Episode 4: Criminal Havoc (Fantastic Four #2, Part 1) -- January 1962
In this issue:
The Skrulls, an alien race with the ability to change their shapes, decide to invade the Earth, but before they do, they decide to eliminate the threat posed by the Fantastic Four. They begin by impersonating the team and making it appear that they are committing crimes, with the “Invisible Woman” stealing a diamond, the “Human Torch” melting a monument, the “Thing” destroying an oil platform, and “Mr. Fantastic" turning off the power for all of New York. The world turns against the team, driving them into hiding. The military finds the team and takes them into custody.
The Four escape their “superhero proof cells”, and set about solving the Skrull problem. They draw the Skrulls out by committing another crime (the Human Torch destroys a rocket as it is launching), and the Skrulls are fooled into thinking the Torch is one of them. The Fantastic Four proceeds to capture the Skrulls, and then turn the tables on them by impersonating the Skrulls and travelling into space to meet the Skrull invasion force. Reed convinces the invading Skrulls that the Earth is too dangerous to invade. He agrees (while still pretending to be a Skrull) to stay behind to monitor the situation. The Skrulls are convinced, abandon their plans, and leave Earth.
The Four return to Earth and explain everything to the authorities, who believe their story but decide to cover up the foiled Skrull invasion to the public. Reed then hypnotizes the remaining Skrulls into believing that they are cows, and they are set out to pasture (an amoral decision made by Reed; a not uncommon deficit to be repeated in the years to come).
Assumed before the next episode:
The public is told that the Fantastic Four are not at fault for the earlier attacks, but they are not told why. They are also not told how close they came to being conquered by shapeshifting aliens.
This episode takes place:
After the apparent crime spree by the Fantastic Four, but before they are captured.