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Fantastic Four 66
"What Lurks Behind the Beehive?"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND To save Alicia, the fabulous FF must solve the deadly riddle of... "What Lurks Behind the Beehive?"

(Originally posted 09/02/01)
by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Lettering: Artie Simek

Well, nuts! Ben Grimm needs to back up his alibi...that he skipped out on his date with Alicia yesterday due to a battle with the Kree (FF #65), so he brought Reed and Sue along...only to find that the blind sculptress isn't even home! Oddly, she left the door unlocked, but Sue figures she probably just went shopping.

Ben is having none of it. Mebbe she's out on the town with some normal-looking guy, he pouts, as he gives Reed some grief over all those crummy failed serums. Reed reaches out to comfort his old friend, but Ben knocks him cold with the back of his hand! Sue chastises Ben as he stalks out. Reed recovers a moment later, confiding in Sue that he's developed countless other serums, always flawed, which were never mentioned to Ben in the first place.

Now, atop a rocky plateau in what is possibly the remotest spot on Earth, we see a huge, incredible super-science structure. It is inaccessible by normal means of travel, but within we see a hooded man identified as Hamilton (a medical man) as he walks off a flat panel transfer grid, accompanied by the missing Alicia. Waiting to receive him are three men: the bespeckled Zota, an electronics tech; the elderly Shinsky, dean of biology and genetics research; and the project director, the arrogant Morlak, a self-declared master of nuclear physics. Alicia is startled by the introductions. These men are all famous in their fields, and all have been reported dead! As introductions are exchanged, Hamilton removes his hood and an irreplaceable Space Warper bracelet, which made their travel possible.

Alicia is led to a large granite block and issued a challenge: to sculpt a replica of Morlak's head. She balks at the time it would take to chip away at the block, but Morlak ignores her comment, asking instead how she can sculpt things she cannot see. Explaining that it took years of practice, she feels the contours of his face, whereupon Zota hands her an Electroni-Blade which zips through the granite. Within minutes she has produced an exact likeness, and the trio are satisfied that she's the one they need. Their mission may now proceed.

Meanwhile, the brooding Ben Grimm stalks through Central Park. A cop, seeing his distress, assures Ben that he's got it made with his fame, strength, exciting life and personal magnetism. And indeed, an admiring crowd of schoolkids is gathering, peppering him with questions and admiring comments, all of which he shrugs off. Their teacher then calls them away. Ben says that she's right, that she wouldn't want them to be getting too close to a gargoyle like himself, but she contradicts him by flattering him to the extreme before giving him a peck on the cheek. The cop pats him on the back for being a lucky man, and Ben takes a clue. He struts purposefully back the way he came, to make some apologies.

Then, we see the Torch flying toward the Baxter Building's rooftop deck, where Crystal is waiting for him. He's wanted to explain how it is he left her stranded for hours the other day while he went to help Reed and the others, but she's ignoring him. They have a cute tiff; she summons a wind storm to extinguish his flames; they make up. A minute later, they enter Reed's lab, where he's working on his Heat-Image Tracer. He suspects foul play behind Alicia's disappearance. She'd “never" leave without getting in touch with Ben, and besides, her purse was still in her room, and no one saw her leave. Uh-oh.

Back at the Citadel, the trio lead Alicia through a huge room filled with highly focused technicians. They begin to explain the nature of the experiment when, without warning, there's a flash of energy! Too late! Morlak yells for guards as his companions tremble: "He's loose again!" "We're all done for!" But Morlak is confident, as guards pour past him to surround the area and secure the safety hatches. As they all pull themselves off the floor, Morlak checks that Alicia is all right as Zota insists that she must be told the truth. Shinski continues to rant that they're all doomed. Morlak tells him to shut up, that He hasn't gotten to them yet, and that with Alicia's help they may yet triumph. To calm her, he pours a glass of Vita-Broth, which causes all her troubles to melt away.

Morlak then explains their project, to create a Perfect Race of Human Beings. The group had dedicated themselves, in their self-created isolation, to not leave, not give up, until they'd created one perfect human, the forerunner of a supreme new race! Finally, they created one embryonic creature, then age-progressed Him to a point where, within days, He would be released. But, that night, an alarm sounded, and Morlak's guards entered the vault. Within, they were shocked to find that He had gotten out of the tank by himself! Morlak, Zota and Shinski arrived within minutes to find the guards terrified and running for cover. Morlak noticed that He was still in the chamber, casting ominous shadows. Zota assembled an energy weapon while freaking, ranting that they were wrong, that He wasn't ready yet at all. Morlak fired at Him, forcing Him back. But, before they could turn on the lights to see what they'd created, He blasted them back against the wall, and escaped. The recap finished, Morlak sputters that they couldn't get a look at their supreme creation because He was radiating blinding power. So, Alicia concludes, that's why you need me...!

Elsewhere, Alicia's landlady tells Ben that Alicia isn't back yet, that she never saw her leave, and that his team-mates are in her room now. Ben bursts in, demanding an explanation, and Reed asks him to come in and close the door gently, so as not to disturb the lingering heat waves that his Tracer is all set to get onto film. Ben continues to sputter, but fortunately his hot air is no match for the remaining traces, which Reed then projects onto a large blank art board. They see Alicia sitting quietly, then reacting to a presence which we see, a hooded man who takes her gently by the hand as they walk through a solid wall. Ben freaks.

Meanwhile, at the citadel, a radiation-suited Alicia has strapped a block of clay onto her back in preparation for her mission. Hamilton, without the hood, arrives to accompany her. She notices that he's armed, and this is bad, as she'd been assured there was no danger! The trio enter at that moment, and Morlak is annoyed since Hamilton is acting without permission, b reaking their strict code of discipline. Declaring that he was a man before he became a scientist, Hamilton tells them to stand aside. He and Alicia walk through Lock 41 and into the chamber as the door is shut tight behind them. Alicia is concluding that there's a lot she wasn't told, and Hamilton agrees. He tells her that their creation possess powers they can only guess at, when suddenly a flaming barrier is thrown in their way! That was a warning, says Hamilton, and Alicia wonders that if He's so powerful, why would he bother to warn them?

At the Baxter Building Ben is pacing the floors while Johnny, Sue and Crystal sit and wait, hour after hour, for Reed to come out of his lab. Even Sue doesn't know what he's up to, and just as she gets Ben to calm down the door opens and Reed tells them he's got something. He shows them a photo of that one unusual detail, the oddly-patterned bracelet. The circuits are already under analysis, he tells them, and he's certain he can make an exact copy, which might lead them... anywhere!

Even as Reed speaks, Alicia and Hamilton cower as an overwhelming radiant brilliance approaches...reaching out...like a living thing...!

NEXT: The Power of... HIM!

I'd been catching up on Jack Kirby Collector recently and the sight of all that old artwork got me curious about the actual comics, so I pulled this pair. In the never-ending debate over who'd been Jack's best inker, I must say that Joe Sinnott can't be underestimated. There's no question that his pretty line was more in evidence than Dick Ayers' or Frank Giacoia's. But, to my eye, he contributed an appropriate finish without overwhelming what he was given, as Wally Wood was prone to do with everyone. And, unlike Mike Royer, whose very literal approach was undeniably darn effective but which has left me cold, Sinnott added a great deal of warmth, which is his own strength.

The Lee/Kirby creator credit was noticeably nonspecific, indicating that the story's details were defined by each to his own priorities. The team was working well together this time around.

As Ben glowers at his reflection on page 2, he appears to be flipping himself off, but it's hard to say because he has only the four fingers.

It's never explained why Hamilton was wearing the hood, though I suppose it was to guard his dead guy status in case he was seen.

The energy flash of Him's escape is indicated by one of those wonderful all-red panels that used to scream "extreme danger" in the days before computer coloring. I find comics to have been more dramatic when the coloring was simpler. Not that I question the judgment of the vastly talented colorists I work with, needless to say.

The two-step requirement of Reed's Heat Image Tracer is really charming in the way it refers to the home-movie technology of those pre-video days. I had no problem accepting everything else in the comic, but it seems amazing that they wouldn't have looked at the heat-trace images on a monitor immediately as the gizmo picked them up.

Tom Orzechowski