Fantastic Four #4 (May 1962)

So here we are, back to the action/villain-oriented cover. This time we know what to expect, and that is Namor: the Sub Mariner.Our story begins with the Fantastic Three (doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it?) searching for the Human Torch, and they give a little recap as to why he’s gone (it happened back in issue #3). We see them searching various areas of the city in order to find Johnny, but one part of this search left a bad taste in my mouth.

Mr. Fantastic sure is fantastic! Yeah, fantastic at being an ASSHOLE.

Case in point: Mr. Fantastic is an asshole. He ‘thinks’ that this bike-riding teen might have seen Johnny “the Human Torch”, so in order to question him about it, Mr. Fantastic stretches his arm out and rips the kid off of his motorcycle. The kid isn’t pissed about it though, and is actually excited that he’ll be able to brag about this to his friends! Remember, the Fantastic Four are practically celebrities now, so the public is in awe of them. What we don’t see, however, is this poor kid’s bike crash due to having had it’s rider picked off of it. Is the kid not upset about his ride? If Mr. Fantastic were truly Fantastic, he would have just stretched his legs out, ran beside the kid, and talked to him that way. Hell, he could have even stretched his neck out too if he needed. Oh well.

The other thing they are over-stressing is that Johnny Storm is a teenager. On the page before, Sue Storm says, “the Torch LOVED this neighborhood where there are so many other teenagers.” After questioning the kid that he picked up, Mr. Fantastic says, “sooner or later I’ll find SOME teen-ager who’s seen him.” This makes me think back to their origin, and I find myself asking a question I overlooked at first: if Johnny Storm is a random teenager (or even just the brother of Susan Storm), why was he on the rocket project that went into space in the first issue?

Meanwhile, the Thing is the first to find Johnny – who is casually repairing cars in a garage. After an encounter, Johnny flies away, still a little ticked off. Johnny flees to a hotel for homeless people, and here he discovers an old hairy bum. The bum can’t remember who he is, so Johnny turns his finger into flame and shaves his face. Lo and behold, the homeless man was actually the long lost Namor – water dwelling Prince and hero from legend. Namor actually very closely resembles Spock, in my opinion.

Highly illogical

The clever thing about this is that Namor was actually an older Marvel Comics character from it’s early Golden Age. His debut in 1939 featured him playing a chaotic destroyer role similar to Godzilla. Eventually he teamed up with the Allies and fought Nazis during World War II. After the war his popularity declined, and around 1955 his comics were cancelled. The newly invigorated Marvel Comics seemed like a perfect place to reintroduce him to a new audience. So to think about it, he had been “missing” for 7 years at this point. Sensing an opportunity, Marvel would eventually resurrect a few other Golden Age characters.

In order to help Namor remember who he is, the Human Torch flies him into the sea – but this turns out to be a HUGE mistake. Once Namor finds his underwater city destroyed, he blames the human world and then vows to destroy it. The rest of the comic features him using a horn to awaken a giant whale-like creature to attack the city. The Thing defeats the beast by carrying an nuclear bomb into it’s mouth, and setting it in it’s belly (a little far fetched, but it was a badass move, I’ll go with it).

This scene was pretty epic.

Once again though, it’s Johnny who saves the day when he creates a whirlwind and spins Namor away, throwing him back into the ocean. It ends with Namor back in the ocean, vowing to come back. Well, doesn’t the cover say that if he makes it into water he will be invincible? Why did they throw him back then? Is it an analogy to fishing, when you throw back the fish if they’re not big enough? Was it meant to hurt his ego, now that he’s been ‘thrown back’? Luckily, this issue was a lot of fun, and can’t wait for the next time Namor shows up.

(This article originally written on May 7th, 2011 at comicbookcurios.blogspot.com)

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