FANTASTIC FOUR #4 (1962)
Written by Stan Lee, drawn by Jack Kirby
What surprised me most about the fourth issue of Fantastic Four was how it consists of equal parts silver age goofiness and intense emotions. On the goofy side of things, Namor has been living as a human because he hasn’t been in water for a while, then he controls Giganto the giant whale monster with legs with a horn that’s buried right in front of where he’s sleeping. On the emotional side, Ben Grimm hates Johnny Storm for poking a few jokes at him. HATES. I was surprised at that level of intensity as well as Johnny’s backlash against Ben. All pretty nutso stuff.
The story itself follows Johnny, who ran away from the team and home last issue, the other members of the FF trying to find him (Sue invisibly sips a malt, Reed pulls a dude of his motorcycle and Ben punches his way into the garage Johnny’s working at before turning human again for a second, which allows Johnny to fly away), Johnny discovering Namor as a bum, Namor getting pissed and then him attacking humanity. I love how nonplussed Bum-Namor is when a dude’s hand bursts into flame and uses it to trim his beard and hair.
From there, things get even crazier. Ben straps a nuke to his back and jumps inside Giganto where he fights smaller monsters. Later Johnny flies around, creating such an intense tornado that he sucks both Namor and the monster out of the water. That’s a lot of power for some punk kid.
A few other things I found interesting is that, with the fourth issue, Stan and Jack dipped back into the history of Timely/Marvel and brought Namor out of retirement, setting the stage for decades worth of back-looking by comic book artists. I made a cap of an editor’s note from the book, I wonder if this was an early example of this method for referring back to a previous story. Also, is this the first time it’s established that the FF are operating in New York City? I can’t remember if it was done in the previous issues. And finally, I think the Fantastic Four need to work a little harder at created a secret symbol that New Yorkers are supposed to be befuddled by.