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 exacerbated when they pass a Daily Bugle billboard on the way to the hospital.
Doc Ock's 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 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 Fantastic Four "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 that 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 Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (18): show
You should add Charles Jefferson as appearing here.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 8, 2014 11:38 AM
Posted by: fnord12 | September 8, 2014 12:08 PM
Please! Thanos06 is my prototype! I'm the one TRUE sixth clone of Thanos! ;)
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 8, 2014 12:11 PM
Posted by: fnord012 | September 8, 2014 12:16 PM
I remember hearing of the Ock story years ago I figured it happened later in the decade when Ock was scared of Spider-Man for a while since Ock never struck me as having a docile side. This take place when Ock was scared of Spidey doesn't make much sense either since he wouldn't go berserk.
Some day I'm gonna read the Byne run.
Posted by: david banes | September 8, 2014 1:41 PM
I do like the idea that while Reed may overall be the smartest, any of these guys can surpass him in their areas of expertise. There's one prose novel where even Doom grudgingly admits Octopus is his superior when it comes to radiation, and getting anything resembling a compliment from Doom is a feat in itself.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 8, 2014 7:08 PM
Having recently read the Byrne run as a whole, this works better in the Byrne run than in the overall scope of things, because of Octopus' appearance.
The last time we saw him, he was held down by Molecule Man and freaking out. But they didn't really do enough in that issue of Secret Wars to prepare us for a distraught Octopus - there it was of a psychotic one. Also, that means that since the time we saw the villains float off into space, Molecule Man managed to bring that hunk of Denver back to Earth and throw Octopus in an institution in New York.
These issues are great (I especially love Byrne's Hulk after seeing how he was drawn in Secret Wars and in Hulk at the time), but I just don't think they managed to set-up Octopus well enough by the end of Secret Wars to support this issue.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 17, 2015 7:01 AM
"Supposedly, it's a story that Alicia (actually Lyja Lazerfist - and why would she even know this story?)"
I would expect Lyja to have had a full memory implant regarding Alicia's history up to the time of "Secret Wars".
Posted by: clyde | July 9, 2015 1:35 PM
"Also, that means that since the time we saw the villains float off into space, Molecule Man managed to bring that hunk of Denver back to Earth and throw Octopus in an institution in New York."
What's so hard to believe? That's exactly what Molecule Man said he would do in that issue of Secret Wars. He certainly has the power to do it.
Posted by: clyde | July 9, 2015 1:51 PM
Well the potential problem is that the FF return from Secret Wars and pretty much immediately go looking for Doc Ock, who from this story seems to have been in the hospital for a while and was thought to have been making progress. How much sooner did the Molecule Man get back to Earth before the FF teleported home from the Battleplanet?
Posted by: fnord12 | July 9, 2015 2:15 PM
IIRC, Molecule Man teleported "millions of miles in the blink of an eye", so he probably got them home pretty quickly.
Posted by: clyde | July 9, 2015 2:32 PM
@ Clyde -
I wasn't suggesting that Molecule Man can't do it. But given the way that Denver casually flies away, it seems a rather large leap to suddenly be back and have all the time necessary for Octopus' behavior issues to have evolved.
By the way, I love the "Fool! Your brute strength is no match for my arms!" Um, Ock, do you remember in Secret Wars where he held up a flipping mountain range? Your lucky he doesn't rip the arms right off you.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 9, 2015 2:42 PM
I am trying to balance all the pieces in my head at once. When was Doc Ock last seen in a Spider-Man title before Secret Wars? He'd become traumatised by Spider-Man before then, as far as I recall, because Black Cat got her initial bad luck powers from Kingpin as a result of her own ordeal at the tentacles of Doc Ock, which had gotten Spidey mad. So it is possible that he went into therapy at some stage after his beating, and that the Beyonder, seeing this poor wretch, did what he did for Dr. Doom and lifted another Doc Ock from some other point in the timeline, maybe a year or two earlier? Or would that spoil something in Secret Wars?
Posted by: Harry | July 9, 2015 4:44 PM
Ock's last appearance before Secret Wars would have been Spectacular #79, which features the battle with Spider-Man that left Ock traumatized in the first place. It's not explicitly said that he's scared of Spidey until Web #4, which came out over a year after Secret Wars. The fact that Ock and Spidey never really interact during Secret Wars was used retroactively as evidence of this trauma. I don't think it's impossible that he was seeking help prior to being abducted by the Beyonder, but he wasn't showing any evidence of it on Battleworld, and the doctors probably would have had more than a few questions about his whereabouts.
Posted by: TCP | July 9, 2015 4:57 PM
Can you imagine him having a conversation with a psychiatrist?
Doc Ock: "I was on a planet that was created before my very eyes. It was made up from pieces of a bunch of other planets. Then I was transported back to Earth on a suburb of Denver by a nerdy-looking person who tied me up by my tentacles."
Psychiatrist: "Of course. That makes perfect sense. Now you just take these pills to help you relax."
Posted by: clyde | July 9, 2015 6:26 PM
@clyde- the problem with Lyja knowing this story is that it's a plot point in DeFalco's run that Lyja DIDN'T have memory implants- she was just briefed very thoroughly by the Skrulls. Now it's possible that a Skrull spy observed this incident or some account of it made it into the newspapers, but still....
Posted by: Michael | July 9, 2015 7:36 PM
I'm sure Bryne would have made Doc Ock vs. Hulk a very good read. Not in that it'd be a long straight up fight but the conflict and resolution would be amazing.
Posted by: david banes | January 14, 2016 4:49 AM
I feel like the ambiguity of Dr. Doom's death was intentional on Byrne's part. Byrne may have been privy to the end of Secret Wars (and probably would have had to have been for the She-Hulk add) so he might have known Doom was going to be presumed dead..but with another presumed death very recently that audiences knew about... it works to not spoil SW for the audience.
Did any of what I just typed make sense? It's really late haha.
Posted by: Jeff | June 27, 2016 12:56 AM
It's been a long time but if I recall correctly, Byrne was very unhappy at all the disruptions caused by Secret Wars in his carefully constructed multiple issue storyline for the FF, particularly regarding the unwanted (by Byrne) resurrection of Doom just so he could be a principle villain in Shooter's Secret Wars storyline. Like most publisher-imposed, company-wide "events," Secret Wars disrupted quite a number of ongoing multiple issue story ideas Marvel was offering at the time.
I suspect Byrne may have already plotted, or at least conceived, this story prior to the imposition of Secret Wars, and was loathe to abandon it in spite of the problems introduced by Shooter's story, and so he let retro-continuity take a back seat to his desire to author this story more-or-less as planned, with Reed demonstrating his flair for psychiatric behavioral modification, and Byrne demonstrating his back-to-the-basics understanding of how Otto's arms were originally controlled in Otto's original origin story.
I'm sure Byrne never anticipated the later retcon which holds that Alicia was replaced by a Skrull prior to this issue. As I recall, DeFalco, or whoever it was, who later implanted that story bit about Lyja the Skrull impersonating Alicia, was clearly very upset at Byrne's subsequent portrayal of Alicia as a romantic switch-hitter who abandoned Ben Grimm the Thing in favor of Johnny Storm the Human Torch, and so DeFalco or whoever forced this highly unlikely Lyja retcon in reaction to that, just so he could put the lie to her controversial relationship with the Torch.
For my best enjoyment when I read this story, in my mind, Alicia is Alicia, and not Lyja, because that's who the character was actually written to be. Likewise, when I read "The Phoenix Saga," Jean is Jean, and not some retconned Phoenix Force impersonating Jean, because that interpretation was the author's original intention.
Posted by: jayzonely | July 3, 2016 7:59 PM
Reed continues to use his "psychiatrist's voice" to convince Doc Ock to go back to his mental institution willingly
Based on the narration, I don't think it's the sympathetic, reaching-out psychiatrist voice he used in the previous issue. His voice is described as "cold"; I think it's supposed to be sheer intimidation. Re-read the panels & you'll see what I mean.
Posted by: Stephen Frug | May 20, 2017 7:58 PM
Byrne seemed to have taken She-Hulk's addition to the team and the Thing leaving rather well, certainly better than the issue of Dr. Doom's death, so I wonder if he'd have put her in regardless even without Secret Wars.
Posted by: OverMaster | June 26, 2017 6:16 PM
I'd assume it was his idea. Remember, the books reflected the new status quos straight away when Secret Wars #1 came out. So, when it got to Secret Wars #12, Byrne had already established She-Hulk as Thing's replacement for months (and was also writing The Thing's book), so Shooter may have written Byrne's status quos in as part of Secret Wars.
Posted by: AF | June 26, 2017 6:41 PM
I'm pretty sure I read an interview somewhere where Byrne said he asked for She-Hulk to be able to use her in FF, because he liked what Roger Stern had been doing with her in AVENGERS and wanted to play with her too. So they agreed to share her, with her joining the FF but still being a 'detatched' member of the Avengers so she could make occasional appearances there.
Posted by: Dermie | June 27, 2017 10:48 PM
Yes, Byrne was also writing The Thing's solo series & has said he found it difficult to come up with good Thing stories that didn't have a reason to include the Fantastic Four, which would make them Fantastic Four stories. So when he heard about the weird planet the Beyonder had created, he decided Ben would stay there, so he could write Thing solo stories that couldn't involve the FF.
As Dermie says, as a replacement he thought of She-Hulk, in his own words telling his friend Stern that he was stealing She-Hulk off Stern, and Stern replied "Oh, okay".
As has been said here before, the writers of several of the comics must have discussed with Shooter certain status quo changes that would occur during Secret Wars so readers would feel the need to buy Secret Wars to find out how these things happened, some more successful than others. (Where did Spidey get his new costume? Why is She-Hulk now in the FF? How did Hulk injure his leg? Erm, what was the deal with that dragon in X-Men?)
I suspect the Dr Octopus status quo was unplanned though, with Byrne intending that Ock had been in psychiatric care since Spectacular #79, & only after the comic was published did editorial realise that Shooter would have to insert a scene with Doc Ock going crazy so this didn't seem like an error.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 28, 2017 12:47 PM
I always assumed the Spider-office came up with the idea of Ock going nuts after Battleworld and Shooter went along. It always struck me as too brilliant of a post-"Secret Wars" change to be Shooter's idea.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 28, 2017 9:13 PM
I always had the impression that Doc Ock was a late addition to the secret wars cast because he was basically in the middle of his "Spider-fear" arc. They had to work hard for Doc Ock and Spidey to not encounter each other in SW and had to put the Doc back in the institution almost immediately after SW so he could appear here.
Posted by: kveto | July 8, 2018 3:17 AM
But the Spider-Fear arc didn't really start until Web of Spider-Man 4, which was published a year after Secret Wars 1. Peter gives Ock the big speech about how he'll never win in Spectacular Spider-Man 79 but the first evidence we see that Ock is crazier than usual is this story.
Posted by: Michael | July 8, 2018 8:41 AM
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