Fantastic Four #162 (September 1975) "The Shape of Things to Come!" Roy Thomas-Rich Buckler/Joe Sinnott
Doug: After some nice build-up over the past two issues, things... devolve. That's my opening impression -- we'll see what we come up with by the time we're done. It may be up to Karen if this one's to get a rave review.
Karen: Fraid not!
Doug: So when we left off, Johnny had taken command of the troops of the 5th Dimension (qualifications there?), Ben had been imprisoned on another Earth, and the Reed Richards of an alternate Earth, who just happened to get the cosmic ray effect that our Thing got, was also in jail. The old Avengers villain Arkon was somehow mixed up in this, and underlying all of it was a plot to steal the technologies of both Reed Richards as well as of the 5th Dimension. Wow -- that was indeed a lot to digest over the past two issues, and creators Thomas and Buckler provide us with a couple of graphics to help us along. It's a decent recap, and to be honest, this is one story plot that needs that synopsis.
Karen: What's the old saying? "You can't tell the players without a scorecard?" In this case, it's more like a text book diagram! I laughed at the goofy picture of the three worlds and the arrows indicating who was attacking whom. Complicated story indeed. Doug: On to the new stuff. Our Reed (writing this series has been a pain-in-the-butt with all of the same-name characters!) is working on a device that will melt the glaciers that are suddenly moving across the world. Suddenly a caveman invades the lab (what the heck did he use to break in?), followed by "an Indian with a tomahawk" -- yep, this Reed is accused of unleashing all sorts of weirdness due to the selling of Dr. Doom's time platform. Reed makes quick work of the invaders, when a vision suddenly appears in his mind; and then in the room above so that Sue can also see it (Duh Point #1). The Reed-Thing tells Mr. Fantastic what's been going on, how Mr. Devoor has deceived technology masters on three Earths, and how he's shackled and unable to break free. Mr. Fantastic says, hey -- how about if I apply my will to yours (Duh Point #2)? What the heck? OK, so Reed-Thing was using Arkon's "scopitron" to connect to our world, but how in tarnation did they exchange mental powers through what was basically an inter-dimensional TV? Karen: I think Roy was inspired by the Interociter from "This Island Earth." I have no idea how Reed-2 used that device to project his thoughts to Reed-1, or how 'combining wills' allowed Reed-2 to break adamantium chains. Of course, I probably didn't question it at all when I read this as a kid.
Doug: Anyway, once Reed-Thing has Mr. Fantastic's "will", he's able to burst his bonds and discovers that he's been imprisoned on his own world. Which is pretty convenient (Duh Point #3), because that's where our Thing is locked up. So you guessed it -- in a pretty cool visual the two orange-plated behemoths break out of jail and are greeted by none other than "Thunderbolt" Ross and the army (never mind that he identifies himself as a general in the Air Force). Soon Ben Grimm shows up (seriously -- if you haven't read this series of issues or don't happen to have them in front of you, I don't know how you're following all of this!) to point out what apparently no other person could see: a gaping hole in the sky, through which the 5th Dimension army storms. And led by the Human Torch, no less! Johnny, being the hot-headed fool that he is, attacks first and asks questions later. He takes down the Thing pretty quickly, but then Reed-Thing dispenses a whuppin' that extinguishes the flame. After brief explanations that are too-soon-believed, the Torch commands the 5D army to go back. Just like that... "Uh, sorry guys..." (Duh Point #4).
Karen: Johnny being in a position of responsibility may be the most difficult thing to swallow in this whole story! Doug: Johnny, Reed-Thing, and the Thing then pow wow, and suddenly, somehow, Mr. Fantastic appears in the sky (Duh Point #5 - the "scopitron" isn't on Earth, after all) with Devoor in hand and explains what will have to happen to right this crazy ship. Johnny and Reed-Thing will have to take an assault to Arkon's world, while the Thing must enter the inter-dimensional space and break up "the nexus" through which Arkon was going to funnel the energy of three worlds. Mr. Fantastic then tosses some skates through the rift in the sky (we've seen these before, back in the Kirby days) for Ben. And away we go! Johnny and Reed-Thing land where they belong (hey, whatever happened to Lockjaw in all this?), and the Thing heads off into space. As he approaches the nexus, he's opposed by an intergalactic hockey goalie who identifies himself as... Gaard! Yeah.
Karen: Oh man...Gaard. Even as a kid I thought that was just about the stupidest thing I'd ever seen. Honestly. A hockey goalie? I mean, sure, a guy flying around space on a surfboard makes no sense either, but at least it looks cool. This just looks ludicrous.
Doug: You know what Roy's up to here? It took me three issues to figure it out. This is his version of "Crisis on..." Think about it -- multiple Earths, all similar. Heroes on all three (well, Johnny had to be transplanted). Universal menace in Arkon stealing energy. And some serious dimension-hopping to solve it. I suppose when I look at it through that lens, and accepting it as being part of DC's heritage of such tales, this is not quite as bad. But reading it at first impression... not good. As you said earlier, I'm sure I didn't react so negatively when I was a wide-eyed 9-year old.
Karen: I like alternate realities, time travel, science fiction...but I'm just not warming up to this one. I don't care much for Arkon, and neither of the alternate worlds seem all that interesting. I have to agree, this story isn't terrible, but I'm just not feeling it.
Karen has joined the ranks of podcasters along with her friends Larry and Bob on the Planet 8 podcast. Click on the image to hear them explore all things geek!
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Karen and Doug met on the Avengers Assemble! message board back in September 2006. On June 16 2009 they went live with the Bronze Age Babies blog, sharing their love for 1970s and '80s pop culture with readers who happen by each day. You'll find conversations on comics, TV, music, movies, toys, food... just about anything that evokes memories of our beloved pasts!
Doug is a high school social science teacher and department chairman living south of Chicago; he also does contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is married with two adult sons, also both married.
Karen originally hails from California and now works in scientific research/writing in the Phoenix area. She often contributes articles to Back Issue magazine. She is married. She hangs out with Joe Biden occasionally.
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BI #44 is available for digital download and in print. I've read Karen's article on reader reaction to Gerry Conway's ASM #121-122, and it's excellent. This entire magazine was fun! -- Doug
Back Issue #45
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