Fantastic Four #22
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #22
Review/plot: Sue vamps it up in a bizarre device Reed created to test Sue's powers.
Test... or enhance? He initially says it's to test her powers, but once Sue discovers she has the ability to do more than turn herself invisible, Reed takes credit for it, saying "The radiation from my nuclear measuring device must have increased your power, Sue!" So either he is taking credit for something he had nothing to do with or he is carelessly exposing his teammates to dangerous radiation. Either way, he's a dick.
But Sue now has the ability to turn other objects, or people, invisible, and she can create invisible force fields.
However, she can only perform one aspect of her power at a time, a fact that the Thing initially points out, and then Sue repeats to the Thing two panels later, an odd storytelling choice that even the Thing comments on.
Meanwhile, everyone and their mother is coming up to bother the Fantastic Four. First the police arrive to investigate complaints that the FF store an ICBM in their Manhattan building. They do, but they have a permit from the C.A.A.. Then other people start calling and showing up in person, complaining about all the disturbances that the FF cause.
It's played for laughs, but these would be real-life concerns. The Thing scares away the Women's Canasta and Mah Jong Society with a very trippy robot he created out of spare parts.
Little does the FF know that the complaints have all been orchestrated (how?) by the Mole Man, who also sent a pamphlet advertising a small island for sale off the coast of New Jersey. The FF go to check it out and find themselves caught in a trap orchestrated by the Mole Man, caught behind a radioactive wall (it's "only radio-active from the inside", says the Mole Man, leaning on it, but it is so radioactive that if the FF were to touch it, they would die instantly). The Mole Man has built hydraulic lifts under the largest cities on Earth, and with the push of a button, he plans to lower some of the cities into the ground, which he believes will trigger World War III.
The FF manage to climb over the wall thanks to the help of Sue's new forcefields (and that, believe it or not, is the first time the Thing says "It's clobberin' time!"...
...and they fight the Mole Man, who is now using moleoids similiar to Tyrannus' (in FF #1 he just had a bunch of monsters; the fact that the Mole Man now has similar minions to another underground tyrant is an intriguing but unexplained development).
The FF are each captured in a trap tailored to their specific powers, but they all find a way to escape (Sue uses another new aspect of her power - the power to make invisible objects visible - to find a hidden door. ).
The Mole Man escapes and hits the button that's supposed to lower the cities, but instead it destroys his own lair because Reed re-configured the settings. To my understanding, all the major cities in the Marvel Universe are still sitting on hydraulic lifts, which could be a problem one day.
At this point the Thing is his standard rock-scale self, not a lumpy monster anymore. The hostility between him and the Human Torch has been replaced with good-natured pranks.
We have the first reference to the Thing's Aunt Petunia.
References to the Thing's Aunt Petunia will continue to be a running gag in this book for decades until John Byrne actually shows her on panel and reveals that she isn't all that "ol'".
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #16
Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum have letters here.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 29, 2013 3:34 PM
The lifts could have remained there for a while, but when Graviton lifted all the world's major cities in Thunderbolts, that probably destroyed them.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | June 29, 2013 9:01 PM
Possibly Mole Man used some minor trinkets from the Valley of Diamonds to bribe the various citizenry into making their "complaints."
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 2, 2014 2:07 AM
I agree with your 9 rating for Historical Significance. This turns Sue from the weakest link on the team (by a long way) to an incredibly powerful hero and easily the most powerful on the team. Since Jean Grey doesn't have telepathic powers yet (that we know of), this makes Sue the first really powerful female hero in the Marvel Universe.
Because I've never read this issue and Marvel Saga didn't hardly include anything from it (if at all), this is the first time that I've ever actually seen Sue's shield power explained. I always thought it was just a gimmick, but at least here there's an explanation (it being a form of energy she can control). Has this information ever been repeated? Seriously, we've had like 40 explanations of what the Neutral Zone is and heard about the cosmic rays a zillion times, but I don't think I've ever before now seen an explanation of why Sue has the shield power.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 12, 2014 4:52 PM
Oddly, the rest of the FF can see Sue's force fields this issue. I'm not sure why Stan scripted it that way when the fields use the same dotted-line visual shorthand that tells use Sue is invisible.
In any event, they're invisible to the other members starting next issues. I guess we could say the fields weren't fully invisible when Sue's power to create them first manifested.
Posted by: Mortificator | November 14, 2015 12:43 PM
Another reason for the high significance rating: this issue is the first time Stan announced a contest with "no prize."
Posted by: Andrew | February 14, 2016 8:29 PM
This is the first time I believe that the Mole Man's realm is referred to as Subterranea, a name that was first used in the Doc Savage novel the Mystery on the Snow.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 25, 2016 10:39 PM
Is the cop in this issue supposed to be a riff on Fred Gwynne from “Car 54 Where Are You?”
Posted by: Jeff | March 3, 2018 4:28 PM
If the cosmic rays did give Sue Storm multiple powers then the others got short-changed if they only got one each. Or did they? Reed Richards' intellect seemed to shoot up from being the rocket scientist who designed a craft with inadequate shielding to Marvel Earth's smartest man, capable of whipping up world-saving devices at the drop of a hat. That may have been ray-induced. I suppose flight counts as a second power for the Torch. So what about the Thing?
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | March 3, 2018 5:19 PM
Longevity? During DeFalco's run it seemed to be pretty well established that the Thing has the potential to live on for centuries, I forget how many.
Posted by: Holt | March 3, 2018 5:30 PM
Perhaps the Torch's other power is his ability to mentally control flame. His ability to absorb heat (Fantastic Four #106) might be a use of his other abilities in concert. (He mentally draws the heat to his body and stores it.)
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 3, 2018 6:52 PM
I think the idea is that Sue's power is not so much to become invisible, but that she can project an "invisible force". The most obvious application of which is to make things invisible, but which can also be used to create force fields (which are also invisible because the force itself is invisible).
This is really just a rhetorical slight of hand, but it justifies the new power.
I do wish that at some point that it is discovered that Sue's invisibility extends beyond the visible spectrum, but can be extended to ALL forms of senses. That eliminates the typical negation of her powers caused by the use of infrared, sonar, etc. She really should be undetectable when using her power. You could always say that Dr Doom (or anyone else) discovers some secret means of detection unknown to Reed and Sue if your story really needs her to be detected, but 99% of villains should not be able to observe her through any means.
Posted by: Chris | March 3, 2018 7:00 PM
Kirby based that "Sue vamps it up" pose on a Vargas illustration from the April 1963 issue of Playboy. Not sure if it's OK to post this here, but here's a link--be aware it may be NSFW:
Posted by: Shar | March 6, 2018 5:05 PM
Nice catch Shar, I don't know how you do it. I've seen a lot of people swipe from Kirby before, but this is the first example I've seen of Kirby swiping from another artist.
Posted by: Holt | March 6, 2018 5:27 PM
Regarding “swipes”: I vaguely recall some Kirby panels with prehistoric and other wildlife that I recognized as copied from other artists. Still, there’s something adorable about the way Jack transformed that Vargas image into Sue Storm: neutralizing the erotic element and replacing the whimsical hat with one of Reed’s contraptions. I wonder whether his fellow professionals at the time got the visual reference.
I also wonder how closely that Vargas painting represents Kirby’s facial conception of Sue. It’s hard to tell what’s going on under Bell’s coarse inks; but I’ve always envisioned Kirby’s Invisible Girl as resembling actress Lee Remmick, and the Vargas girl’s face is not far off that mark. Regardless, I too congratulate Shar on a great observation.
Posted by: Chris Z | March 6, 2018 10:03 PM
@Holt and Chris Z: thanks for the kind words :) I'd stumbled across that Vargas image some time ago and when I saw new comments on FF #22 the other day I figured it was a good time to post about it.
Posted by: Shar | March 12, 2018 4:03 PM
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