Fantastic Friday: The egg and I

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #386 is part 11 of the 12-part Starblast crossover, a forgotten Namor/Quasar event series. As we’ll soon learn, you don’t need to read the rest of Starblast to get caught up.

Following the events of Namor #48, the FF’s ship, the Stealth Hawk, is buried after an undersea earthquake (a “seaquake” as it’s called in this issue), with Sue, Ben, Namor, Tiger Shark, Stingray, and an alien named Tamara on board. Namor and Tiger Shark swim outside to give the ship a push (no, really) which frees everyone from being buried in rubble. Tamara reminds of the crossover’s overall plot, in which an aquatic alien named Xylym the Formaluauti is using high-tech thrusters to flood the entire Earth, making it a new home for his water-based people.

Cut to a hospital in midtown Manhattan, where Lyja is about to give birth. There’s a lot of cringe-y talk about Skrull birthing procedures, and the Earth doctors having to learn to use a Skrull “birthing device.” After that, Johnny is doing the expectant-father-pacing-nervously-in-the-waiting-room shtick seen in so many old sitcoms. On board the Stealth Hawk, Namor appears to be putting the moves on Sue, until she tells him she believes Reed is not dead, but still alive somehow. Namor backpedals, and says he was merely offering his assistance in her quest to find Reed. In space, we meet Xylym the Formaluauti, who is a one-eyed blob monster. He says flooding the Earth was really a distraction, to prevent the Earth superheroes from learning his real plan. He instructs his henchmen, the space pirates called the Starblasters, to create a giant tidal wave.

At the hospital, Johnny fills in new teammate Ant-Man about how Lyja tricked everyone into thinking she was Alicia for so long. While Triton the Inhuman, who is also there as part of the crossover, comforts Johnny, Ant-Man wonders if all this drama means the FF is going to break up. During a quiet moment on board the Stealth Hawk, Sue contemplates how the FF have been flung from crisis to crisis recently, and she too wonders if the team is going to break up. (This is what’s called foreshadowing.)

The Stealth Hawk comes across Xylym the Formaluauti’s ship rising from the ocean, revealing he was on Earth all this time and not in space. Sue immediately fires missiles onto the other ship, with the others on board criticizing her for acting so rashly. At the hospital, Lyja explains to the doctors again that she’s an alien shape-shifter. She further explains that the Lacaroo medicine the FF brought back from the Skrull throneworld a few issues back will temporarily transform Lyja into a liquid so that the baby can “easily be born.” From there, we get a short scene in Latveria, where Dr. Doom makes a public appearance after having been missing for several weeks. We then learn that this is merely time-traveling Nathanial Richards impersonating Doom. He hopes to locate Franklin, insisting that only Franklin can stop an upcoming cataclysm.

Out in the ocean, the battle is already over, and the Stealth Hawk has Xylym the Formaluauti’s nearly destroyed ship in a tractor beam. Sue, Namor, Stingray and Tamara board the ship, with Ben and Tiger Shark staying behind to maintain the tractor beam. Namor captures Xylym the Formaluauti and brings him back to the Stealth Hawk. Rather than negotiate, Tamara goes ahead and murders Xylym the Formaluauti right there in front of everyone. This has an immediate effect on Sue, as Tamara’s brutality reminds her of the anger and fury she experienced when possessed by Malice. Namor sees this and again puts the moves on Sue, saying she doesn’t need to face the darkness alone. Ben eavesdrops on them, suddenly jealous because he’s a monster, and not as handsome as Namor.

At the hospital, there are (of course) complications with Lyja’s pregnancy. It’s more uncomfortable alien weirdness as Lyja’s body is reduced to a “spongy state” and a glowing gold implant is removed from her body. Sue and Namor arrive at the hospital just in time for the big reveal. Lyja has not birthed a baby. Instead, she has… laid an egg!!!

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed appears in flashback as Triton retells the story of how they first met, and his adventure with the FF in the Negative Zone. This is as close as we get to a eulogy for Reed since his “death.”

Fade out: Even though Sue is supposedly free of Malice’s dark influence, part of it is apparently still with her, as she opens fire on the enemy ship, ending the battle before it begins.

Clobberin’ time: Ben is no longer wearing that metal helmet to protect the sensitive scars on his face, but they are still sensitive. In this issue, the scars are covered with bandages after he got banged up in Namor #48.

Flame on: In addition to worrying about Lyja and the baby, Johnny also takes time to worry about Franklin and Dr. Doom. Basically, he spends the whole issue worrying.

Fantastic fifth wheel: While at the hospital, Ant-Man calls his daughter Cassie to check in on her. We learn he has told her he’s the FF’s newest member, and that she’s thrilled about this.

Four and a half: There are three panels in this issue devoted to now-teenage Franklin, possessed by the psychic Malice entity. All we see are him hiding in a back alley in the city, with an evil smile on his face.

The Alicia problem: Lyja explains to the doctors that Skrulls shape-change via “muscular expansion and contraction.” According to The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition, only some Skrulls use their muscles to shape-change, while other Skrulls have their entire bodies made of unstable molecules, to allow for even greater shape-changing.

Commercial break: If Pogs aren’t nerdy enough for you, there’s always Hero Caps:

Trivia time: The tiny amount of people online still talking about Starblast seem to agree that the Namor half of this Namor/Quasar crossover had nothing to do with anything, and seeing as how it unceremoniously wraps up in this FF tie-in issue, I’m inclined to agree. The real action took place in space, where Quasar led a ton of D-list Marvel to battle a cosmic villain named Skeletron. Quasar’s team included the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, the Soviet Super-Soldiers, and, in a surprise twist, all of Marvel’s ill-fated New Universe characters. The series ended with everybody from the New Universe being brought into the Marvel Universe proper.

Fantastic or frightful? Shrug. All the Tamara vs. Xylym drama is only meaningful to those were following the Namor series at the time. That leaves the Lyja plot, which is just gross and weird.

Next: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 29

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! One character is transformed, and I continue to wonder how magic works, 1:07:16-1:09:47 on the Blu-ray. 

We begin with a cool establishing shot of the NockMaar camp at night with a sliver of a crescent moon in the sky. A howling can be heard — one of the Death Dogs, no doubt. To confirm this, the next shot is a NockMaar guard and a Death Dog walks by on patrol, the guard holding a lit torch. He and the dog walk over to a campfire nearby, with no one else around it, so I guess they’re going on break.

Cut to Willow and Madmartigan in an iron cage. They’re sitting on snow, suggesting that the cage either has no floor, or that it snowed after the cage was set in this spot and the NockMaar can’t be bothered to clean it out. Willow is repeating the magic words from earlier, while using Cherlindrea’s wand to grind up some black powder in a small bowl. (Where’d he get these?) Madmartigan watches, saying “That’s magic? It smells terrible.” Willow starts to say, “It’s the life spark,” but Madmartigan cuts him off and loses his cool, saying, “Well, it stinks. This whole thing stinks!”

Fin Raziel, still in possum form, is in her cage nearby. You’d think the NockMaar would have separated them, but no. She says, “Ignore him, Willow. He’s a fool.” This, understandably, makes Madmartigan even angrier. “If only I had a sword,” he says, gritting his teeth and pantomiming a sword move. “If only you’d quit talking about it,” Willow responds. Here we have the movie playing up the folklore-ish “swordsman without a sword” aspect of Madmartigan. Plus, after several scenes of seeing him be the nice guy, the movie is now re-establishing his edgier, unpredictable side.

Raziel keeps the plot going by saying, “Willow, you must transform me to my human self.” Willow says, “But Raziel, I’m not ready yet.” Raziel toughens up and says, “You better be. Get me down.” Madmartigan uses a long stick (where’d he get that?) and reaches through the bars of the cage to Raziel’s smaller cage, which is hanging nearby. He drops Raziel’s cage, causing it to open, and he bumps his head on the bars of his own cage for a cheap laugh. He says, “Why don’t you help me get out of here instead of chattering with that muskrat?” Because of this line, many viewers over the years have mistaken Raziel for an actual muskrat during this stretch of the movie, but a quick Google image search confirms that she is a possum, not a muskrat.

Raziel squeezes through the bars of Willow and Madmartigan’s cage and says, “When I change back into my human self, I will crush this army, and take Elora Danan to Tir Asleen where she will be safe.” This kind of talk has me wondering what kind of badass warrior woman Raziel was before she was betrayed by Bavmorda.  Madmartigan doesn’t buy it, making a mocking a face at her while she says this.

There’s a somewhat creepy shot of the possum biting Willow on the finger, complete with blood. Willow asks what she bit him for, and she says he needs three drops of his own blood to put in the potion. “You could have warned me,” he says. Madmartigan rolls his eyes, and Raziel says, “For beginners, there is some pain. But don’t let anything break your concentration.” Willow smears his blood up and down the wand (ew) and it looks like more than three drops. There a pause, with total silence, as we get closeups of Willow and then Madmartigan looking serious.

Willow stars to recite the words again, when the Brownies show up, with a boisterous “Hello everybody, we have arrived!” from Franjean and “You are safe!” from Rool. It’s not shown how they got managed to catch up to everyone. Maybe they hitched a ride on a bird. Everyone shushes them, so they go quiet.

Willow starts reciting the words again, and Madmartigan smirks, not taking all this talk about magic seriously. “What are you going to look like if this works?” he asks. She curtly says “Don’t interrupt.” But then, as Willow continues reciting, she adds, “I am a young, beautiful woman.” So of course now Madmartigan is all about the magic, saying “Concentrate, Willow!”

The wand starts to glue blue and the score gets all dramatic. Raziel’s next line is hard to understand. According to the Blu-ray subtitles, she’s saying “No, Willow, you’re losing me.” Willow’s eyes open in surprise for a second, breaking his all-important concentration, before going back to the words. Then there’s a super-gross effect of black feathers sprouting out of the possum’s body, made even more gross by Raziel moaning in pain, and some bone-crunch sound effects.

Willow falls to the side, dropping the wand and grasping his hands as if they are burned. Madmarigan catches him, now back in nice guy mode, asking “Are you all right?” followed by, “Nice try, Willow.” A bird is heard, and we see a black bird. The bird has not taken the possum’s place, but is instead somehow emerging from the shell of the half-possum/half-bird. This bird, according to the wiki, is neither a raven nor a crow, but a rook. “Farmers,” Raziel says, “Cherlindrea sends me farmers.” Now as a Rook, actress Patricia Hayes now makes her voice a little harder and rougher, to approximate a squawking-bird effect to Raziel’s speech. Franjean punctuates the joke by saying “The Nelwyn really butchered that one.” Looking defeated, Willow sits back and says, “I’m sorry.”

Once again, it’s frustrating trying to sort how magic works in this universe. It appears as if there are three levels of magic. One involves simply waving a hand and making magic happen, one involves intense concentration and reciting words, and the third involves words, concentration, and a potion. In the case of this transformation spell, it appears that Willow only needs to make the potion once, and not every time he tries. We’ll have to see if this is true in upcoming scenes.

Next: Bang your head.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Life is the bubbles

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. I guess someone at Marvel decided the X-Men and the Avengers shouldn’t have all the fun when it came to the big crossover events, so here’s Starblast, a Namor/Quasar crossover that ran through 12 Marvel comics in 1994. Fantastic Four issue #385 is part 7 (!) of Starblast.

We begin with Ben and Sue overseeing reconstruction of Four Freedoms Plaza after part of it was destroyed during the Infinity War crossover. Sue gets a call from the Black Panther, who agrees with her belief that Reed isn’t really dead, and he says he’ll help in the search. Ben, meanwhile chases away a bunch of reporters asking about Reed’s disappearance. Johnny and new team member Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man, work on sprucing up the FF’s jet. Lyja, meanwhile, refuses the help of a human doctor, now that she has Skrull medicine to help with her pregnancy.

The FF then get a call from Namor the Sub-Mariner, who is now rocking an extreme ‘90s ponytail. He says there’s a dire emergency, but then cuts off the call after Johnny informs him of Reed’s death. Johnny investigates, and finds that Namor was calling about a series of anomalies threatening to knock the Earth off its axis. The largest of these is located at the mouth of the Amazon River and deep in the Marianas Trench, so the team flies off to check it out.

Johnny, Scott, and Lyja arrive at the Amazon in the FF’s “old bathysphere,” where they encounter the inhuman Triton and undersea supervillain Tiger Shark battling a tentacle sea monster. Everybody fights the monster, and drives it off. Tiger Shark reveals that his lover, an Atlantean named Tamara, was abducted by a “planetary thruster” at the bottom of the river. Ant-Man communicates with insects on the river bottom to help search for the thruster.

In the Marianas Trench, Sue and Ben meet up with Namor and undersea adventurer Stingray, in his civilian guise of Dr. Walter Newell. Namor offers his condolences to Sue, with some serious sexual tension going on between the two. Ben, meanwhile, finds that Namor and Stingray have captured a small alien creature and also brought it on board.

In the Amazon, the heroes fight their way past a giant tentacle monster to rescue Tamara. They then enact a plan to destroy the thruster with an implosion device. (Is an implosion device a bomb or not?) Lyja then doubles over with pain, feeling more complications from the pregnancy. Triton saves her by swimming her and Johnny away from the implosion at the last second.

On board the Stealth Hawk, Stingray explains what’s going on. An alien named Xylym the Formaluauti is using the thrusters to flood the entire earth, turning it into a water-only planet to be a new home for his people. Quasar is out in space, fighting Zylym and his henchmen, a group of space pirates called the Starblasters. Further, the tiny alien Namor brought on board is a mind-controlling symbiont (not symbiote) that attaches itself to a host’s brain. On cue, Ben shows up with the symbiont attached to him, threatening to kill everyone.

The action then picks up in Namor the Sub-Mariner #48, where Namor and Sue fight Ben and eventually free him of the symbiont, only for the Stealth Hawk to end up trapped in an underwater avalanche.

To be continued!

Fade out: Now freed of Malice’s presence, Sue regrets the way she’s been acting, and even comments about not liking her ridiculous new uniform. She continues to wear it though.

Clobberin’ time: There’s a scene where Ben stops by Alicia’s apartment, only to learn that she has moved and not left a new address. The last time we saw Alicia was when she met Lyja a few issues ago, but we never saw the outcome of that meeting. I guess it didn’t go well.

Flame on: Johnny has a special diving suit made of (what else?) unstable molecules, allowing him use his flames while underwater.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sue orders Ant-Man to stay behind and work on the computer the FF swiped from Dr. Doom a while back, but he instead stows away in the bathysphere, after hearing Johnny talk about some of the FF’s grand adventures.

Four and a half: There are a few fleeting references to now-teenage Franklin having gone missing, after the Malice entity possessed him. No one seems in much of a hurry to find him.

The Alicia problem: Lyja’s pregnancy is a lot farther along than anyone though. It’s explained that, as a shapechanger, she’s not going to, er, show in the same way that human women do.

Commercial break: “The children are going to have to learn about Tek War sooner or later.”

Trivia time: Johnny refers to the FF’s bathysphere as “our old bathysphere.” I think this is meant to be a reference to the bathysphere the team took to Atlantis in issues #32-33, when they fought Attuma. There’s no explanation, of course, of how it survived the destruction of the original Baxter Building. Maybe Reed kept it off-site. The Marvel Wiki doesn’t have an entry on the bathysphere, but a quick search shows it is one of many bathyspheres running around the Marvel Universe.

Fantastic or frightful? Here we have a bunch of Marvel’s aquatic/undersea characters in one issue, which is a novelty. But other than that, there’s much else going on in this issue.

Next: Egg-cellent.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Baskin-Robbins always finds out

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. A few issues back, Reed “died” while fighting Dr. Doom, so in issue #384 we meet his replacement. Baskin-Robbins always finds out.

Our heroes return to headquarters from Latveria to discover Sharon Ventura is missing. Sue checks the security cameras, only to reveal that whoever abducted Sharon erased the footage. (We the readers know that she was abducted by Klaw back in issue #382. There’s also reference to part of Four Freedoms Plaza being destroyed during the Infinity War crossover, with Sue saying that the banks won’t lend the FF money to repair the building since superheroes are considered a risk. There’s another debate about Reed, with Ben and Johnny mourning Reed’s death while Sue insists that Reed must still be alive somewhere.

In walks Scott Lang, whom Sue introduces as an electronics expert from Stark Industries. She has hired him to help fix up the damage to Reed’s equipment. We at home know that Scott is secretly the new Ant-Man. Johnny, meanwhile, checks in on Lyja, who is waking up from a nightmare. She says she has something important tell him, but then says it can wait.

Out in New York City, Franklin, who is now a teenager thanks to some traveling, contemplates the post-apocalyptic future he’s come from. He reaffirms that his grandfather Nathaniel sent him back to this time to defeat an enemy, although Nathaniel hoped to send someone else in Franklin’s place. This enemy, Franklin learned last issue, is his own mother. He dons his Psi-Lord armor, saying that Sue is destined to destroy civilization if he doesn’t destroy her first.

Sue shows Scott around Reed’s lab, with special attention shown to the computer the FF swiped from Latveria last issue. Then Franklin bursts in and attacks. Sue fights back, still believing that this Franklin is not the real Franklin. She fires “invisible missiles” at him, which fail to penetrate his psionic armor. Sue also seals off the lab, so the battle does not harm Scott. Ben, Johnny, and Lyja all cannot penetrate the lab’s super-strong door. Then Scott pulls out the Ant-Man helmet and says, “Maybe I can help.” He of course shrinks to tiny size to infiltrate an itty-bitty opening in the door.

 

Inside the lab, Franklin reminds Sue (and the reader) that his mutant powers are potentially so great that the might destroy the earth, and that Nathaniel designed the Psi-Lord armor to both control that power and keep it in check. He then removes the armor, saying he just wants to talk. Sue buys it, and lowers her force field. This allows Franklin to connect with her telepathically, so he enters his mother’s psyche. (Ew.)

Inside Sue’s mind, Franklin meets Malice, who describes herself as Sue’s “more exciting counterpart” and “the she-devil who lies within” and “the true mistress of this domain.” They fight, and Franklin insists that Sue is a good person, and that Malice is not part of her, and an “alien” inside Sue’s mind. They fight some more, until Malice zaps Franklin in his eyes, causing him to cry, “No! No!”

Ant-Man manages to throw just the right switch inside the door machinery, and the door opens. Once inside, Franklin attacks the FF. It’s not spelled out in detail, but the idea is that Malice has now possessed Franklin. He says he has seen the true face of the enemy, announcing that he, Franklin, is the great destroyer. He summons his psi-armor and flies off. Sue, not reacting at all to Ant-Man being there, says a “monster” has taken control of Franklin, with the power to obliterate all life on Earth.

To be continued (eventually)!

Fade out: With every appearance of Malice, it gets more and more confusing trying to sort out just who or what Malice is. My best guess is that the first time we saw Malice back in the John Byrne days, she was indeed a representation of the dark part of Sue’s mind. These subsequent appearances, however, appear to be a new character, a psychic entity attaching itself to Sue’s psyche and calling itself Malice.

Clobberin’ time: Ben goes for a walk in New York on one page, without his metal helmet. We see his face is no longer slashed and exposing sensitive skin underneath, but is instead merely deformed. Many fans over the years have interpreted this as the first step toward the end of his “metal helmet” phase.

Flame on: It’s suggested that Johnny could burn his way through the sealed door to Reed’s lab, but he doesn’t when Ben reminds him of the destruction he caused at Empire State University several issues back.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Welcome to the team, Ant-Man! Scott Lang is of course the second Ant-Man, taking over the title from the original, Hank Pym, who had gone on to become Yellowjacket at the time. After appearing briefly as a security expert in Avengers #181, Scott’s origin story was told in Marvel Premiere #47-48. Similar to the Ant-Man movie, Scott is an electronics expert turned petty thief who stole the original Ant-Man suit, only to use it to take down a corrupt (and super-powered) businessman. Pym saw the good in Scott and let Scott keep the suit, making Scott a regular fixture in the Marvel universe ever since.

Also, this is more or less a wrap on Sharon Ventura. This comic was published in 1994, and her fate won’t be revealed until the 2000s.

Four and a half: We get a little more info about where Franklin was up to during his time traveling and how his psionic powers work. Also, some readers suspect that those circuitry-looking bits on Franklin’s face might be the Legacy virus, which was a big deal with the X-Men for a long time. If Franklin has the Legacy virus, it doesn’t seem to be slowing him down a little.

The Alicia problem: Lyja’s dream has her fighting Paibok the Power-Skrull, with him calling her a traitor to the Skrull empire. She then dreams Paibok killing and beheading Johnny. It’s the extreme ‘90s!

Commercial break: I’m not comfortable with this:

Trivia time: This isn’t the first time Scott Lang has met the Fantastic Four. He worked alongside the FF to rescue Ben from the Microverse in Marvel Two-In-One #87. Scott didn’t reveal his secret identity to the FF at that time, though, and Ben says he learned there was a new Ant-Man thanks to gossip at one of his poker games with the Avengers. Scott then fought alongside the FF again in Marvel Two-In-One #96, during the big heroes vs. villains brawl that occurred while Ben was in the hospital. Finally, Scott and the FF both appeared in the groundbreaking Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel, though they’re not shown interacting.

Fantastic or frightful? Here we have a new team member and a heel turn for Franklin, yet it all seems like it’s going through the motions. I did a little reading ahead, and the comic is going to be like this for a while, so let’s all settle in and ride it out.

Next: Italian sub.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 28

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! It’s all about a travelogue this week, 1:06:29-1:07:15 on the Blu-ray.

This scene is merely a short travel montage, establishing that the characters are moving higher and higher into the snowy mountains. First there is a shot of all NockMaar and our heroes moving upward on a snowy path, followed by a shot of a tent town set up on a hilltop. The wiki doesn’t give a name to this location, referring to it only as “General Kael’s camp.”

Then we see Willow struggling to keep up with the cart he’s chained to, and he falls. Madmartigan immediately rushes over, picks up Willow, and carries Willow on his shoulders, further establishing that they’re becoming friends. Then we cut back to the tent town, where General Kael rides into view, wearing his skull mask, with two soldiers riding alongside him. Then back to the soldiers approaching. Sorsha gives a “Ha!” spurring her horse to pick up speed and ride ahead of the rest.

There’s a closeup on Kael’s skull face as Sorsha rides up to him. Sorsha says, “I found it, Kael.” There’s a closeup of the crying baby, so we know the baby is the “it” in this case. Sorsha adds, “That should make my mother happy.” Willow and Madmartican are apparently close enough to see this exchange, as Willow asks, “What are they going to do to her?” Madmartigan doesn’t answer, but merely looks straight ahead, angrily.

This is a short scene, so let’s talk filming locations! All these snowy scenes, and the upcoming battle in the Tir Asleen Castle were all filmed at the Snowdonia National park in North Wales. The exterior of NockMaar castle was filmed in nearby Llanberis, North Wales. The waterfall where the blackroot scene was filmed is Powerscourt Waterfall in Ireland.

Snowdonia National Park, Wales.

The cart chase was mostly filmed in Black Park Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire, England, with the Nelwyn Village exteriors shot in areas around Hertfordshire, England. The interiors were all filmed in England’s legendary Elstree studios.

Elstree Studios, England.

From there, most of the rest of the exterior filming took place in New Zealand, in and around Glenorchy, just outside of Queenstown, most notably the lake around Fin Raziel’s island. Other scenes were filmed in New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park, the same spot where the Mount Doom exteriors were shot for Lord of the Rings.

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand.

Finally, IMDb insists that Arthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in California was also a Willow filming location, but it doesn’t say what was filmed there.

Next: The smell of magic.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Skrull and dagger

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #383 we’re in outer space, battling those darned Skrulls.

The FF — currently Sue, Ben, Johnny, and Lyja — have been abducted by Skrulls and taken to the Skrull Throneworld, just in time for Devos the Devastator to summon his fleet and attack the entire planet. We begin with a couple of pages of Devos fighting the Skrulls, and his former ally Paibok the Super-Skrull feeling betrayed. Deep in some underground part of the city, the FF are still chained up with special manacles that sap their super-powers, making them helpless as destruction from the battle threatens to bury them alive.

In the throne room, the Skrull empress orders her soldiers to use the experimental Stealth Hawk against Devos, even though it has never been used in battle. She also declares Paibok to be a traitor, since he’s the one who brought Devos to their world. Word travels fast, as this causes the Skrull soldiers to immediately turn on Paibok as he fights Devos. Beneath the city, and now buried in rubble, the FF start getting their powers back. Sue turns the rubble invisible so that Johnny can burn his way out without harming his teammates.

We then cut to another dimension, where barbarian swordswoman Huntara has abducted Franklin. Now in his late teens thanks to some time traveling, Franklin has telepathy and telekinesis, calling himself “Psi-Lord.” Huntara says Franklin must be killed because he and his grandfather Nathaniel are threats to the “chosen realities.” They fight, with her arguing that Franklin doesn’t know who is true enemy is.

Back on Throneworld, the FF plan to make their way to a spaceport and steal a ship to get back to Earth. Lyja doubles over in pain, revealing to the rest of the team that the baby she’s carrying will die without a special medicine. Sue says the FF will split up, snatching the medicine in one direction and stealing a ship in the other.

In orbit above Throneworld, Devos returns to his ship, with Paibok using his shape-changing powers to follow in secret. Meanwhile, Huntara returns Franklin to Earth. He argues that they should work together if they have a common enemy. She says Nathaniel was insane to send Franklin to destroy the enemy. She finally reveals the face of the enemy, and Franklin refuses to believe it. She leaves through a portal, saying it’s up to him what happens next.

In space, Devos is about to unleash his final assault on the Skrulls, wiping them from existence. Paibok then shows up and reveals he just sabotaged Devos’ ship’s star drive. The ship is sucked into subspace, along with the two of them, possibly forever. On the surface, the FF find the Skrull’s prototype Stealth Hawk ship and promptly steal it, with Ben piloting a course back to Earth.

Franklin is waiting for everyone back on Earth, however, as we learn that the enemy Huntara warned him about, the one he was sent to this timeline to destroy, is his own mother Sue.

To be continued!

Fade out: Sue tries taking on a leadership role, continually asking herself what Reed would say or do in her situation. Ben points out that she rarely uses invisibility anymore, relying mostly on her force fields, and she says she’s been “in a rut.”

Clobberin’ time: Ben is able to fly the Stealth Hawk without a problem, even though it’s an experimental alien prototype. We’ve seen him pilot alien spacecraft before, both in this series and in the Thing solo series.

Flame on: Johnny refers to the Stealth Hawk as “the hottest sky chariot I’ve ever seen,” reminding us that he’s still a hot rod lover.

Four and a half: Franklin presses a button on wrist to make his Psi-Lord armor form around him, whereas previously he did this with just a thought. This suggests that the psi-armor is not made solely of his own psionic energy, but is an actual suit of armor that Franklin can summon either inter-dimensionally or with nanotech.

The Alicia problem: While we were told several issues back that Lyja is only staying with the team while biding her time to take revenge on Johnny for breaking her heart. By this issue, though, she has changed, pleading for forgiveness from Johnny and the others. Sue then gives a big speech, saying that Lyja is one of the family now. No matter what else is revealed in the future, there’s no denying that Lyja can now be considered an alternate fifth member of the Fantastic Four.

Commercial break: Can you unlock shirtless Gary Oldman?

Trivia time: According to the Marvel Wiki, the alternate dimension that Huntara takes Franklin to is the “Other-Earth” from Kang’s first appearance way, way back in issue #19, and subsequently revisited for the great “Overlord” story from issues #271-273. Its official designation is Earth-6311, if you’re making a spreadsheet of this stuff.

Fantastic or frightful? An improvement over some other issues in this run. It’s fun to see Devos take center stage and be a real badass, and there’s some nice character development for Franklin and Lyja.

Next: The boy?!?

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 27

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! Our heroes are in chains, and we get to know Sorsha a little more, 1:05:18 to 1:06:29 on the Blu-ray.

Our heroes have been captured by Sorsha and a whole bunch of NockMaar soldiers. The scene opens with Raziel’s lake still in the background, so we haven’t gone far. As the NockMaar ride past, we see that their armor and especially their helmets come in all shapes and sizes. This is no doubt meant to represent that the NockMaar lands were home to roving bands of criminals and barbarians before Bavmorda gathered them all under her leadership. One of the soldiers is holding a bundle, which I believe is supposed to be baby Elora Danan.

We then see Willow and Madmartigan following behind a large wagon, both chained to it with long chains so they have no choice but to walk behind it. Madmartigan’s been given a change of clothes, an all dark blue number with pale yellow boots. Fin Raziel, still in the body of a muskrat, is in a cage hanging off of the back of the wagon. The baby can be heard crying, and Willow says she doesn’t “sound good.” Because he has two kids back home, I guess we can trust Willow’s diagnosis. Either that, or Elora Danan’s supernatural awareness of what’s happening is letting her know things have gotten bad.

Raziel says to Willow, “Hurry, practice the chant I taught you.” When did she teach him? On the island, in the rowboat, or just now in their captivity? We don’t know. Willow chants, “Tanna, tuatha,” and then he can’t remember the third word. This is the first time in the movie we’ve heard “Tanna,” so perhaps that’s one Raziel taught him. Raziel says the third word is “Locktwaar,” adding, “That’s the word that pleads for change.” Not many fantasy adventure stories give specific meaning to magic words, so good on Willow for this glimpse into whatever magic system is at work.

Sorsha rides up next to them and glares menacingly. “Elora’s cold and hungry,” Willow says. “She knows me. Please let me take care of her.” Sorsha answers, “I don’t need help from a peck.” So, there’s that word again. This time, it’s Willow’s turn to glare menacingly at her. Madmartigan also glares at her, but in a different way. She asks, “What are you staring at?” He says, “Your leg. I’d like to break it.” Not fazed, she responds, “You might find that difficult, slave, while I’m up here and you’re down there.” She rides forward, and Madmartigan utters, “I hate that woman.”

At this point there is the first of many deleted scenes referencing Sorsha and her father. Raziel says, “Sorsha, you remind me of your father.” Sorsha says, “Don’t insult me. He was a weakling and a traitor to NockMaar.” Raziel says, “He was a warrior and a great king. Your mother has poisoned you.” The official lore doesn’t say anything about Sorsha’s father betraying NockMaar, so we can assume this lie is the poison Raziel is talking about. There are more deleted scenes about Sorsha’s father coming up, so I’ll save more details about him until then.

There’s a shot of the soldiers riding forward, towards snow-capped mountains, signifying we’re about to start the snowy part of the movie.

Next: Winter of our discontent.

****

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Fantastic Friday: All the rage

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. This era of the comic was an ongoing whirlwind of crises and subplots for our heroes, and issue #382 keeps the ball rolling.

At the end of the previous issue, a dying Dr. Doom murdered Reed rather than accept his help. Is this issue the funeral, followed by a period of mourning, ultimately establishing a new status quo for the series? Nope. Instead, all the ongoing subplots keep on going as if a major character’s death is just another day at the office. We begin with a short scene of villains Paibok the Super-Skrull, Devos the Devastator, Klaw, and Huntara teleport into the FF’s headquarters. The FF aren’t home, but they find Sharon Ventura, still transformed into a monster, in suspended animation. Klaw says they can use Sharon to their advantage.

Cut to Latveria, where all that is left of Reed and Dr. Doom is a pile of ash. Perhaps speaking for the reader, Sue refuses to believe it, and thinks this is a trick. She orders the FF — currently her, Ben, Johnny, Lyja, and Franklin, who is now in his late teens thanks to time traveling — to Dr. Doom’s castle. They take off in their borrowed Avengers Quinjet, fighting their way through Latveria’s air force while Sue explains she believes Dr. Doom and Reed merely teleported away somewhere.

The FF arrive at the castle, fighting their way through wave after wave of Doombots, Sue all the while refusing to believe that Reed is dead. Johnny asks Franklin why he didn’t warn the team about any of this, and Franklin swears he didn’t know. In his thoughts, Franklin is troubled that history isn’t happening the way he was taught. The team makes their way to Doom’s matter transference pad, where they swipe the computer that stores all the data of who was transported where. After they escape, Nathaniel Richards, Reed’s time-and-dimension-traveling father, teleports into the castle and reprograms all the Doombots to call him “Master.”

Returning to New York, Sue is in full-on rage mode, chewing out Franklin because she still thinks he’s a fraud and not the real Franklin. Elsewhere inside headquarters, Lyja doubles over in pain, revealing that she needs a special medicine called Lacaroo. If she doesn’t have it, the baby she’s carrying will die.

Also inside headquarters, Huntara appears through another portal, and attacks Franklin, calling him “Psi-Lord” for the first time. They have a very confusing fight. She accused Nathanial Richards of being a traitor, and Franklin denies it. Huntara then says Franklin must not stand in the way of the “four who must be destroyed,” while Franklin says he won’t let her harm his family. Huntara says she and Franklin have a bond, and that she wants him to return with her to “Elsewhen.” Franklin refuses saying he not a pawn of the “great enemy” who wishes to enslave the human race. Huntara says the enemy is close. She opens another portal and they both disappear.

The rest of the FF hear the sound of the fight and rush to help, only for the hallway they’re in to be filled with sleeping gas, strong enough to knock everyone out. Paibok and Devos emerge from hiding and teleport everyone away. Klaw stays behind, with plans for the still-asleep Sharon.

Paibok and Devos travel to the Skrull Throneworld, where Paibok is welcomed as a hero after his defeat of the FF. Our heroes are awakened, and paraded down a Skrull street in chains. While Paibok and Devos celebrate their win, Devos reminds everyone that his goal is exterminate any species capable of war, which includes the Skrulls. Now that he’s made it to the inside of the Throneworld, he sends word to his fleet to destroy the planet. The attack begins immediately, raining destruction down on the city. The FF duck cover, with Sue saying, “We’ll show this world what it means to challenge the Fantastic Four!”

To be continued!

Fade out: I don’t think Sue has ever been angrier than she is in this issue. Nonetheless, she is able to recognize the similarities between Doom’s lab and Reed’s, and can tell that

Clobberin’ time: The sleep gas takes a lot longer to work on Ben than it does on all the others. He almost reaches a ventilation unit before passing out at the last second.

Flame on: Johnny destroys the Latverian plans in a similar manner as he did the Air Force jets way back in issue #1, so much so that it has to be an intentional callout. The enemy pilots follow G.I. Joe rules by parachuting to safety after their planes blow up.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Klaw abducting Sharon was originally meant to lead into Fantastic Four Unlimited #5, except that was published before this while referencing events after. The official explanation is that everyone’s memories were erased at the end of the Unlimited issue, so Klaw is unknowingly abducting Sharon a second time.

Four and a half: Franklin finally gets his new codename, Psi-Lord (better that than Tattletale). Also, it’s revealed that he secretly has “hound” tattoos on his face, which he’s hiding via mental telepathy. In the Days of Future Past alternate future, hounds were mutant telepaths used by evil humans to hunt other mutants. Rachel Summers of the X-Men was famously a hound, but I believe this is the first we’ve seen of future Franklin also being one.

The Alicia problem: During the drama over Lyja’s pregnancy, Johnny remembers that Reed once said humans and Skrulls may not be able to reproduce, clumsily adding, “Funny I should remember that now!”

Commercial break: Milton Bradley purchased not just two but three whole pages’ worth of advertisement to promote this Battle Masters game. Have any of you played it? Was it worth it?

Trivia time: The Marvel wiki insists that the Skrull Throneworld is the same world as the planet Satriani, seen in Silver Surfer #31, in which the Empress S’Byll took over leadership of the Skrull Empire.

Fantastic or frightful? It’s incredulous how dismissive this issue is about Reed’s death, with the creators all but saying “Yeah, we all know he’s coming back.” If this is the attitude, then better not kill a main character at all. On the plus side, the story picks up nicely in the second half of this issue, with Devos’ betrayal and attack feeling appropriately big and dramatic.

Next: With Malice for all.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 26

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! We’re officially halfway through the movie! 1:02:44 to 1:05:17 on the Blu-ray.

There’s a George Lucas wipe from the previous scene, and we’re back to an establishing shot of the fishing village. Then we see Willow holding baby Elora Danan with Fin Raziel, in possum form, on Willow’s shoulder. Raziel says, “It is Elora Danan. Isn’t she beautiful?” In the Willow novelization and graphic novel, Raziel adds “At last, earth and sky rejoin.” This baffling line was wisely cut from the movie, because it doesn’t coincide with what we know of the prophecy about Elora Danan. Maybe it’s just a common expression in this world. Instead, the movie just has Raziel say “Isn’t she beautiful?” a second time.

Then it’s time for comic relief with the Brownies. Rool says, “That’s Raziel?” Franjean says, “I don’t know. I expected something more grand. Less…” And Rool concludes, “Fuzzy?” The question here is, why didn’t Cherlindrea inform the Brownies that Raziel had been transformed into a possum? Did Cherlindrea not know, because she cannot leave her forest? Or did Cherlindrea assume that was not pertinent information?

Raziel says to Willow, “You must use the wand. Turn me back into my human form.” Willow asks, “What do I do?” There’s a pause, and Raziel says, “You mean you’re not a sorcerer?” There’s another pause, and Willow says “Yes. Sort of. I’m a farmer.” The Brownies roll their eyes and throw their spears to the ground in an I-give-up gesture. Have those two really been thinking Willow is a powerful sorcerer this whole time?

Willow continues, “But I do know a few tricks.” Raziel’s next line is nearly impossible to understand. According to the Blu-ray’s subtitles, she’s saying, “Tricks? Cherlindrea sent you? You must learn real magic.” The tie-in books skip over how Raziel and Cherlindrea know each other. In the books, Raziel’s teacher was a sorcerer named Vulsant. Although Vulsant was somehow bewitched by Bavmorda when she overthrew Tir Asleen, he died of natural causes. As for Raziel, we can probably assume that young Raziel traveled the world while learning magic when she was younger, meeting Cherlindrea along the way.

A horse is heard in the distance, and the Brownies both cry out, “Horses!” Does their size mean they can sense the horses’ hoofbeats approaching before the others can? Willow picks up the baby and is about to make a run for it, with Raziel saying “Quick! Take her! Hurry! Hurry!” They’re not quick enough, though, because a bunch of NockMaar soldiers ride up. They have a still-shirtless Madmartigan riding alongside them. Franjean points at Madmartigan and says, “I knew he was a traitor.” He yells the word “traitor” for emphasis.

Madmartigan coldly and flatly says, “Sorry about this, Peck.” The NockMaar soldier next to him says, “Keep your mouth shut,” and then punches Madmartigan so hard that Madmartigan falls off his horse. This NockMaar is a red beard, which has occasionally confused some first-time viewers into thinking this is Airk from earlier, but no, Airk won’t pop up again until later. The NockMaar says “I told you we’d find them without your help,” revealing that Madmartigan didn’t betray Willow.

Willow tries to run, but the NockMaar, now very quickly off his horse, runs up to him and says “Give me baby.” Willow cries “No!” and tries to get away. There’s a shot of Madmartigan looking concerned, and then the NockMaar succeeds in forcing the baby out of Willow’s arms. A second NockMaar chases after Raziel, grabbing her by the tail. She cries, “Leave me alone! Don’t touch me!” You’d think that if she hadn’t spoken, maybe the soldiers would have let her go, mistaking her for an ordinary possum. Or perhaps Bavmorda filled them in, telling them to capture both the baby and the possum.

Then Sorsha rides up. While the baby cries, she and another soldier check the baby’s arm. “This is the one we’re looking for,” she says. “We must take it back to NockMaar.” Then we see the solider who caught Raziel stuff her into a sack. This is followed by another shot of Madmartigan, still on the ground, looking really angry. Sorsha has a nicely menacing moment when she leans over and says to Madmartigan, “Lose your skirt?” Madmartigan slowly stands and walks over to her, eventually coming back with “I still got what counts.” Sorsha has an even better comeback, “Not for long.” Then we get the famous bit where she kicks him right in the face. Notice that she has to take a few seconds to shift her weight somewhat in order to pull off the kick while on horseback, but it’s still a sweet kick.

Madmartigan is knocked back, but stays on his feet. He and Sorsha glare at each other for a moment, and then she says to the other soldiers, “Bring him.” A soldier grabs hold of Madmartigan and pushes him along. Another soldier grabs hold of Willow and forces him along as well, saying “Over here!” Why are the soldiers taking Madmartigan and Willow captive instead of just killing them? The text doesn’t say. Perhaps Bavmorda wishes to question them about what they learned about Elora Danan.

There’s a shot of the soldiers riding off, only for the camera to pan downward to reveal the Brownies running up, having been left behind. Out of breath, Rool says, “We’ll never keep up with those horses.” Franjean, still acting like the leader, says, “Then we will have to track them.” Rool says “That would take forever. Besides, even if we find them, they’ll catch us, stick us in cages, torture us, and finally devour us.” Franjean says, “Are you suggesting we go home?” Rool is quick to answer, “Nah. This is more fun.” With a big smile, Franjean says, “All right, fine then. Come on.” They walk off in the direction of the horses. Not only is this a nutty joke to end the scene, but it’s consistent with what we know about the Brownies from the tie-in books. Because they live for hundreds of years, they get into mischief, often dangerously, simply to prevent boredom. What’s more of an unknown, however, is Rool’s belief that they will be devoured. We know the Daikini consider the Brownies to be like vermin, but are they really eating the Brownies? Or is Rool merely exaggerating? Let’s not find out.

Next: “It wasn’t always like this. I had a life once. A job.”

****

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Fantastic Friday: Dead again once more

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The previous issue promised “Someone will die!” And yes, a main character bites it in issue #381, so why isn’t this mentioned among historically important storylines? Let’s find out.

Ben, mistakenly thinking that Sharon Ventura is dead and blaming Dr. Doom for it, attacked Doom’s castle while Doom was fighting with a cosmic being known only as the Hunger. There was an explosion inside the castle, and our heroes fear that Ben is dead. We begin with several pages of the FF — Reed, Sue, Johnny, Franklin, and Lyja — fight Doom’s robots outside the castle wreckage. During the fight, we also catch up on subplots. Franklin is now in his late teens after some time traveling, and Sue remains skeptical that he’s not the real Franklin. Johnny continues to have mixed feelings about Lyja still being around.

Ben and Dr. Doom emerge from the rubble, still alive. Reed offers a hand to help Doom, but Doom refuses. Doom returns to the non-exploded half of the castle, just leaving the FF there, while Ben explains that the Hunger is still out there. Cut to the forest outside the castle, where we see the Hunger take on a new form, of a golden-skinned gargoyle/bat type of monster, complete with purple underpants. In his lab, Doom returns to his plan to steal the Hunger’s cosmic power.

Cut to a nearby village, for a weird scene in which a father scolds his child for frowning in public, saying that it is the law in Latveria for everyone to appear happy and content in public or else face swift and violent punishment. They come across Reed in the village square, telling everyone to evacuate. The Latverians don’t believe him, thinking that this is a plot by Dr. Doom to test their loyalty. Everyone then scatters as the Hunger attacks, and the FF fight the Hunger for several pages.

The fight is interrupted by a Latverian pilot aboard a “hover-fighter,” who chases the Hunger off with “particle bursts.” The pilot offers to take the FF back to the castle, and Reed accepts. In Doom’s lab, Doom shows off a matter transference pad, which he says will teleport the Hunger away from Earth. Reed believes this, and he gets to work helping Doom with the machine. In his thoughts, however, Doom lets the reader know that the real purpose of the machine is to steal the Hunger’s power.

Back to the fight, Reed attacks the Hunger with a cable attached to Doom’s device. This causes an explosion that knocks out Reed and Sue, while also killing a bunch of Doom’s henchmen. Doom uses a battery pack containing the last of the cosmic power he stole from Aron the Watcher a few issues back, Doom fights Hunger some more. Doom beats the Hunger down, and it looks like he’s one, but the Hunger fights back some more, frying Doom inside his armor. It’s only then that Doom use the matter  transference device to beam the hunger into deep space.

Reed approaches Doom, who is now battered and beaten, to offer help. Doom says he cannot die knowing that Reed still lives. As Reed offers a helping hand, Doom takes it, only for them both to explode in a burst of light, leaving behind nothing but ashes.

Unstable molecule: You’re no doubt predicting that Reed and Dr. Doom aren’t really dead. You’re right of course, but in interviews and press materials at the time, the folks at Marvel were once again playing the “this time it’s permanent” game. Oh, Marvel.

Fade out: Sue’s Malice persona makes a brief reappearance, showing admiration for Dr. Doom’s ambition to rule the entire world.

Clobberin’ time: During the fight, Ben admits that he’s been feeling a lot of fear because of the scars on his face making him vulnerable, but then he buckles up promises not to be afraid anymore.

Flame on: Johnny continues to have mixed feelings about Lyja still hanging around. He calls her “sweetheart” at one point. When she asks if that’s genuine or sarcastic, he doesn’t answer.

Four and a half: Franklin once again dons his “Psilord” armor (still not spelled with a hyphen) during the fight.

The Alicia problem: Lyja uses her “laser-fist” powers during the fight, as well as transforming into a bird-like creature to help Johnny at one point.

Commercial break: They actually put this on prime time:

Trivia time: Confused about the geography of this issue, between the castle, the capitol city, the forest, and the small village. The Marvel wiki isn’t much help, but does list some notable Latverian tourist spots, including Doom Falls and the Cynthia Von Doom Memorial Park.

Fantastic or frightful? Here they’re killing off two of comicdom’s biggest characters, but it comes off as more of the same-old, same old. Also, as a cosmic being, the Hunger should be a Galactus-level threat, but instead is just a random monster for the heroes to punch for several pages. So, this issue isn’t bad, it just gets a shrug.

Next: Devos-tating.

****

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