Another of Marvel’s cover-to-cover reprints of key issues from the early 1990s, this one marking the first appearance of Doctor Doom from 1962 in the 23 page “Prisoners of Doctor Doom” story. It’s also the first FF issue inked by Joe Sinnott, later the inker most associated with FF through the second half of Kirby’s run and the decade after that.
Following a brief prelude with Doctor Doom departs from his lair to capture the FF, we switch to the as-yet-unnamed Baxter Building where Johnny is reading that new Hulk comic, comparing Ben to the Hulk. Welcome to the Marvel age of subtle cross-promotion. This leads to a fight of course (I’m sure Johnny regrets burning that copy of HULK #1 now), and even Reed’s starting to notice how they’re always fighting among themselves when they don’t have a super-powered menace to face. This is sharply cut off when Doom attacks. Reed gives the quick version of Doom’s origin, a great little sequence that left a lot of room for later stories to flesh out.
Using Sue as a hostage, Doom sends the rest of the FF back in time to retrieve Blackbeard’s treasure chest. The boys go back, get period disguises and soon find themselves drugged and taken prisoner aboard a ship. Ben wakes up and attacks first, with a great scene of him coming up through the floor.
The adventure continues with a battle with another pirate ship, after which we find out that Ben is in fact the Blackbeard of legend. Reed realizes that there must be something more to the treasure than Doom has let on, so he replaces it with chains, and Ben briefly turns on his team-mates, planning to stay in the past where he can be accepted as a giant orange pirate. A sudden tornado then appears, knocking out the ship, and when the trio wash ashore Ben realizes the error of his thinking, and Doom’s time machine appears to take them back. Back in the present, they battle Doom and are saved by Sue, with Doom finally escaping in the end.
This is a great issue, I think my favourite of the first ten issues of FF. A very dense story, with a lot of interesting concepts and clever twists, plus showing the tightening continuity (with some references to the Sub-Mariner from the previous issue) which would soon definitely set Marvel apart. Plus of course Sinnott’s inks are great. Kirby’s penciling at this stage is obviously quite different from the work Sinnott would be inking a few years later, but Sinnott brings it out well.
The only notable ad this issue is the full-page house ad for INCREDIBLE HULK #1. The letter column includes a note from Roy Thomas praising the use of continuity up to #3 (I’m sure Namor showing up in #4 just blew his mind) and signing up for a two-year subscription.