Behold! The dawn… OF DOOM! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Fantastic Four #5 awaits!
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
Inker: Joe Sinnott
Colorist: Stan Goldberg
Letterer: Artie Simek
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $19,800.00
Previously in Fantastic Four: After losing Stan Lee this week, I’ve been thinking about his many creations and the stories he wrote that defined and redefined comic book. Thinking about it, I think I may have come up with the greatest Stan Lee character of them all. After an experimental rocket flight went bad, Reed Richards, his best pal Ben Grimm, his lady-friend Susan Storm and her little brother Johnny were gifted with fantastic powers. Returning to New York and setting up shop as superheroes, operating out of the high-rise Baxter Building, they defend the world against menaces large and small. They even get special costumes made of unstable molecules to shift with their powers. But one thing they lacked was a terrible foe, a villain worthy of their mighty and stuff… Until NOW!
We begin with an average F.F. morning, as The Thing and The Human Torch once again clash. In a cute moment, it’s because Johnny is reading the first issue of ‘The Incredible Hulk’, which would have been on the stands at the time this issue was released, and insulted Ben by comparing him to the Hulk!
Finding themselves trapped in an unbreakable, non-flammable net, the team is stunned to hear the pilot of the helicopter addressing them. Even more shocking, Mister Fantastic recognizes the voice as his old college rival, Victor Von Doom, who was thrown out of school after attempting to mix science and sorcery and blowing up his lab. Doom demands that The Invisible Girl come out and serve as his hostage, then locks up the rest of the team and takes them to his castle stronghold. (How they survived the trip across the Atlantic hanging from his helicopter in a cage is unrevealed, but this may be a different castle? Bygones!) Once he has the World’s Greatest Comic Team at his mercy, Doom reveals his master plan!
That button he’s pressing sets off his time machine (which has been beneath their feet all along), transporting the Fantastic Four back to the late 17th Century era, the heyday of the pirate Blackbeard! And isn’t is amazing how much expression Kirby delivers from a featureless steel mask? That’s really amazing. Back in the past, disguising themselves as pirates, the Fantastic Three Outta Four immediately get shanghaied, drugged and forced into a pirate crew, because 24 pages goes by quick, y’all. Their powers, especially Ben’s tremendous might, give them control of the crew and they immediately set out to raid another ship in search of the gems Doom requires.
The time-travel implications of this story are pretty staggering, what with Edward Teach being a real person who existed. Did Ben Grimm create a legend in Fantastic Four #5 that he later capitalized on? Did his rep support Ben’s schtick and make people believe him as the pirate king? in the long run, it doesn’t really matter, because The Thing refuses to return to 1962 with his pals. Having found a place where he fits in, he wants to stay but suddenly a huge storm blows up! The Fantastic Four’s ship is smashed and they are all swept ashore by the tides, though thankfully with the chest of “gems” in tow. Ben apologizes and the team signals Doom to return them to the future with the treasure chest.//
BOOM! The very first Doombot appears, creating the loophole that would eventually be used over and over to negate any Doc Doom story that any given writer might not wish to acknowledge, including one notable moment where John Byrne took issue with a Chris Claremont guest-shot. It also proves that Doom is repeatedly a step ahead of his old friend Reed, leaving him and his pals to die in a vacuum chamber. Only the fast action of the Invisible Girl saves her teammates from a certain (you should excuse the expression) doom, freeing the team to attack, beginning with a wall of flame to smoke him out of his fortress!
Doom is missing the cape that would become his trademark, but other than that, this issue reveals nearly everything that would become iconic about him, from his facial disfigurement to his obsession with mysticism in the “Gems of Merlin” to his ridiculous self-confidence. About the only thing that’s missing here is the part where he’s the king of Latveria, and that would be introduced in ’64 leaving Fantastic Four #5 a whirlwind of excitement that doesn’t sweat the details, with excellent work by Kirby and Sinnott, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. If nothing else, it’s a story that explains why Stan’s work (along with his collaborators and everyone at early Marvel) is so highly regarded by peers and fans, in case you were feeling dark and cynical. Excelsior!
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FANTASTIC FOUR #5
It's a fast-paced issue full of events that might be odd if it stopped to try and justify 'em, paired with an impressive art job and a lot of fun dialogue, making for a fun, old-school read.