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Fantastic Four 67
"When Opens the Cocoon!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND October 1967
(First posted 10/25/01)
Proudly produced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Embellishment: Joe Sinnott
Lettering: Artie Simek

The situation is tense. Alicia Masters, the blind sculptress who is the Thing's sweetie, has been abducted mysteriously. Reed Richards has analyzed lingering heat waves in her boarding house room and thus recreated images of her amazing departure: a hooded man escorted her to and through a solid wall! An enlarged shot of his eccentric wrist band led Reed to determine the properties of that band and, more importantly, data needed to construct another! The Thing is grumpy now as Reed fiddles with a Kirbytech computer, then consults a schematic of a section of the wrist band, magnified to cover an entire wall. A decontamination-suited courier arrives with micro-units from Tony Stark, and the work continues.

Meanwhile, Alicia and Hamilton stumble through the labyrinth of Lock 41 toward a creature that he and his compatriots have created but never seen. Then, an energy bolt nearly hits them: a warning shot... from Him! Hamilton fires back even as Alicia objects that, if their objective was to create a perfect living being, without sin, perhaps they should give Him a chance. Hamilton spits back that what they did was too dangerous, that the being has limitless power and can't be controlled, and so must be destroyed! As the barrage of energy beams continues, Hamilton bemoans his complicity in pulling Alicia into such a hopeless situation. She breaks away from him and bolts toward the creature, hoping to reason with Him! As she ambles forward, Hamilton is entwined by ropy tendrils that suddenly rise from the ground. Clearly, she alone is welcome to approach.

Back at the heart of the complex, Morlak, Zota and Shinski monitor these events and argue bitterly. It comes out that their ambition was to create a "perfect" race that would conquer mankind, which would then be ruled by these scientist-creators. Shinski reveals that he'd been secretly creating a last-ditch emergency measure. It's an Anti-Grav Transmitter which, when activated, will draw Him instantly into the furthest reaches of Outer Space! Morlak approves. With the threat removed, they can try again, and the next time THEY SHALL NOT FAIL!

At the Baxter Building, Crystal and Johnny flirt while worrying about the others, who've been locked in Reed's lab all night. Sue makes breakfast, Ben mopes, and then Reed appears, unshaven and two days short of sleep, but focused because he's finished his analysis of the Wrist Band to Nowhere. He has a cup of life-enhancing coffee while the Micro-Tool Assembly Unit warms up.

We jump to Alicia, who is following a voice in the darkness. He senses the goodness in her heart and urges her on, for He needs her help. The others are evil, He realizes, but she is--different. As she nears, she senses that despite His power, something is wrong. She reaches out to touch Him so that she may understand... and finds that He has no form. He is encased in a Cocoon and is about to be born! At this moment though, He feels weak, and so alone... so helpless. Alicia assures Him that she will stay, as he reminds her of another who is also powerful, but needs compassion and understanding. So, for the sake of the love she feels for that other, she will not desert this one!

Back at the Baxter Building, the final assembly of the wrist band takes place. Sue enthuses that they can now bring Alicia back, but Reed gently tells her that, in light of the unknown dangers ahead, he can't let her face them, "not now," while she was pregnant with Franklin. Johnny asks Crystal to stay and look after her. The three Fantastic Guys face a blank wall, and Ben suggests they might want to use the wall in Alicia's apartment, since that's where it began, but Reed assures him that the circuitry is primed for their destination. And, ZIZZT!, they're gone, to emerge and immediately swing into action against troops within the Citadel, who are clobbered in no time.

Not far away, Hamilton is now free of the tentacles, which disappeared suddenly. The blinding glow has faded as well. A little further ahead he sees Alicia, standing over the slumping Cocoon. Hamilton and his cohorts had surmised He would begin His life this way, and warns her away before He enters the final phase. Alicia pleads to Dr. Hamilton to help Him, but Hamilton says it's too late because the metamorphosis is about to begin... and that, no matter what form He takes, no one will be able to stop Him! He speaks his regrets for his own lust to rule the world, and takes aim to destroy Him, even at the cost of his own life. Alicia now knows that she was brought to help a team of would-be tyrants! And suddenly, the pair are slammed aside by an energy blast as the Cocoon begins to dissolve!

Nearby, Ben has learned Alicia's whereabouts, and the three rush to her aid. Within Lock 41, the situation is coming to a boil. Hamilton knows he deserves whatever's coming next, but fears for Alicia. A voice from behind bellows that no harm will come to her, but that the others must pay... for the EVIL they had planned!! An energy blast buries Hamilton under rock, killing him as he moans his fears for the rest of mankind, just as the Fantastic Guys make their appearance. Johnny urges them to get out quickly: he's now glowing like never before, saying he's absorbed as much of the energy as he can take. The ground is shaking from the energy buildup and they run for the Escape Grid from which they entered. Elsewhere in the Citadel, Zota, Shinski and Morlak bicker over the years, the moral compromises they spent getting this far, only to have to cut their losses at the last moment. And to make things worse... the Anti-Grav Transmitter doesn't work! He read their minds and neutralized it, Morlak yells, and now the walls are collapsing around them! They, too, bolt for the Escape Grid. However, they are far from their destination, and our heroes are nearly there. The shock troops are running aimlessly, looking for Morlak to make things right, as the Three + Alicia leap into the Escape Grid. Zota, Shinski and Morlak are nearly crawling as they approach it themselves, but realize the futility as their creation makes His first public appearance. To their shock, He is no monster but a truly perfect specimen (tall, slim, muscular, fair-skinned, male, blonde). Raising His hand forward in a Kirbyesque manner, He tells them He knows the true nature of their plans, and so does what must be done with no reluctance! Since our planet of humans won't be ready for Him for another millennium, He will be going now. Morlak screams in terror that the required energy will destroy them all, but He savors the irony that it is His destruction of the Citadel that has saved mankind from doom, quite the opposite of what these vile guys have been saying for two issues now. And in a silent burst, the Citadel is no more. The end!

It was not until April of '69 that He appeared again, this time in Thor #163-6, also by Lee and Kirby. The young guy was lookin' for a girl, and Sif seemed to fit the bill. And then, in Marvel Premiere #1-2 (August and September '71), Roy Thomas and Gil Kane retooled the character into Warlock, as Marvel expanded into the new decade.

It's interesting that Reed shows up with two days' stubble. You'd think he could control the length of his own hair, wouldn't you? I'd always wondered about those guys with a consistent growth of two days' stubble. Wouldn't they sometimes then be clean-shaven, or stubblier? Then I found out about those special electric razors. Never mind.

Fantastic Four Annual #6 (November '68) featured Sue's delivery of Franklin Richards into the Marvel Universe. The romantic speculation was that she became pregnant during the FF's trip to Wakanda in FF #52-3 (July-August '66). So, her term was either remarkably long or unusually short. Since the Marvel Universe is officially 7 years old but actually began in November of 1961, it seems to be moving at a 7:1 ratio. Someone else can do the math on this one.

Tom Orzechowski.