Monday, February 09, 2009

Single Issue Review: Fantastic Four #34

The idea that this is something we never thought could happen is a bit ridiculous for the FF; didn't most issues feature Ben sparring off against Johnny or Reed? And in fact, that's exactly the way the story starts when Ben receives a gift from the Yancy Street Gang:

The Yancy Streeters were a running gag in the FF; they supposedly had it in for the Thing and were constantly teasing him in one way or another. There was actually an FF issue that started on Yancy Street, but that's not the issue I'm talking about today.

In this issue Stan wheels out what would become a standard villain later, but perhaps was not all that common back then: the World's Richest Man. But even then he has a goal, to own everything, and so he offers the #2, #3 and #4 men a deal; if they can set a task for him that he cannot achieve, he will forfeit his wealth to them, while if he succeeds in the task, they will cede their wealth to him.

Brilliantly for the plot the Forbes 2-4 give the WRM his task:

So let me get this straight; after saving Earth and the United States from innumerable threats, the Fantastic Four are the first on the firing line from the New World Order? Where's the gratitude?

Gideon turns the FF against each other by convincing Ben that Reed is a Skrull, an alien who can mimic their powers:

And Sue is convinced that Johnny is a Dr Doom robot:

So things are looking pretty grim for the FF as we learn more about Gideon's family life. His wife and son are hungry for his company:

This becomes important later, when his son learns of his father's plot to destroy the FF.

Meanwhile we learn that Reed can turn himself into a wheelchair:

That's pretty weird. Anyway, Gideon's son tries to warn the FF of the danger they face. We learn what his ultimate trap is:

Well, you can probably guess a good part of the ending from there; of course the kid gets sent into the past (along with the Thing). Fortunately when Reed turns off the machine they return. And Gideon repents his insane greed:

Comments: This is a below-average issue. Gideon is not a credible villain and the whole premise that wealthy men would turn over their fortune to him provided he defeat the Fantastic Four is absurd. Note as well that he welshes on the bet; wasn't he supposed to turn over his fortune to the other rich guys? The panel where we see exactly how rich he is makes him out to be a Scrooge McDuck; a bunch of security guards are carring mailsacks apparently full of money, but one of them says "We've gotta take this billion dollars back to the mint, boys. Mr. Gideon wanted only new bills!" That works with McDuck because he's intended to be a parody of a rich miser, but Stan is not playing this for yucks.

And Gideon's repentance at the end is a little too convenient; about the only thing missing is for Tommy to say "God bless us every one!"