an entire set up that the Fantastic Four are criminals. If you’ve read the previous issue, this isn’t far-fetched. They actually engage in quite a bit of criminal behavior. This all seems a little too in-your-face though, so I think I’m supposed to assume something isn’t right. And it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening! We see the gang having a conversation about how they have tricked the city into believing they are the Fantastic Four! They then explain how they accomplished their feats!
Of course! That makes perfect sense! Except… why is it remote? Obviously he had to swim down to put the bomb on the tower. But then why a remote detonator? Why wouldn’t he just detonate it while he was already down there? In fact, that looks like exactly what he did. Does the remote only work from, like, two feet away?
That explains it! The diamond didn’t turn invisible! It… wait… why would her shrinking her body make it seem like it was invisible? Wouldn’t people just be like, “Oh hey… look at that diamond floating across the floor”?
I’m sorry, what? His task was the easy one. He just used anti-gravity to fly around. And he used a low velocity thermal bomb. Okay… tell me which part of that makes him seem like he’s on fire? Because if the low velocity thermal bomb was what made it appear as though he was on fire, and that’s also how he melted the marble, then that means the fire was at least 2,442 degrees. So…. surviving a 2,442 degree fire while navigating an anti-gravity device was the easy one? Swimming down and putting an explosive on something wasn’t the easy one? Utilizing your inherent ability to just shrink wasn’t the easy one? No. Flying around at 2,442 degrees was the easy one. Got it.
So the exact thing “Sue” did? Just used her natural powers? Seems like this Mr. Fantastic is just as egotistical as the one on earth. Speaking of him, it would seem Mr. Fantastic isn’t all that fucking fantastic, is he? Seems like he’s basically just a Walmart-version Skrull. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Not-All-That-Fantastic.
Sorry. Went off on a tangent there. So the Skrull’s plan is to make the earthlings hunt down the Fantastic Four, so they can take over the world. They then speak of their unseen ship, which we promptly see.
Their plan works, and the FF are, indeed, hunted! So, being the criminals they are, they head to a secluded log cabin to run from authorities, instead of turning themselves in and providing alibis, since their entire complex is covered by cameras, and they could easily just show the police it couldn’t have been them. Cut to a panel where the teenager is handling a rifle for some reason. Of course, the Thing has yet another fit of insecurity and trashes the place, so Reed gives him another hug.
No surprise, Ben rebuts Reed’s affection and continues to talk about going out and smashing things. They don’t know who’s behind this. He just wants to go on a murderous rampage. At least Reed admits it’s his fault that Ben looks like a lumpy turd though.
Finally the Army has found the Fantastic Four. They encircle the cabin and tell them to come out with their hands up! Which is exactly what they do. The Thing included. They are then taken to prison… where the team devises a way to escape! So… why did they even bother turning themselves in?
Invisible Girl comes up with the most devious of plots: she’ll turn invisible! It’s tea time somewhere in the world, after all. Johnny, of course, uses his powers to flame on and burn right through the walls! I’m just kidding. He rips up the floor to find an air vent. The Thing just smashes his body against the wall, and Reed rubs all over the walls, looking for any imperfection: “a loose rivet… a tiny crack… anything!” How about checking under the floor for an air vent?
When the guards come to Sue’s cell to give her food, they are aghast that she’s not there! It would seem that neither of them is aware of the fact that her name is Invisible Girl. Or they know that, and they’re just not sure what all that entails. Either way, they do the smartest thing and open her cell door, and she sneaks past them. By shoving them and throwing the tray of food to the floor. She’s obviously fucking awful at being sneaky. The guard fweeeeett’s his whistle, and all pandemonium breaks loose! That air vent was all Johnny needed to flame on! It must not have been blowing air before he ripped the ground away from it, so he was probably going to suffocate to death, which validates his decision to escape, but also begs the question as to why it was there in the first place. The Thing then crashes through the wall like it’s a clothing store that doesn’t carry his size, and Reed squeezes through a loose rivet hole! It seems like the criminal masterminds known as the Fantastic Four can never be contained!
They then steal a helicopter and fly to “one of the Fantastic Four’s many secret apartment hideouts” which probably has a landing pad somewhere. Reed, the genius who once stared at a bright light until he blacked out, comes up with an amazing plan: Johnny will go sabotage the testing of a new rocket, because that will confuse the aliens into thinking he’s one of them! It’s a solid plan. So long as the four of them aren’t still together, of course. So Johnny does what Johnny does and goes and flies over the testing site and melts the shit out of the rocket and lots of artillery, again costing the military millions of dollars. Just as luck would have it, the three Skrull not pretending to be Johnny are driving by and invite him into their car. How fortuitous! That makes perfect sense. Usually the Johnny Skrull is the one they send out for food runs.
The aliens take him back to their headquarters where the fourth Skrull is like, “The fuck?! I go out to get some fucking donuts, and you bring the real Johnny Storm?!” or something similar. And Johnny says, “You thought what I wanted you to think!” Clever Johnny. Then he fires his “4” signal flare to alert the others of where he is. Except the flare goes up into the sky and doesn’t really have an arrow pointing to the exact spot he’s in, so I’m not really sure how that works, but I’m sure there’s some science I’m missing. Maybe Reed finds it with his super-sensitive radarscope or something.
So Johnny flames on inside the brick and wood apartment building with low ceilings and encircles three of the aliens in a ring of fire. He missed the fourth one, who – as luck would have it – is the other Johnny who finally explains how he can “burst into flame!” He has a chemical cylinder strapped under his shirt. It doesn’t work if it’s over his shirt. So he also flames on in the same brick and wood apartment building with low ceilings where the two flaming beings fly around each other a bit. They then collide, and the Skrulls say that Johnny can’t flame on again for “a few minutes” for some reason, so the Skrulls are feeling pretty smug. But then the Thing smashes in the door! And one of the Skrulls is about to shoot Johnny! But instead of shooting him, he has a quip he wants to say first, which gives Mr. Discount Skrull enough time to reach in through a window and save Johnny’s life! One of the Skrulls tries to run away, but wouldn’t you know it? Sue was just lying in wait, invisible, and is there to trip him! Reed points the Skrulls’ own gun at them and threatens their lives, if they don’t talk, but they refuse! So Ben freaks the fuck out and tries to murder them. Johnny quickly tries to hug him, but it’s not enough love, so Reed has to step in again to give Ben that comforting, warm embrace he desperately desires.
The Skrulls, warmed by the earthly expression of love, decide to talk. They tell them all about the entire fleet in outer space that’s arrived some time after the fourth page where it was just one ship lying in wait. Reed thinks of another great plan: they go to the alien ship, masquerading as the Skrulls. They jet on up to the unseen alien ship, somehow completely aware of its location, where they meet the conveniently English-speaking Skrull leader. Reed, pretending to be a Skrull, tells the leader they can’t invade and shows him pictures of creatures from Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery, which is super meta, and says they’ll die, if they invade. The Skrull leader decides not to attack, and Reed convinces him to let them return to earth to remove all evidence of their presence on earth, so the leader gives them the “highest award of your bravery” and sends them on their way back to earth. But to return to earth, they have to pass through the radiation belt! It’s the same one that gave them their powers! They somehow skipped it on the way up. When they go through it, they’re hit with radiation, and Ben turns back into a normal man! It has zero effect on anyone else though for some reason. Maybe because they don’t look like monsters.
Once they arrive back on earth atop the apartment complex in a ship that’s shaped like a water silo, the police are there to arrest them! That’s when Sue gives Ben the great news! He’s no longer the Thing! He’s a man again! The pure joy and excitement on his face is enough to bring a tear to your eye. But then he changes right back, and his deep, dark depression sets in immediately. Oh, how cruel a fate.
Reed then tells the police about the shape shifting aliens in their apartment who never once thought of escaping. The police open the door, and the aliens are there to spring an attack! One’s a giant snake, and another one’s a metal thingie with spikes! It’s super intense! But Human Torch just flames on one more time inside of the brick and wood apartment building with low ceilings and terrifies them all, because they’ve never dealt with anyone completely engulfed in flames before, so they’re super scared now and unable to attack. One turns into a bird and flies right out of the window – something he couldn’t possibly have done the entire time the Fantastic Four was in space. Reed just reaches out and snatches that fucker though. Then they just turn back to their Skrull forms and look on, angrily. The police don’t know what to do with the shape shifters, but it’s okay. The world’s most intelligent scientist has his greatest plan yet: he takes them out to a pasture and tells them to turn into cows. Finally, the team can relax at such a grandiose victory.
Oh wait… so… why would they not just…. I don’t know… decide to not be cows later on? I’ll tell you why. Because Reed hynotizes them to make them forget they’re anything but cows. That’s how hynotism works. It’s different than hypnotism in that way. I didn’t even know Reed Richards knew hynotism. How fortuitous!
But why are there only three Skrulls? At some point, one of the Skrulls went back to the mother ship. Or something. That’s never explained. Maybe the Thing just straight up murdered one of them, and they didn’t want to put it in the book. That’s what I’m going with, at least.
Lastly, here’s Ben Grimm remembering what it’s like to not look like a horrifying creature of my nightmares:
Editors note: Out of the 60ish issues I’ve read so far, this is, by far, the worst issue. The plot holes are so big, the Thing could comfortably fit through them to exit a clothing store. It amazes me that the Skrull could survive the Marvel universe as long as they have and even become rather prominent. I’ll continue reading and update this, if I find a worse issue. But this is going to be pretty hard to top.