"The Brain Parasites!"
was the 227th issue of the Fantastic Four, and was published with a cover date of February 1981. It was written by Doug Moench (who is an acclaimed comic book writer, but not specifically known for the one year he wrote the Fantasic Four), and illustrated by Bill Siekiewicz (who was also a great comic book artist, but this was very early in his career) and Bruce Patterson. Having described the creative team, lets go on the comic...

After a meteor crashes in upstate New York, a fun family night at the Baxter Building is interrupted because Mister Fantastic gets a call from a geologist about the crashed meteor. The entire Fantastic Four, including Franklin Richards head out to investigate. They are soon attacked by a giant pteranadon, which explodes, leading a weird trilobite like creature. Soon, we find out that other creatures have been mutated by exposure to the alien creatures. Not too unusual of a result, for anyone who saw the words "The Brain Parasites!" on the front cover, or for the Fantastic Four, who had been dealing with aliens for a long time.

Mister Fantastic solves the mystery, and the other three members of the quartet follow his direction to fight the aliens, and it turns out that Franklin's powers can psionically fight the aliens as well. The story ends, with only a bare teaser of some future reappearance of the aliens.

I chose this issue out of many issues of the Fantastic Four because I thought it encapsulated an era. In the 15 years after Stan Lee and Jack Kirby stopped actively creating groundbreaking titles like The Fantastic Four, and before Marvel Comics would turn to crisis crossover events in the late 1980s, Marvel Comics produced quality material that tended to recapitulate the past. The basic plot of this story could have existed 20 years before, at the launch of the The World's Greatest Comic Magazine. The basic relationships are still there: the masterful Mister Fantastic, the brawling Thing, the Invisible Girl being somewhat of a damsel in distress, and The Human Torch being a hotshot, bickering amongst themselves until it is time to go into action. Interestingly to a later reader, this story has no references to the thick Marvel Continuity, but that is not uncommon in comics in the 1970s. There are also no super-villains, no ludicrous costumes or themed enemies, but that is keeping with the Fantastic Four, who started out as a "science-fiction" comic before gradually adapting "Super Hero" themes.

I picked this issue because I thought it represented the median Fantastic Four experience. It was not a cosmic storyline, it didn't upset or reset continuity, it didn't introduce any new characters, and none of the characters had, as they did every few months, decided to quit the group---it was just the Fantastic Four, fighting monsters using science and teamwork.

And to be honest, I could probably read stories like this forever. Or at least for a long time. It was predictable, but there is comfort in dealing with characters and situations that I am familiar with. But both the storyline and characters were a bit stale: the friendly arguing of the Fantastic Four seemed a little bit too much by the numbers, and not much was at stake in the story. Even though some of the excesses of the later 80s in comics annoyed me, and the attempt to heap every aspect of Marvel's continuity into every comic could make things hard to follow, it was still clear that Marvel had to make an upward trajectory from "Monster of the Week" stories. In fact, there is a word for that: