Strange Tales Issue 103 Photo Credit: Marvel

While the Fantastic Four has been consistently stopping bad guys, Johnny Storm has branched out on his own to highlight his own adventures in the pages of Strange Tales. Johnny only gets half of the book of Strange Tales but he is undoubtedly the star of this series.

He’s living in Greenwood and is an average student who just happens to have super powers. There’s a housing developer in town who has been having some trouble. He’s building houses on top of swamp land but reinforcing the foundation first. These houses should be perfectly stable. However, they keep sinking into the ground. The locals swear it’s because “swamp demons” are to blame. Johnny does the smart thing and contacts Reed Richards to help but three fourths of the Fantastic Four happen to be busy so The Human Torch gets to take this one on his own.

Johnny sticks around to investigate and finds out some “unhumans” are turning the foundation into swamp land around these houses. Johnny catches them in the act and it turns out these creatures are from the fifth dimension. They’re preparing to invade earth but they need the area where the houses are being built to enter into our dimension. Johnny is quickly caught and taken to “the 5th dimension” where an evil despot named Zemu is ruling with an iron fist. He figures he’s free to go ahead with the invasion because Torch is out of commission. Unbeknownst to Zemu there is a woman named Valeria who wants to help Johnny and is a little bit in love with him.

With her help and a bit of creative skywriting, Johnny is able to inspire the people of this dimension to rebellion. They overthrow Zemu and swear to leave our planet in peace. Valeria is fairly heartbroken that Johnny is leaving though. And for his part, Johnny seems to have some similar feeling as he daydreams about her in class later on. We definitely get the impression we’ll see Valeria and this dimension again (spoiler, we will). She’s the first real potential love interest for Johnny Storm but she won’t be the last.

There are actually several things in this short story that are significant not just to Johnny Storm but also to The Fantastic Four and all of Marvel 616. Valeria will go on to be a recurring character, the fifth dimension comes up again, and the whole situation, in part, helps the Fantastic Four become the dimension hopping, intergalactic heroes they are known to be.

While the story itself feels a little bit like an episode of Scooby-Doo but with aliens, we do get to see a couple of neat tricks performed by Johnny. He shows he is not just all about the heat as he makes a smoke screen at one point and later he makes what he calls, “a super tornado” which is hot enough to melt metal and wipe out some baddies.

This isn’t what I would call a great story in 616 but it does do the job of laying down the foundations for Johnny to have a really complicated love life.

Next up on the reading list we’re not done with the members of The Fantastic Four just yet as we catch up with them in Fantastic Four #9!

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2 thoughts on “Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Strange Tales #103

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