Appearing in "The Rampage of Reed Richards"
Synopsis for "The Rampage of Reed Richards"
Ben, Johnny, Sue, and the Impossible Man face their leader, Reed, whose body has just been taken over by the Molecule Man. Bolts of energy crackle from the Molecule Man's wand as he addresses them from the platform of the psi-amplifier. Their foolish loyalty, he sneers, prevents them from harming him, but nothing will prevent him from destroying them. Then, he says, he will use the psi-amplifier to take permanent possession of Reed's body. However, the Molecule Man fails to reckon with his host's powerful mind, which suddenly communicates with him from within the wand, distracting him. Quickly, Ben destroys the psi-amplifier by hurling a chunk of apparatus at it. Seeing his chance of returning to human form forever lost, the Molecule Man angrily imprisons them all in a cube of solid adamantium, the most indestructible substance known, to hold them while he formulates his plans. After several minutes of pounding, the Thing realizes that it is fruitless to try to batter his way out. Then Johnny asks his sister to erect a fire-resistant force field around herself, Ben, and the Impossible Man. When she does, Johnny turns up his flame to nova intensity, super-heating the air in the cube. The sudden increase in air pressure blows the entire cube into the ceiling and frees them. Although Johnny's teammates are shaken, the Impossible Man thinks the whole incident was great fun and wants to do it again. Sue asks Johnny to flame on and fly out over the city to catch sight of the Molecule Man, but Johnny's power is exhausted. Suddenly the Watcher materializes in the room with them. Realizing that he appears only in limes of great crisis, they try to persuade him to speak, but he remains mute. The teammates angrily leave their uninvited guest and go to search for the Molecule Man. Although he wants very much to help them, the Watcher refuses to break his oath any more.
Ben and Sue fly the Airjet-Cycle out over the city moments later, while Johnny, his flame restored, soars alongside with the Impossible Man, who is shaped like a miniature jet plane. Halfway across the city, the Molecule Man, in Reed's body, stands in a busy street fouling traffic, locked in a struggle with Reed's mind. He tries to force Reed to surrender by turning an entire skyscraper into a towering monster that threatens to destroy scores of people. Unfortunately, the four companions at first do not see this, so Sue radios the Baxter Building and finds out from Agatha Harkness that the police have taken Klaw into custody, the Watcher has disappeared, and Franklin is all right. Things are almost back to normal, says Agatha. Then Johnny sees the animated building several blocks away. Terror reigns as people flee from the walking structure, but no one has yet been killed. When the Watcher appears in the middle of the panicked crowd, he is scarcely noticed. If he were allowed to, he thinks, he could halt the building with a single gesture, but instead all he can do is stand and watch. Finally Reed gives up, and the Molecule Man de-animates the building, leaving it stuck in the middle of a street blocking traffic.
Moments later, he returns the building to its original location. But then the Invisible Girl, the Thing, the Human Torch, and the Impossible Man attack. The Molecule Man tries to use his wand against them, but Reed's mind blocks him from using his power directly against his teammates, so he instead transforms the Air Jet-Cycle into steel cables that wrap around Ben and Sue. The Torch cannot reach them in time, but the Impossible Man changes into a spiral slide that lets Ben and Sue gently descend. The Torch tries a frontal attack, but the Molecule Man, still inhibited by Reed, bursts a series of water mains below the street that Johnny has to dodge. When Sue gets off the Impossible Man slide, she bursts her bonds with a force field, and Ben likewise shatters his with his strength. When the Impossible Man pops back to normal, he decides to battle as well, not realizing that if he hurts the Molecule Man, he will also be hurting Reed. Thus, when he changes his hand into a copy of Thor's hammer to strike the Molecule Man—in "fun"—Sue has to interpose a force field to deflect the blow. When Ben tells him to take his "fun" elsewhere, he becomes miffed. He knows how to take a hint, he says, and he will find somewhere else where he can have a good time. Then he changes into a green and purple dirigible and floats away into the afternoon sky. Meanwhile, the Torch flies over the Molecule Man's water barricade in the street, but before he and Ben can attack, the Molecule Man heaves up the street in front of them and tangles the Torch in an asbestos lamppost. Sue rises over the street-barrier on her force field and attacks, while Reed is taxed to the utmost keeping the Molecule Man from destroying them.
The Molecule Man discovers that he cannot affect Sue's force field because it has no true molecular structure, so he turns the air around her into a contracting sphere of steel. If she should drop her field, he gloats, the sphere will crush her to death, and if she doesn't, she will suffocate. Reed desperately tries to force the Molecule Man to free Sue, but before he can do anything, Ben smashes through the street barrier. Unfortunately, a large fragment strikes the Molecule Man in the back and staggers him, and Ben is horrified that he may have accidentally injured Reed. Johnny, still wrapped up in the lamppost, directs his flame blasts at the sphere in which Sue is trapped and carefully melts the substance away. Ben tries to help Reed up, but he discovers to his dismay that the Molecule Man is now in complete control of Reed's body. The Molecule Man turns the air around him to phosphorus, which ignites in a brilliant flash, and when the three teammates regain their eyesight, he is perched on a platform high overhead. The blow that staggered him, he gloats, knocked Richards out, and Reed's body is totally his. There is now nothing to prevent him from turning them all into cosmic dust. As the Watcher watches, his visage ever so slightly betraying his concern, the Molecule Man attacks them with a beam of energy. But instead of turning them to dust, the energy feeds back at him. There is a brief, intense struggle for control, and then the Molecule Man drops his wand down a smokestack.
Instantly, Reed becomes himself again, while the Molecule Man's persona enters the wand and is lost. Reed starts to fall from the sky, but Johnny flames on and snatches him in mid-air, which dislocates Johnny's arm. The pain forces Johnny to drop him, but Ben catches him and saves his life. When the four teammates regroup, Reed explains that when the Molecule Man tried to transform them, the unstable molecules in their costumes caused the feedback that "short-circuited" him. Soon they return to the Baxter Building, where they are joined by the still silent Watcher. Ben tells him he is no longer welcome there, but Reed wants him to remain to hear what he has to say. Effective immediately, says Reed, he is resigning from the Fantastic Four. Since he lost his powers, he became a pawn of two different villains, he continues, and he cannot continue to allow them to risk their lives for him. They will have to find a replacement for him, because he is now a man just like any other. Then Johnny, his arm in a sling, looks at his sister and declares that the team will surely need two replacements. She agrees, saying that she cannot desert her husband, Ben and Johnny futilely ask the Watcher why he didn't help. Then Johnny says that perhaps no one, not even the Watcher, could have done anything to prevent the Fantastic Four's breakup. As Ben and Johnny leave, the Watcher stands forlornly alone, sworn never to interfere in the affairs of others—no matter what the cost.
- The passed-out boxer in this story is identified as Aaron Stankey in the Molecule Man entry of Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #7.
- The Watcher here appears between his viewing of alternate realities in What If? #5 and 6. Some facts about his appearance here:
- The Watcher is forbidden to interfere in the actions of others due to a solemn vow of non-interference. This was due to the fact that the last time the Watchers got involved in the lives of other races it led to the Prosilicans race annihilating itself, as seen in Tales of Suspense #53 and expanded upon in Original Sin #0.
- The Watcher refuses to do more than just appear here after being punished for his many interference with Earth. He was put on trail by his peers in Captain Marvel #39.
- Despite this decree, he silently guided the Fantastic Four in protecting the timeline when a piece of Vibranium was sent back in time to World War II. His involvement was depicted in Fantastic Four Annual #11, Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 and Marvel Two-In-One #20.
- Upset at being yelled at, the Impossible Man flees to Hollywood where he is seen again in Fantastic Four #193 on the set of Imperial Studios.
- The wand containing the Molecule Man's mind is not destroyed in the smoke stack it falls into at the end of this story. Instead it gets dumped into a landfill in upstate New York along with all the ash removed from the smoke stack. There it is found by a homeless man that the Molecule Man takes possession of and then battles Biotron of the Micronauts in Micronauts #28.
- Due to publishing deadlines, the Fantastic Four are not seen as a group until Fantastic Four #191.
- Starting with this issue, the cover price increases from 30 cents to 35 cents.
- Invisible Girl uses her force field as a means of conveyance (a la Iceman's ice slides) for the first time in this issue.
- Not continuity but a fun fact nonetheless— the Molecule Man's walking skyscraper subsequently appears in a Hostess Fruit Pies advertisement, also drawn by George Perez and Joe Sinnott and features the Thing.
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