While the first issue of the Fantastic Four birthed the Marvel 616 universe, issue two began to refine it. The issue starts with what looks like each member of the Fantastic Four committing a crime. The Thing destroys an oil rig. Susan Storm steals a diamond worth ten million dollars. Johnny Storm destroys a priceless statue and Reed Richards turns off all the power in the city. Of course, our heroes didn’t do any of these things. This is the work of the Skrulls from outer space. They are a group of villains that will be vital in the years to come. Skrulls are even in movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so they are still relevant.
These aliens are shape-shifters who through their natural abilities and with a little help from technology fake the crimes described above. The Skrulls wish to invade earth but because of the now-famous Fantastic Four, they know it will be no easy task. They have to stop these four humans before the invasion. They plan to get the authorities after the FF and then once they are dead, enter the planet with no resistance.
Newspapers show headlines of the Fantastic Four as declared enemies. Two of the papers will be staples in Marvel 616. They are the Daily Globe and the Daily Bugle. They become much more important in other series but this is where they are established in 616 for the first time.
The FF have hidden out in an isolated hunting lodge and are trying to figure out just what is going on. The Thing is angry and lashes out. It seems like he is full of anger and could become a danger to the human race if his power goes unchecked. Reed of course, still blames himself for Ben’s condition. We are treated to a flashback of the origins of the FF. This will happen over and over again in the early issues. It makes sense because so often these comic books were thought of as disposable. This gave the benefit of filling up pages, reusing artwork, and allowing new readers to understand the whole story.
While Reed is musing about the past, a group of soldiers captures the group. They are separated and put into cells. Sue Storm turns invisible and escapes. This is the issue that Johnny Storm meets his own kind of kryptonite – asbestos. Yep, that’s right. In those days asbestos was seen as a somewhat miraculous substance because of its ability to fireproof a room. It was not yet seen as the dangerous substance it is and so it appears in a lot of comics alongside Johnny Storm. Despite being put in an asbestos-filled room, Johnny finds an air vent and can escape through that. The group gets into a helicopter and escapes.
Back at a hideout of theirs, the FF argues about how to figure out who is impersonating them. Johnny and Ben fight with each other and this further establishes the dynamic that will exist between the two characters for years to come. Johnny goes to where Reed has assumed the next impersonation will happen. The FF captures the aliens and decides to go aboard the Skrull ship to tell them that Earth is just too hard to capture. Reed Richards shows the captain of the Skrull ship pictures of what he says are real pictures from Earth. This is where we get the first Marvel 616 meta-reference. Reed shows pictures from Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery. These are both titles that Marvel produces. This means that Marvel comics do exist in the Marvel 616 universe. Reed effectively tricks the Skrulls on the ship but there are still four of them left on Earth to deal with.
On the way back, the ship passes again through cosmic rays, and Ben Grimm for a moment is turned back into a human. Alas, this is only temporary, but it does establish that there could be a cure for Ben’s condition. Reed will dedicate a lot of his life going forward to figuring out that cure.
Once they land the army is ready to take the FF into custody once again but Reed promises to explain the situation if they go back to his apartment. Of course, the Skrulls attack and the army sees that the Fantastic Four are innocent. Reed and company defeat the Skrulls and the only problem left is to decide what to do with the aliens from outer space.
Reed hypnotizes them and tells them they have to change into what he says for the rest of their lives and they are good with that as long as they get to have a peaceful and contented existence. So what do they change into? Cows.
This is a significant and important development in years to come, so way down the line when I have reviewed a lot more of these, don’t forget that there are Skrull cows.
I’m guessing Reed didn’t tell the Skrulls that beef is one of the most popular foods in the country.
The issue ends with a pin-up page of The Thing. Probably a lot of kids did rip this page out and pin it up. That means that any issues with this page intact are going to be much more valuable than those without.Next on the reading list is Tales to Astonish #27.