Fantastic Four #266-268
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #266, Fantastic Four #267, Fantastic Four #268
Anyway, with that out of the way, we get into the issue of Sue's pregnancy. Reed is consulting with Michael Morbius, Walter Langkowsi, and Bruce Banner...
...but they're not having much luck, and Langkowsi suggests bringing in Doctor Octopus - the leading expert in radioactivity before the accident that bonded him with his robot arms.
Reed rejects the idea at first, but there aren't a lot of other options. He heads to the mental institution where Octavius is being held...
...and convinces Otto to agree to help. Reed is surprisingly adept at speaking to him. As an observing psychiatrist says, Reed continually reinforces Octavius' real name (not Doc Ock) and appeals to his expertise. The results seem to work...
...although after they leave, a doctor notes all may not be as well as it seemed.
Things are exasperated when they pass a Daily Bugle billboard on the way to the hospital.
Doc Ocks tentacles break out of the facility where they are being held, and attack Mr. Fantastic. They are first only subconsciously controlled...
...but soon Doctor Octopus reverts to his villainous persona and actively participates in the attack. It's a nicely drawn fight that takes advantage of the fluidity of both Ock's and Reed's powers, and comments on the fact that Octopus' powers are actually have a mechanical similarity to Mr. Fantastic's.
Reed halts the fight by manually taking control of Doctor Octopus' arms.
He then appeals to Octavius, gets through the paranoia again (although Otto retains his Octopus persona) and convinces him to help out anyway. However, they arrive at the hospital too late.
It's never actually stated that if Doctor Octopus hadn't flipped out on the way to the hospital, they could have saved the baby (or for that matter, if Reed hadn't been away at Secret Wars for a week and could have been home monitoring the baby, as he said he would need to do in Thing #10). But Doc Ock's paranoia kicks in anyway, and he starts ranting that he was only brought to the hospital so he could be used a scapegoat. Bruce Banner takes care of Doc Ock in a nice little confrontation...
...but Reed shuts things down before they go too far since, as he mentions, the Hulk is none too stable these days himself. Reed continues to use his "psychiatrist's voice" to convince Doc Ock to go back to his mental institution willingly.
Having Sue experience a miscarriage may have felt like Marvel was going for unnecessary shock value (and there are plenty of letters published in later issues expressing that sentiment) but it's handled well (in these issues and going forward) and it's actually a further step towards maturity for Marvel. Beyond the miscarriage, the treatment of Doctor Octopus' mental state is done very well.
From a more fanboyish perspective, seeing all of the Marvel super-scientists gathered is really cool, and the idea of reaching out to Doc Ock is also awesome.
Taking the focus off the tragedy of the miscarriage, Reed has the Human Torch take She-Hulk back to the Baxter Building for an orientation tour. Johnny is especially cocky, noting that being offered membership in the Avengers "has to be a classier offer than the Avengers". During the tour, he brings She-Hulk to the "trophy room" where they are keeping Dr. Doom's mask, among other dangerous objects.
Later, the mask somehow gets activated and goes on an attack.
The floating mask is somehow able to keep both She-Hulk and the Human Torch at bay, and eventually Mr. Fantastic returns home and disables it by shutting down all external access into the Baxter Building. It was apparently being controlled remotely. It was also packing more firepower than should have been possible for its circuitry. The shocking conclusion is the Dr. Doom may still be alive.
My one complaint about the Doom mask story is the certainty with which Reed and Johnny assume that Dr. Doom is dead. Reed thinks to himself:
Doom is known to be dead -- and by all accounts a death he could not have escaped, as he has escaped death so many deaths in the past."
Several problems with that. The first relates to Secret Wars. The death that the FF members are referring to is the one from Fantastic Four #260. But they've subsequently seen Dr. Doom alive in Secret Wars. I assume that was clear to Byrne by now - this issue would be published alongside the third issue of Secret Wars, so even if Byrne was not notified prior to issue #1 that Dr. Doom would be included he'd have to know at this point. Even if it should have been "impossible" for Doom to have been alive in that series, clearly he was. So maybe, despite the footnote (Johnny's comment is footnoted; Reed's quote above is not), Reed is referring to Dr. Doom's apparent death after his defeat in Secret Wars #12. But then we're looking at one impossible death instead of another, and at some point these impossible resurrections have to start seeming possible. Even assuming we don't care which death we're referring to, Dr. Doom will of course come back from it, so everyone's certainty seems misplaced regardless. I know i'm over thinking it; we're really just trying to establish that the FF really think Doom is dead this time so they can be surprised when he comes back. But it doesn't really work for me.
It's surprising to me the number of times reference is made to She-Hulk feeling out of her league and not wanting to be a joke anymore.
Since i started reading comics around this time, when Jim Shooter (in Secret Wars), Roger Stern, and John Byrne were always handling her as a legitimate character, it never occurred to me that She-Hulk was originally a target for derision among fans (and maybe creators?).
Around this time, John Byrne starts including cityscapes that look like they were xeroxed or traced from actual photos (although in this example here, the Baxter Building is inserted). If that is indeed the case, i don't think there's anything wrong with it. It looks good. Letters in future issues are generally complimentary as well.
Anyway, great arc.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: Some small amount of time has passed since the end of Fantastic Four #265. She-Hulk has had time to participate in the Avengers meeting in Avengers #243. It's an uneasy fit, but the Hulk has to appear here some time after Secret Wars but before his final decent into savagery. The best time for it is after Hulk #296. Doctor Octopus has only been institutionalized since some time after Secret Wars #12. Sasquatch appears here before Alpha Flight #9.
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
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