This one has Diablo, Dragon Man, and three panels of Peter Parker.
The Fantastic Four arrive at State U. (Reed Richards' and Ben Grimm's old alma mater) so that Reed can deliver a guest lecture. They are met by Dean Mencken who introduces them to Professor Charles Xavier whose wheelchair is being pushed by a young man in sunglasses: Scott Summers alias Cyclops. The four then meet Professor Gregson Gilbert who is chastised by Dean Mencken for working on his pet projects during school time. Gilbert's project is a giant dragon-like creature. He explains, "I'm a biologist, specializing in super- powered humans! I'm constructing a creature more powerful than anything that lives including the Fantastic Four, for the purpose of research and analysis". In other words, he gives us no real explanation at all.
Over in Transylvania, the evil alchemist known as Diablo frees himself from captivity and teleports to America to get his revenge on the Fantastic Four. (Diablo first appeared in FF #30, September 1964 and Stan Lee has often gone on record with the opinion that Big D. is the worst character he ever had a hand in creating. Of course, this was before Rampage 2099 and Stripperella.)
The Thing and the Human Torch are crossing the lobby of one of the University's buildings when they pass by Peter Parker. The Thing, for some reason, feels compelled to point Peter out. "Looka that, Shorty!" he tells the Torch, "There's another mixed-up lookin' half-pint! I'll bet he's waitin' for someone to take his pink little handie and lead 'im outa here!" Peter, dressed up in a classy purple suit, thinks, "Uh oh! There's the Thing and that swell- headed Torch! Maybe they won't notice me if I walk right by!" And why should they notice him to begin with? Because, as the Torch thinks, "Hey! I know who that is! It's Peter Parker, the guy Dorrie tried to get friendly with till I put the kibosh on him!" ("Dorrie" is, of course, Johnny's girl friend Dorrie Evans and the event in question took place, you'll recall, in Amazing Spider- Man #21, February 1965. Johnny's belief that he "put the kibosh" on Pete is solely his own opinion.)
In the ensuing panel, the Thing decides to actually stop and talk to Peter. The Torch stands behind, his hand covering his mouth and thinking, "I wonder if he's planning to enroll at State U. when he finishes High School? If he does, he better stay outta my way while he's here!" while the Thing asks Pete, "Say, sonny, didja see anything of a tall drink of water who looks like his idea of a lotta fun would be to get shipwrecked on a desert island with a slide rule?" Pete replies, "If you mean Reed Richards, I noticed him on the football field giving a demonstration."
In the final panel of Pete's appearance, Johnny decides to open his yap. "By the way, Parker" he says, "What are you doing here? I'm not giving out autographs today!" "You couldn't pay me to take one of yours, bird-brain" says Pete as he starts to walk away, "I came to see about enrolling for next year but if you're gonna be here, forget it!" The Thing gets irked by Pete's talk. "Hey" he says, "I'm the only one who can talk to Torchy like that!" But Johnny calls the Thing off. "Relax, Ben!" he says, "It makes him feel like a big man, because he knows I wouldn't fight with a nobody like him!" (Which was the same excuse he gave when Pete told him off in ASM #21, you'll remember.) Pete, though, thinks to himself, "Some day you're gonna find out who this nobody really is, son and you'll know it!" (And, by the way, neither teen ends up enrolling at State U. Peter goes to Empire State University in ASM #31, December 1965 while Johnny goes to Metro College in FF #50, May 1966.)
Johnny and Ben join Reed and Sue at the football field. While they clown around, Diablo shows up on campus (driving his own car!) and goes to see Professor Gilbert. He assures the Prof that he has a potion that will bring his Dragon Man to life.
As Reed is giving his speech, a bored Thing slips away and ends up stumbling on the experiment that animates the Dragon Man. The now-living creature, who can fly with his wings and shoot fire out of his mouth, knocks Ben for a loop and then follows Diablo's instructions to attack the rest of the Fantastic Four. During the fight that follows, Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl, realizes that Dragon Man is like a child. Instead of fighting, she strokes his nose, showing him kindness and tenderness. It looks like this will work until Diablo intervenes with a potion that freezes all the FF members except the Torch. Johnny saves his teammates by warming the air around them, counteracting the potion.
In the meantime, Diablo and Dragon Man have fled to Dead Man's Lake, named such because, in the words of Ben Grimm, "there's all kindsa nutty caves down here, creatin' suctions which draw the currents in all different directions". The FF track them down and the battle begins again. As Diablo reaches for his freeze potion, Dragon Man attacks him. Sue's kindness has had an effect and the creature is protecting her. The potion falls in the lake, freezing it. Dragon Man then leaps at Diablo and both fall through the ice. When the Thing dives in to pull them out, he finds them gone, apparently sucked by the currents down into one of the caves. Professor Gilbert, guilt-ridden over what Diablo has done with his creation vows to keep the vigil. If Dragon Man should ever appear again, the Professor vows to destroy him. (Dragon Man does appear again less than a year later in FF #44, November 1965. Professor Gilbert does not destroy him.)
The FF get ready to leave the campus but Reed and Sue first take a walk through Lover's Lane. Reed points out a tree in the shape of a heart and he tells Sue that "any couple who hold hands and kiss while standing before it will marry within a year". Sue tells him to take her hand. This is the first Reed realizes that Sue "feel[s] about me the way that I feel about you" and it serves as his proposal. The couple is finally engaged to be married.
In the Special Announcements Section, Stan says, "Didn't expect to see Peter Parker or Professor X and Cyclops popping up on these pages, did you? And, how about our self-control? We didn't even blurt it out on the cover, like we usually do! Jack had to struggle to make Petey look the way sturdy Steve Ditko draws him but considering what Stevey does to Jack's characters when he draws them, we don't guess he'll do too much complaining this time." And, does Pete look the way Ditko draws him? Well, not so much, no. But you can't ever argue with Kirby art. He makes everyone look good.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
A thoroughly enjoyable FF issue. Stan is right about Diablo, however. He is not much of a villain. Dragon Man, on the other hand, is a wonderful visual creation. Like the Mad Thinker's android, Dragon Man is a fine example of Jack Kirby's ability in the early years of FF, to take these oversized, mute creatures and make them compelling by their eccentric looks alone. The characterizations of all the FF members are strong and the banter is in full swing by this time in the series. The Thing's vernacular is a particular pleasure; still funny at this point without being overdone. (My favorite Thing line in this issue is spoken to Professor Gilbert after the Prof has tried to explain his experiment in typical pseudo-scientific gobbledygook: "Aw, knock it off, curly! I get enuff of that kinda talk from ol'rubberhead! What is it, contagious or somethin'?") Peter Parker's appearance, though short, is lots of fun. (You gotta love the way he calls the Torch, "bird-brain".) The tree in the shape of a heart is a bit much but the proposal is understated and touching. And Stan and Jack seem to know that Diablo's outfit is embarrassing so they get him out of it and into some pants and a coat as soon as they can. It's a little too late though. Just one look at that thing with the mask and the horns and the sleeveless tunic and the short-shorts with either bare legs or flesh-colored tights is enough to knock a half or whole web off right there.
Great stuff but the FF series has plenty better. Four webs.