Fantastic Four #6

"Captives of the Deadly Duo!"

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Dick Ayers
Letterer: unknown
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Cover date: September 1962 (The first monthly issue - prior to this it was bimonthly)
Cover price: 12 cents
Current value: about $2300

Another great issue, it introduces many of the little touches which would become so familiar in the book in the years to come. The Baxter Building is finally named, we see Sue use her belt buckle to summon an elevator in the building, Reed explains unstable molecules, and Ben gets a letter from the Yancy Street Gang, the group which would become his infuriating nemesis. Oh, yeah, the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom team up to kill the FF.

The Human Torch returns from a scouting mission to try to turn up any trace of Doctor Doom, whom they first met last issue. The Invisible Girl sees him fly by from the street and hurries back to the HQ to hear if there is any news. On her way back, we finally see the name of their skyscraper, the Baxter Building, on the marquee and she demonstrates the use of her electronic belt buckle to a passing telegram boy. And another cool cutaway diagram of the FF HQ.

There is no news to report, but the FF is using their down time to answer their fan mail. Mister Fantastic visits a sick kid who wrote them by stretching to a nearby hospital. He explains to the inquisitive child that the reason the FF's costumes aren't destroyed when Reed stretches, Johnny flames on, etc. is that they are composed of something called "unstable molecules". And we see Ben get a letter from the Yancy Street Gang. His response is a crumpled block of titanium.

In the ocean, the Sub-Mariner is swimming with some porpoises ("He talks to the animals…") when he's buzzed by a plane. The pilot introduces himself as Doctor Doom, the Sub-Mariner's new ally against the FF.

"When Super-Menaces Unite"

The hospitable Sub-Mariner leads Doom to his undersea villa. Doom's plane also functions as a submarine. Namor's villa has a big sea shell throne and a picture of the Invisible Girl on the mantle. Doom prods Namor about his lost Atlantean subjects and rekindles his desire for revenge, though the Sub-Mariner remains adamant that he won't do anything to harm Sue. Then Doom demonstrates the method of his revenge: a magnetic "grabber" which can hoist an object of any size. Namor takes the small cylinder and heads for the surface world, playing chicken with a passenger airplane along the way.

Meanwhile, Johnny finds something hidden behind some books in the Baxter Building. It's a glossy photo of the Sub-Mariner. Sue enters and demands the return of her photograph, but Johnny sets it on fire. Then Reed and Ben happen by, and the rest of the FF demands to know what's the deal with Sue and Namor. As if on cue, Namor himself appears. Ben asks how he got there, and when Namor says "flying in thru a window is no problem to Prince Namor" you can just hear the contempt in his voice.

"When Friends Fall Out!"

Ben and Johnny want to attack, but Sue throws herself in front of Namor and demands they hear him out. Namor professes an offer of friendship, but everyone except Sue is skeptical. Before Namor can extricate himself and Sue from the building, it is rocked by a great tremor. Namor is as surprised as the rest of them (but for different reasons) and the entire building heads straight up into the sky.

"Trapped!"

Namor has been double-crossed, and now he and Sue will share the same fate as the rest of the FF. The grabber is controlled by a device in Doctor Doom's plane, which is now dragging the Baxter Building behind it into outer space. Their pogo plane was damaged when the building was wrenched from its foundation, there's no oxygen to feed Johnny's flame so he can fly to Doom's plane, and Reed is repulsed by a rocket burst. The FF is helpless to prevent Doom from flying them all into the sun. So it's up to the Sub-Mariner, once their mortal enemy, to save them all. Namor takes a quick rejuvenating dip in the Baxter Building's pool, then, in an astonishing series of panels, leaps to Doom's ship.

"The End…Or the Beginning?"

Despite a magnetic field Doom throws up around the ship, he can't stop one pissed off Sub-Mariner from tearing through the vessel. Electricity doesn't help either, because Namor just soaks it up and fires it right back at Doom like an electric eel. Doom flees the ship, but gets caught up in a meteor swarm which carries him into the depths of space and to his certain, er, doom.

The Sub-Mariner, now in control of Doom's plane, guides the Baxter Building safely back onto its foundation. The FF are alive, Doom is dead, and Namor returns to the sea, his home.

One of the many impressive things about this issue is that it is laden with moral ambiguity. The characters have complex motives of their own and act on them instead of one-dimensional motives of good or evil. Sue is torn between Reed and Namor, Namor is driven by loneliness and torn between his love for Sue and his desire for revenge, and Doom is driven by pride and arrogance, which blinds him to the threat posed by Namor. Doom will, of course, come back from his supposed death, as most cool villains do, but the story of his return in Fantastic Four #10 is one of the best return from the dead stories I've read.

Doom's plan to destroy the Baxter Building would resurface in Fantastic Four #278. After Doctor Doom was killed in Fantastic Four #260 (not permanently of course, he'd return from the dead yet again), his Doombots, acting on preprogramed instructions, implanted the memories of Doom in his young ward Kristoff. Kristoff, however, stopped the implantation immediately after learning of the events of this issue. He correctly deduced that the plan's weakness was Namor's "betrayal" (a slightly biased look at these events, to say the least). So Kristoff merely repeated the plan without Namor, and this time it worked! The Baxter Building was destroyed, and the FF were stranded in space. Kristoff didn't know about Sue's invisible force fields, as those powers hadn't yet developed at the time of Doom's original attempt. Sue saves the FF from certain death via lack of oxygen and they all go to Latveria to smash Doombots and capture Kristoff.

For an affordable reprint of this story, I recommend the Marvel Masterworks series, which reprints FF # 1-10 in color in one volume for $12.95. (ISBN 0760737959)

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