Fantastic Four #168-170
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #168, Fantastic Four #169, Fantastic Four #170
Ben: "There's some times when ya just don't watch the clock, y'know."
Reed is agitated because apparently there's a Fantastic Four charter that requires four super-powered members? Or... what? I'm not quite sure what would happen if they didn't have four members. But with Ben out of the picture, Reed has hired Luke Cage to replace him. This, and the fact that Ben has lost his celebrity status, causes him to act like an ass. When the FF respond to a bank robbery alert, Ben tags along.
The bank is being robbed by the Wrecker.
Despite interference by Ben, the FF defeat the Wrecker fairly easily. Even though it's made fairly clear that he's not in control of his own actions, this is the beginning of the trend where the Wrecker, a Thor-level villain, gets used as a stand-in for a cheap super-strong thug.
In the next issue, Luke Cage hangs around with Sue and asks why she still calls herself the Invisible Girl.
It's like Roy Thomas saw the problem, but didn't want to do anything about it. Or he was just responding to fan complaints and defending the status quo.
In any event, Luke Cage gets possessed and starts attacking everyone and smashing up the Baxter Building.
During Cage's rampage, a 'strangely marked cannister' gets knocked onto Reed's time machine and sent somewhere in time. Then he flees the building, stealing the Fantasticar. Reed gives Ben a Thing-shaped exo-skeleton he's been working on so that he can rejoin the group.
While Ben adjusts to his new suit, Alicia figures out that the person whose been taking control of everyone is probably her step-father the Puppet Master, and she goes to visit him in jail and using her super-blindness she finds where he's been hiding his radioactive dolls.
Then Cage shows up to break the Puppet Master out of jail. Mr. Fantastic and the Thing show up as well and a fight breaks out.
During the fight, the Puppet Master gets jostled, and he has the choice of either saving his dolls or Alicia from a long fall.
He chooses Alicia, and Luke is freed from his control. But since Ben has his Thing suit again, and Johnny has changed his mind and decided to stay on the team, this ends Luke Cage's brief tenure as a member of the FF.
At one point the FF train with Luke Cage using one of Professor Xavier's machines. It's interesting that, like Iron Man, the FF didn't think to create a training room until after Xavier created his Danger Room.
In a letter published in Fantastic Four #174: "I've always hated Cage's uppity attitude. Does he have to be so boring and smart-alecky?" The writer, a female from Texas, also wants Sue off the team because she's too submissive and doesn't stand up to her chauvinistic team mates.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: According to the MCP, Luke Cage appears here between Power Man #31 and Power Man #32
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
The title to #168 refers to the 1960s song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and the next issue to the play "Five Characters In Search of a Plot".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 21, 2011 3:14 PM
You've got the Reed Richards of Counter-Earth (a.k.a. the Brute) mixed up with the Reed Richards of Earth-A (who became the Thing instead of Ben in that world). The FF won't run into the Brute/Reed until FF #177.
Posted by: Gary Himes | March 19, 2012 3:20 PM
Thanks Gary. I've updated it.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 19, 2012 3:57 PM
LOL! The "Fantastic Four charter that requires four super-powered members", Alicia's "super blindness"--just two examples of why this is such a great, one-of-a-kind site.
Posted by: Shar | December 13, 2012 4:02 PM
Bill Mantlo has a letter in #170.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 29, 2013 3:40 PM
I wonder if the series had been called "Fantastic Family" or something else that didn't use a number, if the membership of the team would have varied a lot more over the years, like with the Avengers.
As for the Wrecker, now that he has shared his power with the Wrecking Crew, isn't his own personal power diminished?
Posted by: Erik Robbins | August 7, 2013 5:33 PM
Yes, the Wrecker has been repeatedly stated to have one-fourth his previous power when sharing power with the Wrecking Crew. But still, one-fourth the power of Thor is pretty dangerous, but that's not how the Wrecker is often written.
Posted by: Michael | August 7, 2013 8:46 PM
Yeah, "Invisible Woman" is so much longer and more unwieldy than "Invisible Girl," with that one extra letter or syllable. Weak reasoning, Sue/Roy.
Posted by: Todd | August 7, 2013 11:41 PM
This made me wonder something: I was reading the Spider-Man entry with Thunderball holding Wrecker's crow-bar and was specifically made to be really powerful in that fight. Would that have been him in his typical power with the rest of the Wrecking Crew or is that one of the few times someone other than Wrecker got the full Asgardian power granted through it?
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 8, 2013 9:12 AM
IIRC, Kurt Busiek used the Wrecking Crew at a certain point of his Avengers run and made them explain that their power levels are quite variable, depending on how much energy they had stored (and also, as established far earlier in Defenders - again IIRC - on whether they decide to share that energy with their team companions).
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 8, 2013 7:47 PM
The second FF issue I ever read was 169. Both a great and a not great place to come into the team. It's got great art and it really sucked me in to the story, with a lot of flashback scenes (Ben gets into a bar-fight and has flashbacks to being the Thing).
On the other hand, I read that issue on and off for 30 years and this is the first time I have ever seen the conclusion or known precisely who was controlling Luke Cage (and the Wrecker, who is mentioned in 169, so I knew it was in the middle of a storyline as well).
Posted by: Erik Beck | March 14, 2015 9:10 AM
The "Fantastic Four charter that requires four super-powered members",
Sadly, this is not a joke; it's literally a plot point from the story.
Also, it's worth recalling that the Wrecker was never supposed to be Thor's equal. His first fight is against a depowered Thor, and Thor flat-out defeats and depowers him in their second go-round.
Oh, and this story also shows Luke Cage taking the Wrecker's crowbar and using it himself; I'm pretty sure Brian Michael Bendis read this comic as a youngster.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | December 6, 2015 8:18 PM
Hi Omar, I assume the first part of your comment is a comment on my comment from--my god, has it been 3 years already?? :)
Yeah, some time after I wrote my 2012 comment I actually read this issue and was astonished to realize that the charter was indeed part of the story. Still cracks me up.
Posted by: Shar | December 7, 2015 8:59 PM
As I've mentioned elsewhere, #170 was what got me hooked on Marvel. I'd been landing on random bizarre issues (MoKF #42 with the flash-forwards, Defenders #34 which was the height of the Headman madness, Dr. Strange #16 set in Colan's hell) and was completely lost…but the accessible storytelling here (all the details of Alicia and the Puppet Master's relationship are deftly and economically covered) and Perez's slam-bang art, with Ben and Cage fighting it out on two careening FantastiCars, hooked me immediately. Great fun.
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 23, 2016 6:41 AM
I'm not sure if it's worthy of an Historical Significance Rating, but this is the first story in which Franklin Richards speaks.
Posted by: Gary Himes | January 19, 2017 10:40 AM
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