Friday, January 15, 2010

Fantastic Four Fridays: Apes on the Moon!

I'm skipping ahead a few issues to get in a post for "Ape Week" as suggested by Silver Age Gold, although I will go back and do issues 11 and 12 in the next two weeks. Note that although this story features apes prominently, they do not appear on the cover.

As the story begins, there is an explosion in Reed's laboratory. He has discovered a new source of energy that will enable Americans to reach the moon ahead of the Soviets. I need hardly mention that the "space race" was in full swing by this time, with President Kennedy proposing a goal of reaching the moon before the end of the decade. Reed's source:

The latter incident refers to the famed Tunguska event of 1908, although the current theory is that it was a comet that hit the earth, and not a meteor. Reed traveled to Meteor Crater in Arizona and obtained a bit of the meteor's fragments, which contained his super-fuel. Reed resolves to make the trip alone, but you know how that idea went, and eventually he had to agree to take the whole team.

Meanwhile, we learn that the "Reds" are also working on the project. And they have some non-human workers:

He also has a babboon and an orangutan on his team. Kragoff knows that the FF derived their powers from cosmic radiation, and thus he intends to gain powers from his trip to the moon. The two missions blast off simultaneously.

The gorilla gains super-strength and the orangutan has magnetic powers, while the baboon can mimic anything (including inanimate objects). The Torch, who has flown over to inspect the communist ship (using a special suit that provides oxygen), observes the human/ape crew and their new powers.

The FF land in the "mysterious blue area" of the moon. This turns out to be the remnants of some past civilization, although there is a newer crystal dwelling that seems inhabited. It also conveniently has a breathable atmosphere, meaning that the FF won't have to wear bulky spacesuits.

Reed, Sue and Johnny head off towards the crystal dwelling, while Ben lumbers behind them. He encounters the three apes and Kragoff, who is now going by the moniker the Red Ghost. The name is apt as he is able to turn invisible and dematerialize. But as they are battling, a stranger shows up:

He explains that his home world is one vast computer, and that other Watchers such as he are spread throughout the galaxy, recording information (and presumably sending it back to the computer). They reportedly only watch, and never interfere, although subsequent appearances by the Watcher raise questions on that score. Since the FF and the Red Ghost and his apes are determined to battle, the Watcher sends them to another area where they will not involve his residence.

The Red Ghost strikes first, freezing Reed and:

Kragoff takes off with Sue. We also learn that perhaps his and the apes' powers are greater than those of the FF because they did not try to shield themselves from the cosmic radiation, and therefore were exposed to it for longer. Reed decides he will have to use brainpower and stays behind to examine the scientific equipment while Ben and Johnny attempt a frontal attack. Meanwhile, Sue has freed the apes from the prison where the Red Ghost is keeping them when they are not in use.

Reed creates a paralysis ray which holds the Red Ghost still. The Watcher proclaims the FF the winners in the battle, and mentions that he will still be watching, but from further away than the moon. But the apes manage to free the Red Ghost; will they now team up against our heroes? Nope:

Comments: A highly entertaining story. For the most part the FF stayed away from battling the communists, unlike some of the other Marvel characters (especially Iron Man). The ending is well-seeded with earlier scenes of Kragoff's brutality towards his apes.


Aaron Bias said...

Pat: I wondered if you would do this! Ah, the Red Ghost and his evil, simian answer to the FF! What a great post. Thanks for the ape week support!


Booksteve said...

I realize you deal mostly with the stories in this series but I always enjoyed the odd feel to the rare Kirby inked by Ditko art of this particular issue and just wanted to mention that.

Jacque Nodell said...

Glad you posted this! I only have the first Masterworks (1-10), so it is great to see! I really like how the three apes are depicted and signified by their color.

Arachnid Adventures said...

It's great to see this covered here. I love this story. Like so much Lee/Kirby FF of that era, it's completely insane but brilliant.