A fine collection of plot holes
For most of the 1960s, the Fantastic Four were the flagship title of Marvel. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did some great work in creating new characters, concepts and relationships. Stuff that are still influencing the Marvel output, five decades later. But obviously not all of the issues were five-star material.
#28 features the first crossover between the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. They fight against each other at first, then team-up against common foes. The classic Marvel crossover of the time. The weak excuse for a plot, however, contains enough plot holes and continuity errors to rival the average Hollywood film.
The issue starts decently enough. Alicia Masters present to the Thing her latest creation: a statue of the Thing. Which flatters his ego. Meanwhile Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl are getting updates on the latest exploits of the X-Men. The teenage mutants seem to be getting much attention from the New York press. Human Torch helpfully reminds us of his own previous encounter with Iceman ("Strange Tales" #120).
And let the continuity errors begin! Sue and Reed provide us with a small list of the X-Men foes: Magneto, the Blob, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, Toad and Mastermind. But Stan Lee's famous faulty memory strikes again. The Vanisher is missing from said list. The text mentions the Space Phantom in his place. The Phantom is actually an Avengers foe and has not met the X-Men yet.
Then the scene shifts to the formation of an alliance between two foes of the Fantastic Four: Mad Thinker and Puppet Master. Phillip has held a low profile for a while. But the Thinker managed to locate and recruit. What is left unmentioned is the reason for said low profile. Mr. Masters only mentions that he gave up on defeating the Fantastic Four. Actually , his previous appearance in "Strange Tales" #116 (January, 1964), had ended with his hands badly burned. There was an open question of whether they would recover in time.
Anyway, the Thinker provides his new ally with radioactive clay. Someone is about to be placed under control once more. The Thinker confesses to have been studying the X-Men for months. You would think all their newspaper photos would help Phillip make some decent statues of the Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl! Nope! The Thinker has made a brilliant deduction of what the actual leader of the X-Men looks like. He doesn't know the name of said leader, there are no press photos of Professor X. But the Thinker proudly reveals a small bust of the secret leader of the X-Men.
This could be an amazing display for the Thinker's information-gathering skills. Too bad the bust only features a bald head, two ears and no facial features at all. It resembles the costumed identity of the Question closer than it does Xavier. Phillip creates his own statue of the subject. Adding a typical business costume with a tie. Somehow this is enough to take over the mind of Charlie. Why? Is Xavier the only bald guy who dresses in business suits?
The mind-controlled Charles Xavier summons his X-Men, ordering them to "destroy" the Fantastic Four. Never mind that the X-Men have to kill a single foe. The youngsters are shocked. But then Xavier "reveals" that the Four are harboring secret plans for "world domination". That is good enough for the X-Men, since they ask for no more details! Wow, Xavier has raised himself a personal army with members blindly loyal to him. Magneto ought to take notes on the subject.
So the X-Men pay a friendly visit to the Fantastic Four and are accepted with open arms. Until starting a surprise attack. There is another error here, as a though panel of Cyclops indicates that Scott is following the plan of the Thinker. he is not even supposed to know the Thinker.
The battle has some great moments and some painfully bad.:
*Cyclops focuses more on destroying the equipment of Reed than on any particular opponent. His blasts are good enough to counter any attack from the Torch. But he constantly misses when blasting at Reed. This supposedly showcases the great agility of Mr. Fantastic. Somehow it makes Cyclops seem in desperate need of target practice.
*The battle between Thing and Marvel Girl is a highlight. She tries to lift the Thing statue to get his attention. But accidentally drops and breaks her. The enraged Mr. Grimm threatens to give her a spanking. So she spins him round and round for a while. Until Iceman arrives to trap the Thing in ice. This three give a pretty good show.
*A battle between Mr. Fantastic and the Thing seems more reminiscent of a circus act featuring acrobats and bouncing balls. No real strategy here. They are improvising.
*Invisible Girl is captured by the combined efforts of the Angel and Iceman. She puts up no fight, despite already having the power to create force fields. An embarrassing depiction.
The battle ends with Sue and Ben captured. Reed and Johhny surrender to ensure the safety of their teammates and hoping to learn the motives of the attack. So far so good. The Fantastic Four agree to follow the victors to whatever location they have in mind. What do the X-Men do? Angel simply abducts Sue, using her as a hostage to ensure the rest of the FF will give chase. What was the purpose of that surrender then?
The X-Men land their flying vehicle on a barren plateau, at some distance from New York City. The rest of the Fantastic Four follow them. Sue escapes and takes care of Marvel Girl. But then traps are activated and subdue each of the Fantastic Four. The X-Men are left free and unharmed. The villains reveal themselves.
Further poorly thought scenes follow. There are enough traps in the area to handle the five X-Men. The Awesome Android could knock them out. Or the Puppet Master could take direct control of them. But no, the villains have Charlie telepathically knock out his students. But the text explains that Charlie can not affect so many individuals at that distance. (Five targets have Professor X straining his powers? He is weaker than expected). So Beast overcomes the influence and destroys the puppet resembling Xavier.
So what? The Fantastic Four are trapped, most of the X-Men unconscious and the Beast stands alone against three opponents. The scene shifts to the Thing escaping his trap and freeing the others. The X-Men are back on their feet with no explanation. Leaving the two teams to face the Awesome Android. Which keeps duplicating their powers. It falls repeatedly but rises again for another round. But then a scene has Professor X telekinetically knock it out. The real villains have already fled.
Let me get that straight. The android is facing nine opponents, including the one who designed it (Reed) and a powerful telekinetic (Jean). But the day is not saved by teamwork and strategy. But by the telekinetic powers of Charles Xavier? Isn't he supposed to be a telepath? Apparently Lee forgot about that.
I doubt if this mess left anyone looking for a return performance. The villains however are open for a return appearance.
* The Mad Thinker and Puppet Master return in "Strange Tales" #126 (November, 1964).
*The Awesome Android returns in "Fantastic Four Annual" #3 (1965).