Fantastic Friday: What time is it?

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Except I’ve been having internet issues all week, so here’s this instead:

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Fantastic Friday: The original poker face

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The 2006 Thing solo series was all about Ben exploring his new life as a millionaire while still getting into superhero adventures.

Issue #5 begins with a flashback to the recent past, with Ben attending a fancy movie premiere. He’s confronted by Shecky, a.k.a. Old Man Sheckerberg, from Yancy Street. Shecky says Ben promised to help out at his store, but Ben is too busy being rich now. Ben offers to write Shecky a check, but Shecky refuses. Cut to the present, and Ben has had a change of heart, showing up at the store. He sees folks in the old neighborhood helping each other through hard times, reminding him of his own tough childhood.

The Yancy Street Gang makes their presence known by vandalizing Ben’s car, and then splashing him with water as he waits for the bus. Ben calls architect Arlo North, and Alicia answers the phone. He thinks he’s called the wrong number, not knowing Alicia and North are dating. He calls again and talks to North, asking for help. Ben later announces to reporters that he’s going to build a Grimm Youth Center on Yancy Street. Shecky is unimpressed, thinking Ben’s just doing this for his ego. Goons from the Maggia crime family try and fail to stop Ben, so they contact Paste-Pot Pete, um, I mean the Trapster for help. Ben and North work on the new building when they’re attacked by both the Trapster and the Sandman.

Issue #6 begins with Ben fighting Sandman for a bit before firing the “4” signal flare. The rest of the FF are busy elsewhere, so instead Spider-Man shows up to help. He’s wearing is new red and gold “Iron Spider” armor. He and Ben defeat Sandman by mixing his sand with Trapster’s glue. Ben then prevents Trapster from setting off a bomb.

Spidey and Ben chat for a bit, and then Damage Control arrives to clean up after the battle. Hercules is now with Damage Control, helping out as well. Arlo North then comes clean, telling Ben about him and Alicia. Later, at the youth center’s grand opening, Ben is remorse after losing his shot to get back with her. He dedicates the center to his brother Daniel, which convinces some street kids not to throw a brick through a window. Shecky remains unimpressed, telling Ben he still has to come help at the pawn shop. Later that night, an exhausted Ben falls asleep on a sidewalk bench, and the Yancy Street gang take the opportunity to paint graffiti all over him.

Issue #7 has Ben still jealous about Alicia dating Arlo North. Sue helps by inviting Alicia and Ben over to babysit the kids. Ben wants to use his new pet, the Inhumans’ teleporting dog Lockjaw, to teleport Alicia to France for a visit to the Louvre. When Alicia says she’s been there before, Ben comes up with another plan – the FF’s time machine. He takes her back to ancient Greece, to be present when all the classic sculptures were made. They run into Hercules, posing for a sculpture. Hercules mistakes Ben for a troll and they fight, accidentally breaking the arms off the Venus de Milo.

Alicia and Ben have a heart-to-heart talk, where she insists can only be just friends because there’s too much history between them for it to be otherwise. Later that night, Reed finds that New York has been transformed into a gigantic Italian villa, and he deduces Ben has been messing with the time machine again. “We’ll fix it in the morning,” he says.

Issue #8 begins with Ben in better spirits, hosting not just poker night but an entire poker tournament in his new apartment. Tons of superheroes and even a few villains show up. Even joke heroes the Great Lakes Avengers are there, and Squirrel Girl tells everyone about how she and Ben first met while fighting the Bi-Beast.

Impossible Man is also there, and he tells the story of how he got a rare Popuppian disease which caused his powers to haywire. He came to Earth hoping for Reed to cure him, and ended up fighting Ben in the Himalayas. Ben cures Impossible Man by scaring him, like you’d do with the hiccups. The fight destroyed a village’s immersive art habitat, so Ben hires Arlo North to rebuild it. This frees Alicia to attend the poker tournament.

Cut to one month earlier, when Shecky tells Ben that his debt is paid, and Ben doesn’t have to help at the shop anymore. Shecky takes Ben to the neighborhood temple, where a rabbi reminds Ben that Ben never had his Bar Mitzvah. Ben agrees to go through with it, practicing and studying. The FF, Alicia, Ben’s Uncle Jacob, and a bunch of superheroes attend the big day. Ben gives a speech about the story of Job from the Torah. He says he’s realized that, despite being a monster, he’s got it pretty good.

Then we cut back to the poker tournament, where Flatman of the Great Lakes Avengers outplays Ben in the final game. Ben is angry, but then Alicia whispers something in his ear that convinces him to kick everyone out except the two of them. The miniseries ends when Spider-Man asks, “Is that it?” and the caption says, “Yeah, that’s it.”

Unstable molecule: When Ben calls for help from his teammates, Reed cannot respond because he’s in the Negative Zone fighting Blastaar the Living Bomb-Burst. I’d really like Marvel to tell this full story someday.

Fade out: Sue doesn’t answer Ben because she’s in the ocean with Namor, using her force fields to stop an oil spill from spreading.  

Clobberin’ time: This series would seem to set wheels in motion for Alicia and Ben becoming a couple again, but it won’t actually happen officially until after the 2015 Secret Wars.

Flame on: Johnny doesn’t respond to Ben’s call because he’s rescuing Beyonce (!) from Dragon Man.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk cameos at the opening to the youth center, remarking that she’s been away from the FF for so long that she’s surprised at how much taller the kids are. She’s also at the poker tournament.

Other alternate members of the team at the poker game are Luke Cage, Namor, Impossible Man, and Tigra. Remember that those last two were part of the so-called “Fantastic Seven” for a short time in the ‘70s. Also, She-Hulk, Luke Cage, and Medusa are all at Ben’s Bar Mitzvah.

Spider-Man mentions what he thinks is his membership in the FF by recalling when he, Wolverine, Hulk, and Ghost Rider were the so-called “New Fantastic Four.” In response, Ben famously quips, “You think that counts?”

Four and a half/Our gal Val: Franklin and Valeria appear only briefly, at the youth center opening and when being babysat.

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries revealed that Sue had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all along. In this series, Ben asks Sue to dig up into on Arlo North, which she does easily. Could this be her spy training at work?  

Trivia time: Who are the Great Lakes Avengers? Most Marvel fans know Squirrel Girl by now, and the others are Mr. Immortal, Flatman, Big Bertha, and Doorman. This one also starts the running gag of them wanting a new team name. They call themselves the Great Lakes X-Men, the Great Lakes Defenders, and the Great Lakes Champions in this one.

What’s this “Iron Spider” business about? Spider-Man was living at Stark Tower at this time, as a member of the New Avengers. Tony Stark built the Iron Spider armor after Spidey died and came back in a battle against Morlun. The armor’s attributes included three (not four) mechanical spider arms, a glider, and chameleonic shape-changing powers.

It’s not stated in this issue, but Ben is working at the pawn shop to pay off the Star of David he took in vol. 3 issue #56. Shecky refuses a check from Ben, insisting that Ben work off the debt.

Why is Sandman a villain again, after all that time spent on his redemption? He even spent some time alongside the Avengers. Turns out the Wizard tinkered with his brain in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #12, making him evil again.

Spider-Woman and Yellowjacket are also at the poker game, but it’ll later be revealed that these are Skrulls in disguise.

Fantastic or frightful? These issues are more typical of writer Dan Slott’s style, with all the eye-winking humor based on Marvel continuity. The gags feel overdone after a little while, and all the drama between Alicia and Ben goes nowhere at the end. The Bar Mitzvah scenes are nicely done, however, as is Ben’s big speech at the end of it.

Next: The old Parker luck.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Gunslinger Spawn copyedited, part 1

Todd McFarlane is a mega-millionaire with success undreamt of. I’m just some guy. But as I’ve been buying, reading, and enjoying Gunslinger Spawn, I’m struck with the desire to pull out the old editing red pen. Here’s my attempt to copyedit Gunslinger Spawn.

Issue #1 begins as Spawn from the main Spawn series leaves Gunslinger Spawn alone in the woods. This first page doesn’t spend any time on Gunslinger’s origin or history, instead giving readers just enough detail to jump right into the story. Gunslinger says, “Like I said, I had my own reasons.” Then Spawn’s response is so long-winded and janky, it inspired me make this blog post. He says:

That second sentence is a lot of thoughts at once. For clarity, it can be made clearer by breaking it up. My suggestion:

“I’m sure you did. I need to know why. What drew you to that island? As far as I know, you’re new this entire planet. So, why that place?”

Each sentence is now its own separate thought, with easy-to-read flow from one to the next. The phrase “this entire planet” is curious, as it suggests Gunslinger is not merely from the past but an alternate universe. Either that, or it’s some comic book-y exaggeration. You almost never need to start a sentence with “So,” but I kept it to show that Spawn’s train of thought has led him to this conclusion.

The narration captions for the rest of page 1 are nicely written, establishing that Gunslinger has traveled from 1864, he has a motorcycle hidden nearby, and he’s got a lot of rage under the surface. On page 2, we meet Taylor. He’s a young guy working at a gas station, getting chewed out by his boss, Mr. Santo. The comma use in his dialogue could use some tweaking.

Break up that first sentence so it reads:

“I’m heading home now. Make sure you lock everything up when you close.”

The first sentence in Santo’s second word balloon can also be broken up and shortened:

“And put that phone down. Customers like it when they seem important to us.”

A more direct order on the boss’s part has him be more domineering, making Taylor’s plight more sympathetic to the reader. Starting a sentence with “and” is controversial among grammar nerds, but I kept it in this case to emphasize that this one of a long list of orders Santo has been barking at Taylor all day. Taylor’s friends show up, asking him to blow off work. A caption says:

The comma in this sentence is wholly unnecessary. It should read:

“Taylor decides now is the perfect time.”

Why do I keep going on about commas? I suspect the comic is “writing for the actor.” This is when a writer will add a comma in hopes that’s where an actor will add a dramatic pause. It’s unneeded. The writer can trust the reader to fill in these dramatics on their own.

The next page starts with a very unwieldy sentence:

This is a lot. Four clauses only barely connected with a lot of needless words. My suggestion: 

“Gunslinger pushes his bike to the edge of town. He never had to do this with any horse.”

This is the same idea and information, but more succinct and to the point.

Taylor returns to the gas station after hanging out with friends. He’s enamored with Gunslinger’s bike, and then he’s confronted by Gunslinger himself. The comic’s writing is at its best in Gunslinger’s interactions with Taylor. Todd and his team have done a great job giving the character a distinctive voice. Gunslinger says:

Definitely lose the “first” at the start of the sentence. Get straight to the point. The “that contraption that” is odd sentence structure. I suspect they’re trying to make Gunslinger sound cowboy-ish, but his use of “contraption” gets that across. My suggestion is to simplify:

“You know why that contraption won’t work?”

Then there’s a two-page spread with our villains meeting inside a museum full of dinosaurs. The caption states:

Remove needless words and rearrange sentences so they don’t have as many clauses:

“On the border of Mexico and Arizona sits a private museum dedicated to those that ruled the Earth millions of years ago. For those that have been there since the beginning, it serves as a reminder of how long their struggles have gone on.”

We see a lot of overwriting in the second caption. The wording “are sensing” is passive voice, which should be avoided. The comma after “that” is erroneous. There are a bunch of ways this sentence can get simplified. My suggestion:

“Today, a few of them sense a new opportunity.”

The there’s the villains’ dialogue:

Here’s a case where “So” is unnecessary. Beyond that, we can tighten this dialogue to read:

“We’re all in agreement. Cogliostro’s misguided attempts to recruit a new Spawn backfired. Question is, what’re you planning to do about it? More importantly, is it going to conflict with our side’s plans?”

A second villain responds:

A writer can go crazy searching a manuscript for clichés, but here a few big ones. The “Thank you for coming here on such short notice” phrase is cliché. The “as we’ve talked about” phrase is a variation of the classic “As you already know” dialogue that should always be avoided. My suggestion:

“Gentlemen, I’m hopeful that, because of Cogliostro’s actions, we’ll find a common purpose for both our cartels. I believe that purpose begins with the hellspawn called Gunslinger.”

On the next page, the villain speech continues:

Again, this is a lot of separate thoughts crammed into one, making it hard to decipher just what our villain is talking about. Breaking these long sentences into shorter, choppier ones can better get these thoughts across. The phrase “in no position to resist joining” is also awkward and could be replaced with “will,” but that might too simple. As written, it suggests the villains have big plans for manipulating the Gunslinger. My suggestion:

“Are you willing to call a truce between our factions, Cyrus? After my boss gets what he wants, he will ensure Gunslinger is in no position to resist joining your side. A gift like that could improve the frayed relationship with your leaders.”

The next panel has Cyrus answer, “I can handle them. What about your boss, when do we meet him?” The comma after “boss” needs to be a question mark. The next line is:

I have no idea what “fairly significant” means. Change this line to:

“He’s planning to go public in a big way.”

Or even simpler:

“He’s planning to go public.”

Next, we get more dialogue between Gunslinger and Taylor. There’s some humor with Gunslinger not knowing about the present, and we learn Gunslinger is searching for something he buried long ago. Gunslinger and Taylor’s interactions continue to be the best-written parts of the comic. After Gunslinger and Taylor get to know each other, they are attacked by an enemy:

Just a few tweaks can make these thoughts clearer. I’m not sure why there’s a need to name-drop Al Simmons, except perhaps to establish that Gunslinger isn’t as powerful as Simmons. My suggestion:

“I told them you’re too stupid to hide. You’re going to find out God’s warriors have evolved in two hundred years. And you’re half the man Al Simmons is.”

We get two narrative captions describing the fight:

Is the line about two trains colliding a cliche? You could argue that. The second panel reminds us that Gunslinger is displaced in time. Except we already know that. Dropping it in the middle of the sentence is awkward. I suggest keeping it short to keep the action moving.

“The battle is a complete mess for both opponents.”

“In the midst of the barrage, the new hellspawn sees an opening.”

Again, these are just suggestions. Let me reiterate that I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t enjoy Gunslinger Spawn. Yet this is what runs through my head as I read the comic. Come back next week when I’ll go over the rest of issue #1.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: Immunity idol

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. When J. Michael Straczynski took over the series, he added a twist by making Ben Grimm a millionaire, with all the fun and trouble that comes with it. Writer Dan Slott and artists Andrea DeVito and Keiron Dwyer took that idea and ran with it in the spinoff 8-issue Thing miniseries.

Issue #1 begins like any old Marvel Two-In-One caper, with Ben and Goliath fighting supervillain Cauldron. But after the fight, reporters accost Ben with questions about his newfound wealth, and Goliath wants him to invest in some new tech. Ben has moved out of the new Baxter Building, and is now living in a penthouse apartment off Central Park West. He’s dating a celebrity actress, Carlotta LaRosa, who wants him to join her at an exclusive party in the Hamptons. We also meet Carlotta’s friend, a supermodel named Milan Ramada (get it?). She learns she isn’t invited, and then she’s abducted by a mysterious man with hologram tech.

We get a glimpse of Alicia, reading about Ben in the tabloids. She’s now dating a man named Mr. North. At the Hamptons, Ben is surprised to find the party hosted by a white collar criminal, Irma Roberts, who is there on house arrest. Tony Stark is at the party, as is millionaire crimefighter Kyle Richmond (a.k.a. Nighthawk) and third-rate villain the Constrictor. A statue of Ben is on display, but it’s actually a robot. It fights and subdues Ben and the others. They wake on an island, where they’re confronted by the villain Arcade. He’s constructed a new “Murderland” amusement park, and he wants all the partygoers to play his life-or-death games.

In issue #2, Alicia learns what happened at the party, telling police that the statue wasn’t hers, but a replica. At Murderland, Arcade’s robot sidekick Brynocki explains that there’s an immunity zone at the center of the island. If the partygoers can make it there without getting killed, they win. Nighthawk and Constrictor get to have their tech, but Tony Stark has no armor, and a jamming field prevents him from contacting the Avengers.

Then, action! There’s a beach lined with mines, a high-speed rollercoaster, a runaway Ferris wheel covered with spikes, and an army of toy soldiers armed with real guns. The Constrictor runs off, and Nighthawk chases him. Carlotta pretends to pick a fight with Ben as a distraction, so Tony Stark can sneak away into the island’s behind-the-scenes tunnels. Ben leads everyone further into the island, to “Marvel’s Islands of Adventure,” which here is a recreation of Times Square. Ben fights and defeats a Hulk robot, only for a bunch more Hulk robots to appear in its place.

In issue #3, Tony Stark contacts Ben from the underground tunnels, saying the immunity zone is real and not one of Arcade’s tricks. Nighthawk and Constrictor call a truce. They fly in to help Ben. Then Tony makes a bunch of Thing robots appear to fight the Hulk robots. Then everyone makes it to “Murderland Studios,” where they fight robot facsimiles of famous movie characters. They get to the immunity zone, only to find it too small for everyone to stand on.

In New York, Alicia and attorney Matt Murdock investigate a gallery making fakes of her sculptures, learning they were backed by an “A.R. Cadenski.” They get the location of Arcade’s private island. At that island, Carlotta tries to escape on a flying platform, only to be shot down. Ben has everyone stand on that platform. He holds them all over his head while standing on the immunity zone, thereby winning Arcade’s game. Tony Stark reprograms Byrnocki to be a miniature Iron Man, and they capture Arcade. Tony says the FF are on the way for the rescue, but it was Alicia and not Reed who found them. Later, Alicia has another meeting with Matt Murdock. She tells him she no longer has romantic feelings for Ben. Murdock, with his heightened senses, can tell that she’s lying.

Issue #4 begins in Attilan, the Inhumans’ city on the moon. Teleporting dog Lockjaw has a sliver of moon rock stuck in him. No one can get it out, so he teleports to the new Baxter Building. This is just as Ben returns from Murderworld. Sue and Reed put on a show of fighting about one of Reed’s experiments just so Ben will have an excuse to babysit little the kids for an afternoon.

Ben takes the kids on a whirlwind afternoon around NYC, with him throwing money around like crazy. They end up at the horse track (!), where a high-tech villain named Shockjock attacks. Lockjaw teleports the kids to Attilan while Ben fights the villain. Shockjock puts up a good fight, but then Lockjaw returns and bites the wires that give him his electric powers. Later, the Inhuman royal family tell Ben that Lockjaw has decided he wants to return to Earth and live with Ben in his new apartment. Ben agrees, and they play teleporting catch in the park.

Unstable molecule: Reed fakes Ben out by saying that he’s building a Newtonian matter generator. He later admits to Sue that such a device would be impossible, even for him.

Fade out: Is Sue in on Reed’s ruse, or isn’t she? She’s furious with Reed at first, but then is all in with the idea of Ben babysitting the kids for a day.

Clobberin’ time: Ben’s romance with Carlotta is short-lived, as he breaks up with her at the start of issue #4. He feels she’s only interested him for his money, and her own social status.

Flame on: Now that Ben has moved out, Johnny uses this as an opportunity to take his sky-cycle for a ride. He nearly crashes it, though, because the cycle is built specifically for Ben’s weight and strength.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Medusa is a few panels, speaking on behalf of Black Bolt and the royal family. She-Hulk and Impossible Man appear in a one-panel flashback of various heroes Ben has teamed up with in the past.

This is the first appearance of the Fantasti-Bus, which our heroes can use to transport larger groups of people. This is all to say that Johnny uses H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot as an autopilot for the Fantasti-Bus. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.

Four and a half: Franklin tells Ben a story about the time that Reed gave him a thousand bucks to spend on whatever he wanted. He says it was fun at first, but then he got bored with it – a valuable lesson about how some things are more important than wealth. Ben says Franklin is “the smartest kid I know.”

Our gal Val: Little Valeria enjoys seeing the horses at the racetrack, exclaimed “Haw-see!” In Attilan, when she sees Gorgon, she also calls him “Haw-see.” (And let’s never forget that Gorgon once singlehandedly defeated the entire FF.)

Trivia time: The Hulk robots are based on various looks the Hulk has had over the years, including the futuristic Maestro, the bowl-cut Professor Hulk, the grey Mr. Fixit, the “clown robot disguise” Hulk from Avengers #1, and even that time that Bruce Banner got the Hulk’s unstoppable rage without any of the strength.

The Thing statues and the Thing robots also reflect Ben’s various looks, including his metal mask, his original lumpy form, his spikey form from the Steve Englehart days, and the Blackbeard outfit from way back in Fantastic Four #4. It’s unknown how Arcade would know about some of these alternate versions of the characters.

Then there are Arcade’s robots based on movie characters. King Kong, the Mummy, the alien from Alien, and the Jurassic Park T-rex are instantly recognizable, but the rest are just different enough to avoid lawsuits. I see a blonde Edward Scissorhands, a grey monster that’s maybe a troll from Lord of the Rings, orange robots who might be Star Wars stormtroopers. There’s also a green-skinned, four-armed guy holding an axe, who I’m guessing is some Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat character.

The robot Brynocki has been around for a while, having been a supporting character in Master of Kung Fu. He also appeared in Rom and Moon Knight. These issues have him adopting a new persona as Iron Boy, but that never goes anywhere. These issues are his last appearance.

Arcade’s other two sidekicks are Locke and Chamber. Except this isn’t the real Locke, but an android. Locke died in the miniseries Wolverine/Gambit: Victims. As for Chamber, this mini is his only appearance. He’s not related (that I know of) to the energy-mouthed X-Man of the same name.

What’s the deal with supermodel Milan? The Marvel Wiki confirms that she paid for Arcade to abduct everyone from the party. This was her revenge for not being invited. I don’t know that this is made clear in the actual comic. She never gets her comeuppance because she never appears again after issue #1. Also, The Drew Carey Show also had a Paris Hilton ripoff character named Milan. Same character? Shared universe?

Fantastic or frightful? What can I possibly say about Dan Slott’s writing that hasn’t already been said. Slott enjoys playing around with obscure comic book trivia, which is both his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. It’s fun playing “Where’s Waldo” with all the different Things and Hulks in one scene, but the actual plot takes a back seat to Slott playing in Marvel’s sandbox. The second half of the series is when things (heh) get a little more serious, so we’ll see.

Next: The original Poker Face.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: It was great when it all began

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #532 goes way back – all the way back – to explain everything about the universe and reality itself. That’s a tall order. Can it succeed?

How to recap all this? Reed took a job with the government, who wanted to recreate the FF’s original spaceflight with a bunch of astronauts. Deducing that the cosmic rays that gave the FF their powers contained a message from unseen aliens, Reed sabotaged the astronauts’ flight and went on the run. He and his teammates then met the Entity, the alien who sent the message. He wanted to find other seekers of the truth like himself. The Entity’s people, who accused him of being a heretic, arrived on Earth and attacked. The Entity and Reed tried escaping into the Negative Zone, but the portal was damaged, sending them to a void before the creation of the universe. The Entity, wanting to understand all things, went ahead and created the big bang. Got all that?

This issue begins with Reed floating in space as he witnesses the origin of the universe. He says it’s too much even for his mind to comprehend. He further says “This isn’t how it’s supposed to work,” and that it’s all just chaos. He says it’s all unstable, with forces of energy fighting against one another.

The Entity contacts Reed telepathically, and says he cannot control it all. The Entity says he was searching for truth, while Reed searched for knowledge. The big bang can only happen when truth and knowledge are in balance. He says Reed much let the Entity into his mind, or else the universe will collapse into destruction. Reed agrees, and then he screams in pain. Reed tries to cling to his sanity while experiencing all of time and space at once, including the creation of life on Earth.

The Entity says he understands why there is life in the universe, and Reed says he understands it, too. Reed explains that sentient life always struggles to understand, because the universe itself is a living, sentient consciousness that is struggling to understand itself. The Entity, addressing himself as, “I/we/the universe,” says he will continue to grow and expand, until he finally understands himself. He promises Reed that Reed will be there to see that moment, just as he was there to see the beginning.

Cosmic rays then appear, blasting through Reed. He says he can feel his thoughts affecting the rays, and his mind dwells on his three teammates, so far away. He then deduces that those thoughts are the message inside the rays, eventually turning into the force that gave the FF their powers. The intelligence behind the origin of the FF was Reed himself.

The Entity tells Reed that Reed is now free of his human bonds, and can go anywhere in time or space. Reed glimpses the FF’s original spaceflight, the birth of Franklin, and the FF fighting Dr. Doom. Reed says his family is his whole universe. The Entity tells him, “Choose your moment.”

Turn the page, and Reed is back on the U.S. Army base talking with scientist Dr. Love. They talk about how there’s never enough time for both work and family, and she hopes to get ahead of schedule so Reed can get back to New York. She asks the same question she did a few issues earlier: if the FF were struck by the exact same cosmic rays, how did the rays affect each of them differently. Reed says there must be some random factor he missed. Dr. Love suggests that Reed can’t see this random variable because he’s “in the fishbowl.”

Then the other scientist, Dr. Crane, calls Reed and Dr. Love to his office. He says the composition of the cosmic rays have changed, and they are no longer the exact same combination that gave the FF their powers. The astronauts’ spaceflight will have to be suspended and probably shut down. Reed’s only response is that he’d like to go back home.

Back in New York, Sue is frustrated after dealing with the social worker investigating whether the new Baxter Building is a safe place for the children. Reed returns, and he and Sue are happy to see each other. Later that night, Reed catches up with Ben and Johnny. Ben has bought another fancy suit with his newfound wealth (his one-fourth of Fantastic Four Inc.’s money was preserved when the rest of the team lost theirs some time ago).

Reed returns to his lab, to study the miniature planet from the beginning of this story arc. He says it would be easy to interfere in their culture, ending war and bloodshed. He doesn’t, however, saying there’s a difference between history and the smaller moments in all our lives. He concludes that the smaller moments are the parts that really matter. Reed and Sue go off to bed, saying it’s good to see their whole family together, and looking so happy. Alone in his room, Ben sheds a single tear, suggesting that he’s not so happy after all.

Unstable molecule: Does Reed remember what happened, or doesn’t he? At first, it seems like he does, but the issue doesn’t say. It’s left up to reader’s imagination.

Fade out: After spending the night together, Sue says she’s thankful for the cosmic rays, suggesting that Reed used his powers in creative ways in bed. Has Banky from Mallrats read this issue?

Clobberin’ time: Ben’s new life as a multi-millionaire, and the complications that come with that, will be further chronicled in the Thing miniseries that debuted shortly after this issue.

Flame on: The cover image has Jonny in place of Reed at the center of the universe. I assume this is because each other character were prominent on the previous three covers, so Johnny got his due, even though he’s barely in the issue.

Four and a half: Franklin is one panel, as Reed checks on him sleeping. The flashback scene would have to be Franklin’s birth, as Dr. Doom was present for Valeria’s birth.

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries revealed that Sue had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all along. In this issue, she’s walking around the Baxter Building wearing camouflage pants and a form-fitting dark green t-shirt. Not the sort of thing she normally wears. Was she just coming home from spy training, or even a mission?

Trivia time: The Entity never appeared again after this. Although, if he became the universe, you could argue that he’s in every Marvel comic. (What is the Entity’s relationship to Eternity? Or the Pheonix Force? Or the Beyonder? These and similar questions will likely never be answered.)

This story arc is also the only appearances of Dr. Love and Dr. Crane. Crane is quite obviously modeled after actor Paul Giamatti, but I can’t find any official sources from Marvel that confirms this.

Years later, writer Dan Slott will do a story similar to this one, in which an alien called the Overseer was responsible for the cosmic rays that gave the FF their powers. How to reconcile that with this story? This one says the Entity manipulated the rays to send a message to the FF, but did not create them. Let’s see if this holds up when we get to those Slott issues.

Trash website Aint It Cool News once published a review of this issue, except that it was mostly the words “Where are the editors?” repeated over and over.

Fantastic or frightful? There we have it, the origin of the Marvel Universe and the true story of the Fantastic Four’s powers. So, why wasn’t this a mega-event that rocked the entire comics world to its core? It’s very much a philosophical discussion, and not pulse-pounding superhero action. Also, because Reed (probably) doesn’t remember any of this, it comes off as inconsequential. If the characters go on like nothing happened, then why shouldn’t the reader?

Next: Green Vegas.

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Fantastic Friday: Kiss, kiss, big bang, big bang

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. If you thought this story arc was getting far-out and cosmic already, issue 531 goes even further… by going back.

Where were we? After taking a top-secret government job, Reed deduced that the cosmic rays that originally gave the FF their powers was no accident. The rays contained a signal from an alien being hoping to contact explorer-geniuses like himself. Then a battleship from the alien’s home world shows up. They are threatening to attack the Earth, believing the alien to be a heretic. Also, the U.S. Army is out to get Reed, after he sabotaged their attempt to recreate the FF’s powers for a bunch of astronauts. Also-also, a social worker is investigating Reed and Sue with concerns that the new Baxter Building in unsafe for their kids.

The FF and the alien have a quick debate about how a scientific, space-faring race can also have crimes against heresy, the alien teleports himself and the FF to a deserted tropical island for their safety. Reed insists on going back to protect New York from the invaders, but the alien says he must do whatever it takes to survive. They debate it some more, and the alien uses the last of his strength to teleport everyone back. The Baxter Building is under fire, with little Franklin and Valeria still inside, being babysat by a group of prospective nannies.

Sue takes the alien down to Reed’s lab, with Reed naming the alien “the Entity” for the first time, making it his name from now on. Johnny is tasked with getting the kids to safety, and Reed slingshots Ben into the sky to clobber the alien ships. Inside, the Entity takes notice of the Negative Zone portal, which hilariously has a big “Do not touch!” sign.

The Entity contacts Reed telepathically. Reed leaves the others to the fight and joins the Entity in the lab. The Entity says the Negative Zone is the one place where he can go that his people cannot find him. Reed says it’s too dangerous, but the Entity is willing to take the risk. He says it’s better to end it all than to keep running.

Outside, Sue and Johnny manage to drive back the invaders, only for them to call in reinforcements. In the lab, Reed recalibrates the Negative Zone portal for the Entity’s unique energy signature. The Entity says he’d been searching for someone like him for three hundred Earth years. In all that time, Reed was the first to respond. He thinks that Reed is despairing, because he’s spent his life only seeing and not truly living. He warns Reed not to become like him, a question in living form. Reed readies the portal, but then tells the Entity, “I want to understand everything.”

We get some more fighting outside the building. Then back in the lab, the Entity offers Reed his hand, saying “You will see all that I know, and all that I still seek.” Then one of the invaders’ missiles gets past Johnny and hits the building. This causes the Negative Zone portal to go haywire. He and the Entity are transported to an outer space scene, which Reed describes as, “Between then and now. Between existence… and the void.”

Reed further elaborates that he is touching the fabric of creation itself, and he’s being hurtled backwards millions of years through time. He and the Entity end up surrounded by darkness, which the Entity says is the void, a time before the big bang. The Entity obsesses over how life came to exist from nothingness. He adds that he must also understand himself. A light appears, and the Entity says it came from “that which is the galaxy within me.” Reed asks if the Entity’s desire for understanding is what caused the big bang. The Entity says, “There is but one way to be sure,” and, “Let there be light.”

Turn the page, and we see the Entity expanding outward, being the big bang, with Reed still floating at the center of it all.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: This issue tries to get at the heart of who Reed is as a character, suggesting that Reed is unfulfilled because of his desire to understand the nature of the universe. Does this line up with everything we’ve seen about the character we’ve seen before? It’s debatable.

Fade out: Sue takes a leadership role during the battle, hanging back and giving orders to Ben and Johnny.

Clobberin’ time: Ben jokes about wanting the Millennium Falcon to fly down from space and save the day, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. At least, I hope this is a joke.

Flame on: Johnny’s big hero moment is when he rescues the kids and the nannies by blasting a bunch of aliens out of the building. But then he fails to stop an alien missile, which sends Reed and the Entity back to the big bang.

Four and a half/Our gal Val: Franklin and Valeria also get a hero moment, putting themselves between the invaders and the nannies. They maintain faith that Johnny will save them, which he does.

Trivia time: The Marvel Universe has established multiple reasons for why and how the big bang happened. The most well-known is how it’s tied into the origin of Galactus, as seen in Super-Villain Classics #1. But then, an Avengers story stated that the big bang came when leftover matter from a bunch of alternate universes crashing into each other. And then, in Venom of all places, the symbiote king/god Knull said the Celestials did the big bang, and that Knull was there at the time. This FF storyline, meanwhile, is not included in the Marvel Wiki’s entry about the big bang.

Fantastic or frightful? In earlier posts, I praised J. Michael Straczynski for bringing far-out cosmic sci-fi to Fantastic Four, but does he go too far in this issue? Tying the creation of the universe to one character’s search for meaning is some seriously heady stuff. And the thing is, it’s going to get even headier.

Next: Time and again.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Gamera rewatch – Gamera the Brave (2006)

Rewatching the Gamera movies! The series concludes (for now?) with 2006’s Gamera the Brave. It’s a hard reboot that offers a new Gamera to go with its new continuity. Toto, too? Toto, too!

Here’s what happens: We begin in 1973, when a little kid, Kousuke, witnesses an epic Gamera vs. Gyaos battle. Gamera sacrifices himself to save the Earth. In 2006, Kousuke is a single father, living in a seaside town with his son Toru. After a lot of hanging around, Toru finds an egg on the beach, which hatches into a tiny baby Gamera he names Toto. They’re fast friends, but Toto grows to gigantic size and eventually leaves. When evil monster Zedus emerges from the ocean, Toto must follow in Gamera’s footsteps and fight for humanity.

Nice gams: While Gamera in the previous film was redesigned to look all spikey and badass, Toto’s redesign as him as cuter, with rounded features and big expressive eyes.

Turtle power: A lot of importance is put on a magical red stone, which Toto needs to become stronger and defeat Zedus. Poor Toto doesn’t do much during the final fight except get thrown around. That is, until he gets the red stone. It’s only then that Toto truly fights like Gamera, with Gamera’s classic moves.

Big baddie: Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think Zedus got any kind of origin story. The movie takes a harsh turn the first time it appears, showing it destroying it and eating people. Zedus also has this extendable tongue that shoots straight out of its mouth, like a big spear. Gross, but effective.

Kid stuff: The template is quite obviously Spielberg’s E.T., with a kid having an adorable alien (alien turtle, in this case) hiding out in his house. Scientists get ahold of Toto at one point (again, because E.T.) and the Toru and his friends go on a road trip to save him, for more kid adventure antics.

Hapless humans: Kousuke is a loving and supportive dad, except that he doesn’t do as much during the movie’s latter half. A professor and a bunch of government suits make up the rest of the cast.

Thoughts on this viewing: Gamera the Brave has some fun bits here and there, but it is SO slowly paced. Most folks will be bored with it, and the intended 10-and-under audience will likely get really bored.

Is this truly the end for Gamera? I doubt it. The character is well known that another movie is certain. I personally would like to see a Gamera origin movie, showing the full story of his creation in ancient Atlantis.

What should I watch next for this blog? Any suggestions?

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: Cosmic bowl

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #530 brings us a lot of crazy space action, but also gives us a whole new take on the FF’s origin.

Recap: Reed took a top-secret government job, where scientists hoped to create FF-style superhumans by recreating the spaceflight from the FF’s origin. Reed deduced that the cosmic rays that gave the FF their powers were actually a message from unseen aliens. Believing that only he and his teammates should respond to the message, Reed escapes from military police (!) and returns to NYC, where he and the FF plan to recreate the spaceflight on their own. Meanwhile, a social worker named Simone DeBouvier is investigating Reed and Sue concerning whether the new Baxter Building is a safe place to raise their kids.

We begin with cosmic rays bombarding the FF’s ship. The rays then part, with a glowing ball of energy flying toward the ship. It knocks out all power to the ship, leaving the FF adrift. They fall back to Earth, with Sue using a force field to keep the ship from burning up in reentry. Inside the atmosphere, Johnny flies outside the ship and combines his flame with the force field to cushion the impact. The ship is destroyed in the crash, but the heroes are unharmed thanks to Sue and Johnny’s efforts.

Then a creature emerges from the wreckage. It has glowing blue eyes and images of starscapes on its body, kind of like classic Marvel character Eternity. Ben says, “Looks ta me like yer message got through, Stretch.”

Reed starts expositing about how the creature used the cosmic rays as a teleportation carrier signal, when he’s interrupted by gunfire. It’s the U.S. Army, who accuse the FF of violating Army air space, and they have further instructions to take Reed into custody. Then they see the alien and prepare to open fire. Reed tells them the creature means no harm. Then one of the soldiers trips (!) and accidentally fires his gun. The bullet hits the alien in the arm. It returns fire, disintegrating the soldier.

Now all the soldiers open fire, with Sue protecting the alien with a force field. The alien won’t have this, and it disintegrates even more soldiers. The remaining soldiers retreat. Reed is about to fight the alien, but Ben stops him. Ben says this wasn’t a disintegration, and that the soldiers are all still alive. We then see that the soldiers were teleported to a remote, snowy mountain top. Ben says, “Don’t worry. They’ll call in soon.”

Ben says the alien is telling him these things in his head. He asks the others to trust him. (The comic uses male pronouns for the alien at this point.) He says the alien understands, and that the best solution is to be somewhere else. The alien then teleports itself and the FF back to the new Baxter Building. Reed checks to confirm that the soldiers are all right, and then the alien speaks for the first time, saying all this teleporting took a lot out of him, and that the strain was almost more than he could bear. Reed questions the alien’s intentions, and why he chose to communicate with Ben first. The alien says he was alone for a long time, so he connected with Ben, who is also feels alone.

Then the alien tells his story. He says he was once a flesh and blood creature, who longed to understand the “ultimate final truth” of the universe. His people’s leaders, however, insisted there were things his people were not meant to know. Using stolen technology, the alien studied the entire cosmos. He shared his findings with his people, believing that a desire for knowledge and truth would overcome their fears and prejudices. “I was wrong,” he says.

The alien’s people attacked him just as he used his forbidden technology to “touch the mind of the universe.” With his equipment damaged, he transformed into the cosmic being he is now. With the power to “ride the thoughts of the universe,” the alien calibrated the cosmic rays to find others like him, which brought him to the FF. Unfortunately, they don’t have time to talk, because the people of the alien’s home world have learned to track him. They are on a “religious crusade” to stop him from sharing his knowledge with others. On cue, a battleship appears in the sky over New York, and the alien says, “In a very little while, we shall all be dead.”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: For a guy who’s made first contact with various aliens over the years, Reed is quick to throw out diplomacy and attack the alien when he believes the alien killed the soldiers. Could Reed be fearing that his status with the U.S. military could worsen because of this?

Fade out: Sue nearly passes out from using her force fields to protect everyone as their ship crashes, but we’ve seen her force fields become much more powerful in the last hundred issues or so. Perhaps the stress of going into space added to her strain.

Clobberin’ time: All this talk about Ben feeling lonely goes back to earlier issues, where the women were flirting with him only because he’s rich now. The comic reminds us that he’s rich when he makes a wisecrack about Reed being “broke” at one point.

Flame on: Johnny and Reed can hear and talk to each other while Johnny is flying outside the crashing spaceship. We know their suits have built-in communicators, so I guess the suits’ audio can also compensate for Johnny travelling at high velocity.

Trivia time: Johnny tries to talk down the soldiers by reminding them that there was a Fantastic Four movie. This is obviously a meta joke, referencing the 2005 film, the same year as this comic. But within the fiction of the Marvel Universe, remember that their have been at least two attempts at a Fantastic Four movie, which were either unfinished or huge flops.

Fantastic or frightful? This story was controversial at the time for what many felt was rewriting the FF’s origin. As far as this issue goes, however, it’s more far-out sci-fi that fans of J. Michael Straczynski and his series Babylon 5 hoped for.

Next: Charge of the light brigade.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Gamera rewatch – Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris

Rewatching the Gamera movies! The action is bigger and bolder than ever in the ambitious wrap-up to Gamera’s 90s trilogy in Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999).

Here’s what happens: It’s been three years since anyone has seen Gamera. Ayana is a young girl who lost her parents in Gamera’s battles in the previous movie. She finds a mysterious egg in her village, which hatches into a creature she names Iris. She and Iris have a psychic bond, and they both seek revenge against Gamera. When Gyaos creatures reappear, Gamera shows up to battle them, and this gives Ayana and Iris the chance to attack.

Nice gams: This movie adds a supernatural element, as characters theorize that Gamera absorbed mana from humanity to defeat Legion in the previous movie, and that mana can explain more about everything Gamera can do.

Turtle power: Gamera got quite a redesign this time, as he’s covered with spikes now. The plates on his shell can move around now, providing additional shielding when fighting or aerodynamics while flying.

Big baddie: Because the enemy monster is more sympathetic this time, Iris’ early forms are more likable and magical, with big expressive cartoon eyes. When Iris later evolves to her final form, she’s all deadly tentacles and deadly lasers, and puts up a good fight against Gamera.

We also get multiple new Gyaos birds in this one, which the Wiki calls “Hyper Gyaos.” They’re smaller and quicker than the big Gyaos from two movies back. It’s thrilling when Gamera quite literally blows one apart.

Kid stuff: It’s an inversion of the Gamera formula to have the kid/teen character befriend the enemy monster instead of the heroic one. A lot of time is spent making her and Iris sympathetic.  

We also get the return of Asagi, the girl who psychically bonded with Gamera in the previous two movies. She’s in college now, and she’s the one who comes up with the whole thing about supernatural mana powering Gamera.

Hapless humans: The lady scientist and male military guy from the last movie are back, doing more science/military stuff. There are some other government agents also investigating what’s happening, and a weird occultist guy who shows up to make some dramatic speeches. To be honest, these subplots kind of lost me, and I don’t know how important they were to the overall film.

Thoughts on this viewing: Trying to follow the character arcs in the movie’s first half is something of a fool’s errand. The good news is that when the movie works, it really works! The monster battles are truly explosive and ridiculously violent, not shying away from all the collateral damage this would cause. The kaiju are filmed from a man-on-the-street perspective throughout, with the camera always looking up at the creatures and emphasizing just how massive they are. I wanted to do this blog series after watching Revenge of Iris for the first time last year. I loved it that time. The flaws are more evident on this rewatch, but it’s still a super fun time at the movies.

Next: Brave heart.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: Base jumper

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #529, our heroes take on the government and then come to a surprise revelation that may change everything we know about them.

Recap: Reed takes a job at a secret government base in Nevada, where scientists want to recreate the FF’s original spaceflight and give a crew of astronauts fantastic powers. The base is sabotaged with a bomb. Even though Reed saved the day, the scientists suspect he is the saboteur. Also, a social worker is skeptical of the Richards kids’ safety, and Ben has become incredibly wealthy after having protected his one-fourth of Fantastic Four, Inc.

The scientists regroup and discuss their options, saying the ship has been totaled and cannot be replaced, so they’ll have to wait one year before the cosmic ray configuration is set to happen again. They ask Reed for his opinion, and all he says is, “Some things weren’t meant to be. He places a tiny tracking device on Dr. Crane. Reed’s narration captions state that he knows the others suspect him, and he doesn’t have much time. He then reveals to us the reader that he DID sabotage the flight!

Reed has another tiny device hidden inside a shaving cream can, which he uses to contact the new Baxter Building. Instead of summoning his teammates, however, he pilots the Fantasticar by remote control, remarking that it’ll take about two hours to reach Nevada. Sue sees the Fantasticar take off by itself, saying, “Some people just call a cab when they want to come home.”

At the base, Dr. Love convinces Dr. Crane that Reed is the saboteur. She wants to send the M.P. to arrest Reed, but Crane thinks they won’t be needed. He thinks that Reed’s stretching powers are useless, and he’ll be easy to apprehend. The M.P. show up to arrest Reed, mistaking the tracking device on Dr. Crane for the Reed’s.

The M.P. are ordered to detain Reed by any means. Alarms go off and the lights go out. Reed steals a jeep from two M.P. goons by stretching over its windshield, and then the chase is on. The M.P. jeeps chase Reed into the desert, shooting out a tire on his jeep. He stretches himself into a bouncy ball and bounces across the desert. They catch up to Reed and surround him. They draw their guns and tell him to put his hands over his head. He stretches them way, way over his head, just in time for the Fantasticar to arrive. He flies off with it.

At the Baxter Building, Sue and social worker Simone Debouvier meet with prospective nannies in the hopes of providing a “normal” environment for the kids. Reed then arrives in a panic, saying the entire team/family has got to move, because government agents are after him. Sue takes him into the other room explains who Debouvier is and what she wants. Reed tries to put on a good face for Debouvier, saying he’s been doing confidential work. Debouvier leaves, threatening to return with her supervisor. Sue leaves the kids with the group of nannies while the FF reunite and compare notes.

In a conference room, Reed says that Earth scientists have been sending signals to space for years hoping to communicate with aliens. The process, he says, must include a means for the aliens to receive and decode those signals. Because the FF’s powers align with their personalities, Reed says the cosmic rays were not an accident, but an attempt by some unknown aliens to communicate with Earth. He says the FF must act fast, because the exact combination of cosmic rays is about to happen again.

Reed wants the FF to return to space and reenter the cosmic rays to show the aliens that they’ve received the message. Reed says he doesn’t know what will happen. He gives Johnny and Ben the option to stay behind, but Ben answers for them both by saying, “Ya coulda saved time by just tellin’ us on the way up.”

The FF board their private spaceship and prepare for takeoff. Reed is contacted by U.S. Army General Bragg, who orders Reed to surrender. Reed says he can’t because the countdown has already started. The sidewalks outside the building rumble as the ship takes off the Baxter Building’s roof. Simone Debouvier sees this, and she writes it up as a safety violation.  

In space, Ben ruminates on the nature of fate. He wonders why this is happening now, at the time when he’s learned he’s rich. He wonders if the cosmic rays will turn him human again. The final page is the ship being bombarded by the cosmic rays.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Okay, so Reed sabotaged the scientists’ spaceflight because he deduced that the cosmic rays are messages from aliens and only the FF can and/or should answer them? Do I have that right?

Fade out: Sue is so furious about dealing with Debouvier that she talks about using her force fields to squash her between two force fields. She’s likely joking about that, but the artwork has her looking really ticked off as she says this.

Clobberin’ time: During the flight, Ben tries and fails to cross his fingers for good luck. He says that after all these years, it’s never occurred to him that he’s unable to do that.

Flame on: Johnny’s only line in this issue is when he jokes with Ben on board the ship. When Reed gives him the opportunity to back out of the spaceflight, he looks to Ben and lets Ben answer for them both.

Four and a half: Franklin tells the room full of nannies that monsters visit the Baxter Building on occasion. They think it’s his imagination, until they are startled to see Ben walk past.

Trivia time: Does this issue rewrite the nature of the cosmic rays, or doesn’t it? First, it’s been established in multiple Marvel comics that there’s a permanent cosmic ray belt outside Earth that all incoming and outgoing spacecraft must deal with. Second, plenty of others have been transformed by the rays like the FF, including Sharon Ventura, the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, the U-Foes, the Red Hulk, and the Red She-Hulk. Even the FF’s own Ben Grimm was transformed when he flew through them a second time. I believe this issue sidesteps all that continuity by this story involves a specific configuration of the cosmic rays, and one that happens only rarely.  

Fantastic or frightful? The idea of the cosmic rays being a message from aliens has been controversial among fans for many years, even though it’s been done a couple of times now. What makes this issue a standout, however, is Reed’s escape from the base. He uses his powers in creative ways, but also defensive. He never once strikes out against the M.P. guys, as he knows they’re just doing their jobs. It’s a fun and cinematic action scene, something I wish comics could/should do more often.

Next: Cosmic bowl.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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