DuckTales rewatch – Dime Enough for Luck

Rewatching DuckTales! A major character in the Disney duck mythology finally makes his presence known in the series, in episode 55, “Dime Enough for Luck.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge is spending a leisurely brunch with a relative, Gladstone Gander. Gladstone claims he always has good luck everywhere he goes. He asks for Scrooge with help paying his rent, and Scrooge refuses. Scrooge is also preoccupied because he’s heard Magica De Spell is in town, and he fears she’ll come after his money. Magica is nearby, eavesdropping on them. Scrooge says he’s recently implemented a bunch of new security traps to keep Magica out, but he’ll let Gander inside to take a, well, gander at the source of Scrooge’s own luck – his number one dime.

Later, Magica contacts Gladstone, tricking him into thinking he’s won a contest. (He wins contests everywhere he goes.) She mesmerizes him into doing her evil bidding. Using his luck, Gladstone bumbles his way through all of Scrooge’s traps inside the Money Bin, allowing Magica to swoop in and steal the number one dime. She tells him that he’s lost his luck because he used it for a wicked purpose.

The next day (no word on how Gladstone got back out of the Money Bin), Gladstone discovers he has indeed lost his luck, as misfortune follows him during his day. Scrooge, meanwhile, is also having bad luck, with his many businesses suffering calamities. Gladstone shows up Scrooge’s house and they compare notes. Scrooge insists that Gladstone make up for what he’s done by recovering the dime. They hop on a plane and fly to Magica’s island fortress.

Scrooge and Gladstone make their way through the caverns in Magica’s island, fighting off a fire breathing rabbit (!) and other death traps. Scrooge and Gladstone confront Magica. Scrooge distracts Magica while Gladstone recovers the dime. Now Magica is the one with bad luck, as he spells backfire on her. Back home, Gladstone almost rethinks his reliance on his good luck, only to win tickets to a worldwide cruise out of nowhere. He offers to buy Scrooge breakfast.  

Glad to be here: Gladstone Gander was a main character in the duck comics that inspired DuckTales, but his appearances in the show are few. His comics history emphasizes his unnatural good luck, but he was also something of a rival for Donald, often succeeding where Donald failed and even putting the moves on Daisy Duck. I’m unclear on how he is related to Scrooge. Some sources say he’s a distant cousin, but others say that Scrooge is Gladstone great uncle-in-law. He refers to Scrooge as “Uncle” throughout this episode.

Humbug: To travel to Magica’s island, Scrooge flies the plane himself, without needing Launchpad.

Down in Duckburg: In the past, we’ve seen Scrooge keep the number one dime in its display case in his mansion. In this episode, though, the dime and display case are now inside the Money Bin with the rest of the money. I assume Scrooge moved it there after he heard Magica was in town.

Foul fowls: Magica has filled her island with death traps similar to Scrooge’s security traps, suggesting that the two of them are more similar than we thought.

Reference row: In his mesmerized state, Gladstone hallucinates that he’s on a game show hosted by Bill Barker. This is clearly a spoof of Bob Barker, celebrity host of The Price is Right.

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Thoughts upon this viewing: Introducing Gladstone Gander to the series is a nice tip of the hat to Disney history. It’s too bad the show’s creators didn’t use him more, because he brings a fun, quirky energy to this episode.

Next: Iron Duck.

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Fantastic Friday: Let’s all get molecular

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Like all stories about corporate espionage, vol. 3 #66 legacy #495 ends with a giant blog and giant bugs.

In the previous issue, Johnny, in his new role as the FF’s chief financial officer, uncovered industrial espionage involving the team’s unstable molecule tech. But when a rival businessman swiped some unstable molecule fabric, he put in a lab, where the fabric became even more unstable, growing wildly out of control. As the issue begins, Johnny provides a little more explanation, saying the molecules are adapting to anything they touch, rapidly transforming them molecule-by-molecule. Johnny, his assistant Jian, and rival businessman Suarti escape Suarti’s building, which is rabidly being consumed by blob-like molecules.

Back at the new Baxter Building, Reed and a partially-shrunken Ben continue to fight the giant insect that followed the team home from an adventure in another dimension. Reed aims his shrinking machine at the insect, only for it short out at the last minute. Reed finds Sue driving along a country road (where is she?). He gives Jian Sue’s car and flies off with Sue. Then we’re back with Reed and Ben, where Reed reconfigures the shrinking ray to the opposite, growing Ben to gigantic size. With his new size comes new strength, and he punches out the insect.

At Suarti’s building, Johnny wants to Sue to surround the building with a force field. She says she’s not able to do a force field that big (what’s not mentioned is how she once surrounded all of Manhattan in force field). They briefly bicker about this being his fault with how he ran the FF’s business, and he argues that she’s the one who should have known better. He tells her she’s the one who needs to be responsible, so she tries the force field, sealing the entire building.

At HQ, Ben sends the insect back through a portal, to its home dimension. Reed gets a call from Johnny, and rushes off to get the unstable molecules under control. This leaves Ben stuck in the room in his giant state. He tries using the shrinking machine to get himself back to normal size, only to shrink himself all teeny-tiny.

Later, Sue does some damage control at the FF office, finding a comprehensive business plan written by Johnny and Jian. She says it’s filled with good ideas. She promotes Jian with a raise, and says she’ll keep Johnny on as financial manager on a provisional basis. Johnny says he can do the job, stating “I’m not always fourteen.” Sue says the job has some perks, as she puts Johnny on the phone with Ben as Ben asks for an increase in his allowance.

Unstable molecule: The insect manages to bite Reed in the arm, injuring him. This is a rare instance of his stretchy powers not able to block something sharp from hurting him.

Fade out: I don’t recall seeing this blue convertible sports car of Sue’s. She did have a cool car during Heroes Reborn, though, so maybe this is her retaining some memories from her time in that other universe.

Clobberin’ time: If Ben owns 25 percent of Fantastic Four Inc., then why does he have to come to them asking for an allowance? Maybe he’s the one who needs help with money management, not Johnny.

Flame on: Johnny’s assistant/coworker Jian will later return in the 2003 Human Torch solo series, where it’s suggested that she and Johnny have a bit of a romance brewing. Her only other appearance will be in issue #525, which briefly revisits Johnny’s businessman subplot.

Commercial break: Cereal should not be lime green.

Trivia time: This is the final appearance of businessman Jacob Suarti, as well as industrial saboteurs Ethan and Christi. This issue’s wrap-up reveals that Ethan and Chrisi were fired, and Suarti is off to prison. While the Marvel wiki identifies the alien insect as a “Leviote,” it has no entry in the wiki.

Fantastic or frightful? I’m not sure that I get the moral here. Sue wanted Johnny to learn responsibility, but she’s the one who really needs to learn responsibility? When has she ever been irresponsible? All the plot threads get wrapped up in a nice bow, and there’s some fun bits along the way, however, so I guess it’s all good.

Next: Skin job.

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Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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DuckTales rewatch – Launchpad’s First Crash

Rewatching DuckTales! The show is usually not much for continuity, but in episode 54 we get an origin story in “Launchpad’s First Crash.”

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Here’s what happens: While flying a shipment of dynamite cross country, Launchpad and Scrooge crash land in the desert. Launchpad announces that this is their 100th crash together. Around the campfire, they reminisce about their first meeting. Young Scrooge hired Young Launchpad for a dangerous rainforest expedition, thanks to Launchpad’s fearlessness and cheapness. The adventure has them flying through the Earth’s core (!) and then captured by a tribe of all-female Amazons. The Amazons use Scrooge and Launchpad as bait to capture a giant crab monster, and then put them to work as their servants.

Launchpad and Scrooge attempt an escape, facing another monster and an Amazon warrior along the way. They crash land near an all-male tribe, and are then attacked by giant bats in a cave. Launchpad drives off the bats with his harmonica. Scrooge finds a treasure trove of diamonds inside the cave, only to cause a cave in that buries everyone in the diamonds.

Launchpad escapes the cave-in, and reunites the two tribes to rescue Scrooge and the warrior.  After more running around, Scrooge and the warrior are saved and the two tribes have peace. Scrooge and Launchpad fly through the Earth’s core again (!), except that Scrooge has to dump all the diamonds to get home. Back in the present, Scrooge thanks Launchpad for his willingness to always fly into the impossible.

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Humbug: My thesis is that the series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning that his family and friends are more important than his money. But this is young Scrooge, who’s less miserly and more cavalier. In the frame story, he shows appreciation for everything Launchpad does, rather than insult him every time they crash.

Fasten your seatbelts: Young Launchpad is also an engineer, having built his plane from scratch. The episode ends with it in a museum, honored as the first airplane to fly through the Earth’s core.

Fowl fouls: While the Amazons seem villainous at first, they’re shown to be sympathetic later on. I guess that means the bats are this episode’s antagonist.

Reference row: The premise of transporting cargo of unstable explosives through treacherous terrain has been done lots of times, popularized mostly thanks to the 1953 thriller Wages of Fear.

See the source image

Thoughts upon this viewing: This is how Launchpad and Scrooge first met, but that meeting was pretty basic. It’s all a setup for the jungle adventure, which is a lot of chases and escapes, but little character development.

Next: Glad to be here.

* * * *

Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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DuckTales rewatch – Jungle Duck

Rewatching DuckTales! Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games… and episode 53, “Jungle Duck.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge and company travel to “Bongo Country” in search of a giant silver statue and, hopefully, an adjacent silver mine. Along they way, Mrs. Beakeley tells Huey, Dewey, and Louie the story of young Prince Greydrake, a child she once nannied, whose plane was lost over this very jungle. After another Launchpad crash landing, the crew hires a local, Captain Fargo, to take them up river in his boat. But when Fargo learns that the gang is seeking the silver statue, he gives them the boat and takes off running.

Everyone heads into the jungle, and then sets up camp for the night. Everyone’s spooked by Fargo’s tales of a “jungle phantom.” Mrs. Beakeley stays up for the first watch. A mysterious figure swoops out of the darkness and carries her away. She wakes the next morning in a treehouse, only to menaced by a lion. She’s rescued by a musclebound jungle man. Scrooge and the others, meanwhile, are captured by non-culturally sensitive natives.

Mrs. Beakeley befriends the jungle man, and it’s soon revealed that he’s the long-lost Prince Greydrake, and he remembers her as his former nanny. The natives are about to toss Scrooge and the rest into boiling oil, when Greydrake rescues them by summoning an elephant stampede. Greydrake then takes scrooge to the silver buzzard statue, only for it not be silver, but the plane that originally brought Greydrake to the jungle. If the gang can get Greydrake back to his home country before his next birthday in a few days, he can be crowned king. But Greydrake doesn’t want to leave. It’s a race against time to get the plane up and running, and then the stakes are raised when the natives return and attack.

Back in Greydrake’s unidentified home country, Greydrake confronts his evil uncle minutes before the uncle is crowned. Greydrake’s distinctive birthmark identifies him as the lost prince, and the uncle lets it slip that he sabotaged the young prince’s plane to go down in the jungle. Greydrake becomes king, Scrooge gets paid a handsome reward, and we have no idea how this country will function with a jungle man on the throne.

Humbug: The subplot in this one is Scrooge angry at Launchpad for crashing at the start of the episode, saying that Launchpad will never fly Scrooge anywhere again. At the end, Scrooge halfheartedly apologizes when he needs Launchpad’s help to fly out of the jungle.

Junior woodchucks: Huey, Dewey and Louie’s subplot is that Mrs. Beakeley teaches them to juggle, which they then use to distract Greydrake’s uncle at the coronation. Not much of a subplot, but it’s something.

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad gets to show off his smarts by identifying the crashed plane in the jungle, and then getting it flying condition again.

Maid and maiden: Before she came to work for Scrooge, Mrs. Beakeley was a nanny for this unnamed country’s royal family. Her juggling expertise is maybe a suggestion that she was also once a performer or entertainer of some sort.

Fowl fouls: We spend about a minute with Greydrake’s uncle, but he’s certainly villainous. He threatens to throw the boys into a dungeon when they interrupt the coronation. The less said about the natives the better.

vReference row: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel Tarzan of the Apes was first published in 1912, serialized in All-Story Magazine. The character went on to be one of the most well-known pulp heroes in history, even with all his problematic aspects. Disney did their own take on Tarzan in 1999.

Thoughts upon this viewing: By this point in the series, the animation was being farmed out to, let’s say, lesser animators, so the show has developed a flat look. Combine that with a pretty slim and predictable plot, and this episode is pretty skippable.

Next: Crash course.

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Fantastic Friday: Fun and profit

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3 #65 legacy 494, artist Mark Buckingham fills in for the first of two issues, as we continue to deep dive into the FF’s finances.

To teach Johnny some responsibility, Sue has named him to new chief financial officer of Fantastic Four, Inc. Johnny works out a deal to license the FF’s unstable molecule technology to a rich businessman named Suarti, while two executives, Ethan and Christi, plot to make Johnny look bad for their own gain. This issue begins with some hijinks where Ben discovers a giant insect in the new Baxter Building’s kitchen. He chases it around for a bit before it disappears. Reed reminds Ben that the team recently traveled to a “Leviaverse,” where they battled some insectoid creatures. One followed them home, and is now hiding somewhere in the building.

Then there’s more comedy with Johnny and his assistant Jian stuck in traffic while on their way to meet Suarti. He uses a FF universal parking badge to park illegally and then flies himself and Jian to the meeting. Later, Sue learns that Johnny licensed the unstable molecules, and she is upset. Christi lies and says she and Ethan tried to stop Johnny, but Johnny wouldn’t have it. This scene also states that Reed went ahead and gave Johnny the unstable molecules for the deal. This isn’t really followed up on, because Reed is hard at work tracking the alien insect. Reed says the insect can’t be detected by sensors, so he sends Ben into the building’s ventilation system to hunt for it. To get into the ventilation, Reed uses a shrink ray to shrink Ben down to what looks like child-size.

Johnny meets with Suarti, showing off fabric made from unstable molecules. Johnny says the FF will not disclose how the molecules are made, but they will “encode” them for Suarti’s use. Johnny further says that the molecules are only to sold to police and firefighters, and that the good PR will result in big profit. Ethan and Christi prepare to call Sue to rat out Johnny, while Suarti takes the unstable molecule fabric to a high-tech lab with orders to reverse engineer it.

At HQ, Ben finds the insect in the ventilation system. They fight, but Ben finds that his strength is lessened when he shrunk, giving the insect the advantage in the fight. In Suarti’s lab, a scientist uses an electron microscope to zoom in on the unstable molecules, only find the words “If you can read this, you have just violated our contracted,” written on individual particles. The fabric transforms into a big green blob that wraps up Suarti. Johnny shows back up, with Christi and Ethan trapped in his flames. Johnny explains that Reed programmed with unstable molecules to react defensively if excessively probed. He also says he’s known all along about Christ and Ethan’s machinations. He says, “You think you’re masters of subterfuge? I deal with Skrulls. A little credit here.”

Then more exposition as Johnny says producing unstable molecules for mass market use would be too expensive. Also, he says if they are ever fully unlocked, it could be dangerous. Then a scientist bursts from the lab in a panic. Energy from the fabric has expanded, and the entire lab is now all green and goopy, including another scientist. Johnny says that once unlocked, the molecules begin a chain reaction, and now the instability is spreading.

To be continued!

Wait, there’s more: This time we have a four-page preview of Avengers #65. The town of Keystone, South Dakota is being evacuated in a biohazard emergency. Captain America and the Vision manage to rescue a little boy, but they weren’t there in time to save the kid’s mother.

Unstable molecule: Reed states that the mysterious nightmare attack on Franklin and Valeria in issue #61 remains unexplained. For readers, this confirms that it was not Modulus’ doing, but something we haven’t yet encountered.

Fade out: Sue is furious when she learns about Johnny causing a stir within the family business, but then Reed is quick to remind her that the whole thing was her idea.

Clobberin’ time: Why does Ben lose strength when he shrinks? According to our old friend The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition, when you shrink, your excess mass is temporarily shunted into a non-Einsteinian parallel universe where it is temporarily stored safely until you return to normal size. Makes perfect sense.

Flame on: Look closely, and you can see that Johnny’s universal parking pass was signed by then-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Does a city mayor even have authority over parking?

Commercial break: Anybody out there actually play this?

Trivia time: This insect creature is the same one seen hitching a ride with the FF after their fight with the Datavore in issue #60.

The Marvel Wiki insists that the shrinking machine is the same one from way back in issue #10. I suppose this is yet another of the FF’s personal keepsakes that the Watcher saved for them after destruction of the original Baxter Building.

That Avengers issue was the first part of the epic “Red Zone” storyline. This one in particular is about the U.S. Military trying to keep out of the area of the bio-attack, only for the Avengers to don special hazmat suits and investigate on their own. It’ll later be revealed that the attack was secretly started from within by a US agent named Dell Rusk. Even later, it’s revealed that Rusk is the Red Skull in disguise. The story eventually ends with the Avengers defeating the Red Skull while Iron Man and Wakandan scientists neutralize the bioweapon.

Fantastic or frightful? This is pretty simplistic for a corporate espionage story, but I do like that Johnny isn’t dimwitted, but instead comes out on top. Writer Mark Waid wanted his Fantastic Four stories to be character-focused, and that’s what we get here.

Next: Goop lab.

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Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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Fantastic Friday: Mathemagic

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The “Sentient” storyline concludes in vol. 3 #64 legacy 493, for more math-lecture-gone-wrong action.

Reed invented a new type of PDA with unlimited computing power, thanks to it being tied to an alternate universe. This inadvertently created Modulus, an electrochemical being that is Reed’s mathematics come to life. To stop Modulus, Reed has entered that alternate dimension to find the equation to… himself. As this issue begins, Johnny and Ben stay behind to fight Modulus. Ben appears to retreat, but it’s all strategy to create more distance between Modulus and Reed.

In the other universe, Reed is at work creating a mathematically perfect copy of himself. Sue wants to take Franklin and Valeria away from the Baxter Building for safety, but Modulus has trapped them in there. He has hacked the FF’s communicators to control all their tech. Out in the street, Ben and Johnny lead Modulus into an abandoned building, which Johnny calls “the one piece of Manhattan real estate without a Starbucks.” Modulus uses his ability to separate objects into their basic components, and brings the entire structure down on them. Johnny is knocked unconscious, and it takes all of Ben’s strength to keep the rubble from crushing them both.

At HQ, Sue tries to use the FF’s transporter to send Franklin and Valeria to the moon for safety (remember the Inhumans are living on the moon again). Modulus attacks, destroying the transporter. Modulus knocks out Sue and chases Franklin into Reed’s lab. Modulus encounters Reed, and proclaims that he and Reed are a sum of one. But then we see that “Reed” is the simulation of Reed that the real Reed created in the other universe. Reed says Modulus and the simulation are equals. Reed and Modulus fight, trashing the lab. Reed says that he will always be one greater than Modulus, because Modulus cannot subtract or divide Reed’s love for his family. Modulus calms down, and connects with the simulation. They both disappear into the PDA, which Reed then shuts off.

Later, Reed’s lab will have to be rebuilt, but Sue’s injured hand is still able to be returned to normal. Reed and Franklin have gone off alone, with Johnny worrying that Reed is punishing Franklin for messing the PDA. Instead, we see Franklin teaching Reed how to a play a Magic: The Gathering-style card game.  The logical Reed is baffled by the game’s fantasy-themed rules, but as Franklin explains it to him, Reed says, “You’re a good teacher.”

Wait, there’s more: In a three-page preview of Incredible Hulk #50, the Abomination is kept imprisoned in a secret underground bunker. A mysterious woman offers the Abomination freedom if he can defeat the Hulk once and for all.

Unstable molecule: When trying to create a simulation of himself, Reed asks Sue whether he can carry a tune. She assures him he cannot.

Fade out: Modulus is able to knock Sue unconscious by forcing its hand through her force field. This follows up on her feeling psychic feedback from her force fields being struck a few issues earlier.

Clobberin’ time: This issue’s letters page has a follow-ups to issue #61. A letter writer expresses concern about Ben rampaging through New York so soon after Sept. 11, 2001. Assistant Editor Mark Sumerak states that off-panel, Ben went back and paid for all damages, and then served voluntary community service to further make up for what he’d done.

Flame on: The letters page also addresses issue #61’s revelation that Johnny was the one really behind all of the Yancy Street Gang’s pranks on Ben over the years. Sumerak dials back on that, stating that only some of the pranks were from Johnny, and that the real YSG will still be on hand to pester Ben in the future.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Crystal gets mentioned as still living on the moon with the rest of the Inhumans, and still acting as the kids’ babysitter on occasion.

Four and a half: Items in Franklin’s room this time around include posters of Captain America and the Vision, some baseball paraphernalia, and both an action figure and poster of Ben.

Our gal Val: Modulus ignores Valeria in its pursuit of Franklin, but the baby watches it fly over her with great interest. This perhaps suggests where they’ll take her character in the future.

Commercial break: “But Ratchet, the nice man on the television said to, ‘stay tuned.’”

Trivia time: This three-issue arc is the only appearance of Modulus. That’s too bad, as I can see him going up against some of Marvel’s other science-genius heroes, like Iron Man, Amadeus Cho, or even Spidey.  

This issue’s letters page credits writer Gail Simone for the “notion” of this story. Make of that what you will.

What’s going on in Incredible Hulk #50? Bruce Banner, in full The Fugitive mode, is seduced by the sinister Nadia Dornova, long-lost wife of the Abomination. The mystery woman in the underground base is Agent S-3, who uses footage of Nadia and Bruce to enrage the Abomination and convince him to fight the hulk. The big fight doesn’t happen until issue #55, and it’s not until issue #62 that agent S-2 is revealed to be Bruce’s first love, Betty Brant, back from the dead.

Fantastic or frightful? The storyline ends just as the previous issue promised us it would end, with no additional twists or surprises. This leaves me with the thought that, despite everything that happens, this whole thing is just another day at the office for our heroes.

Next: Fun and profit.

* * * *

Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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Fantastic Friday: Modular living

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 #63 legacy #492 continues the “Sentient” storyline. Do you like math? Because this issue sure does.

Recap: Reed invented a new high-tech PDA for his personal use. When Ben and Sue went to the movies together (!) they were attacked by a strange being covered with mathematic symbols just like the ones on the PDA. The creature has the power to separate objects into their basic chemical components. It does this to Sue and Ben, injuring her hand and his rocky hide.

We begin with an expository speech from the creature, who introduces itself as the Modulus. It says it is the living result of all of Reed’s ideas, thoughts, and reflections. “I alone am worthy of his love,” it says, adding that anything not worth of Reed must be subtracted. Ben, still covered head to toe in Sue’s force field, punches Modulus, sending it flying back into an FF communicator. The punch hurts Sue, as she can sense feedback from the force field. Sue and Ben retreat back to the new Baxter Building.

Elsewhere, Johnny is still acting as the new chief financial officer for Fantastic Four Inc. He attends a rooftop pool party hosted by fashion impresario Jacob Suarti. Two other FF Inc. executives, Christi and Ethan, plot to sabotage the negotiations to make Johnny look bad, with them saving the day at the last minute. Suarti wants access to the unstable molecules that make up the FF’s uniforms, saying they’d be of great use in the fashion industry. Johnny is hesitant, saying instead to make the unstable fabric available for use for police and firefighters. Ethan argues that Johnny shouldn’t have this much power. This plays into Johnny’s ego, and he signs the contract for Suarti. Ethan and Christi give each other a secretive thumbs up.

Then Modulus emerges from Johnny’s FF communicator and attacks. As it fights Johnny, it analyzes the water in the pool and finds hydrogen. It divides the hydrogen, which causes a huge explosion atop the building.

At HQ, Reed is hard at work healing Ben and Sue’s injuries. Sue explains that Modulus looks just the image on Reed’s new PDA. Reed explains that the PDA’s hard drive is subspatially linked to a electrochemical alternate universe devoid of life. Except now, something sentient in that dimension is forming from the data. Reed says the chance of this happening is small unless someone else tampered with the PDA. They suspect Johnny. But then, Franklin, who was eavesdropping on all this, admits that he did the tampering. He hoped the PDA would make him smarter, so that Reed and Sue would pay as much attention to him as they do the baby.

Before this issue can be resolved, Johnny comes crashing through the window. He’s gone blind (!) and he warns the others that Modulus is coming. Franklin gets Johnny to safety as the others leap into action. Modulus is just outside the building, separating the components of cars and part of a wall. Reed tries to appeal to Modulus’ sense of logic. Modulus says, “I am the total of your essence, and you are the solution to my loneliness.” Modulus attaches itself to Reed’s head for a moment, but they are separated by Johnny, who returns to the fight with his sight back. Modulus cuts off the oxygen for Sue, Ben, and Johnny in his attempt to divide Reed from his family.

Reed examines Modulus and declares, “I’ve got your number.” He tells Ben and Johnny to hold Modulus as long as they can, while he and Sue return to his lab. Reed says Modulus is not a living equation, but a living expression. The difference, he says, is that there is no equal sign anywhere on the mathematics all over Modulus’ image. With the press of a button, Reed’s PDA grows to the size of a door, allowing him to enter the other dimension. Reed says that in order to stop Modulus, he’s going to have to determine a specific mathematic formula – the formula that defines him, Reed Richards.

To be continued!

Wait, there’s more. This issue also has a three-page preview of Uncanny X-Men #416. Nightcrawler, Angel, and Stacy X are flying across country while Nightcrawler and Stacy discuss Angel’s tragic love life. Then it cuts to Juggernaut and his sidekick Sammy, as they visit Juggernaut’s childhood home. Juggy says he’s seeking… his past.

Unstable molecule: Reed is on edge throughout this issue. He smashes up the lab in anger when he suspects Johnny messed with his PDA, and he initially turns his back on Franklin before coming around a reassuring the kid.

Fade out: To save Sue’s hand, Reed separates it from her (!) and then attaches it to device which will rebond its molecules. She spends the rest of the issue with her right hand as a stump held in place with a force field.

Clobberin’ time: Reed does something similar with Ben, putting him in a big tank that rebuilt the binding silicates that makes up Ben’s “petridermus.” So much technobabble in these issues!

Flame on: At the pool party, women give Johnny suggestions for unstable molecules, such as swimsuits that change color, bras that always fit perfectly, and skirts that can change length. He likes their ideas, but remains unconvinced overall.

Four and a half: When Franklin is jealous of all the attention baby Valeria is getting, he says to his parents, “You’d love me lots if I was smarter.” Could this foreshadowing the character Valeria will eventually become?

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all along. Sue doesn’t seem too traumatized about losing a hand in this issue. Could her secret spy training and/or spy missions prepared her for such an unthinkable situation?

Commercial break: Wanna party?

Trivia time: This issue remembers that Reed has licensed use of the unstable molecules to the Avengers, which was established way back in vol. 1 #6, and references several times since then. Mentioned far less frequently is that the X-Men also use the unstable molecules, as established in the historic Giant-Size X-Men #1.

What was going on Uncanny X-Men #416? Not a whole lot. With a bunch of mutants in the infirmary after a huge battle, Nightcrawler and Iceman debated who should and shouldn’t be considered an X-Man. Juggernaut was stuck living at the X-Mansion during this time, and he was conflicted about everyone calling him a villain. He smashed up his childhood home to exorcise his personal demons. Similarly, Stacy X returned to the controversial X-Ranch, also to confront her checkered past.

Fantastic or frightful? A fun issue that establishes Modulus as a real force to be reckoned with, some far-out sci-fi concepts, and some genuine human drama here and there.

Next: Mathemagic!

* * * *

Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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Fantastic Friday: Money to burn

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Volume 3 #62 legacy 491 kicks off a high-tech thriller, but does so with more sitcom antics.

We begin in Times Square, where Reed and Sue are on a date, sort of. Reed is multitasking working on a whole new way of understanding zeta functions while also sharing lunch with Sue. Sue had made him invisible for their date, so they don’t attract too much attention. It doesn’t work, so she turns him visible for some fans and passersby. Reed mentions wanting to improve the new Baxter Building’s defenses, because Franklin no longer has any powers. It’s not until this moment that they realize baby Valeria has still not been properly tested for any powers. Then contact Ben, who is taking the kids on some sort of undersea adventure, riding on the back of a giant sea monster.

Back at HQ, Johnny is attending a meeting at Fantastic Four Inc., in his new role as the company’s financial manager. He nearly falls asleep in a meeting, and admits that he has no experience in finances. Two of his coworkers, Christi and Ethan, fear for their own positions at the company now that they’re working alongside the boss’s brother-in-law. The plot to sabotage some contracts with Suarti International to make Johnny look bad. Johnny later admits to his assistant and confidant Jian that Reed has tons of high-tech gizmos upstairs, and any one of them can help him figure out a spreadsheet.

In that lab, Reed and Sue marvel over Reed’s new PDA, which connects to a neighboring dimension, making its storage capacity infinite.  Ben returns with the kids, and Reed immediately turns his attention to testing her for any possible mutant powers. Johnny helps out, while also noticing the unbelievable computing power of the PDA. Later that night, Reed says that Valeria is “perfectly normal.” As he drifts off to sleep that night, we see a ghostly hand emerge from the PDA, covered with the image of its green text.  

Ben and Sue go to the movies together, where they discuss Sue putting Johnny in charge of the company’s finances. Ben wonders if the decision has more to do with Sue having grown up as a de facto parent for Johnny, as the movie begins, the screen is filled with more of the green text from the PDA. It takes the shape of a human and attacks. It is able to dissolve the floor under Ben, dropping him into the subway, and then penetrating Sue’s force field, burning her hand with its touch.

Ben returns, and the creature analyzes his rocky hide, threatening to tear it apart. Sue seals up Ben inside a force field. The creature demands that Reed be brought to it. When asked why, it answers, “Because I love him.”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: With all this talk about the FF’s business affairs, Reed admits that Sony paid him $3 million to not put his new infinite-computing PDA on the market.

Fade out: There’s quite a bit of discussion about Sue being able to see Reed after she turns him invisible. He explains that her eyes are picking up not reflected light, but reflected cosmic rays that are “always present” in the atmosphere. In previous episodes, Sue couldn’t exactly see invisible objects, but merely had a general sense of where they were.

Clobberin’ time: Ben has a special extra-large seat reserved just for him at the movie theater. This suggests he goes to the movies a lot, even after making a wisecrack about only liking Clint Eastwood movies.

Flame on: At the movie theater, Johnny appears in a “Only you can prevent forest fires” promo, which seems like a mixed message to me. Maybe the creature created this image in an attempt to reach out to Reed.  

Four and a half: Franklin is doing the classic older brother thing, resentful that the baby is getting all the attention. There’s a mention that he’s been watching Invader Zim, so Franklin has great taste in TV.

Our gal Val: Is Valeria a mutant or isn’t she? Citing this issue as a source, the Marvel Wiki states that despite everything Valeria has done since this, she is in fact a non-superpowered human.

Commercial break: When’s somebody going to make a Rumble Wars movie?

Trivia time: This issue states that Reed recently purchased large amounts of Vibranium and Adamantium for research purposes. The Vibranium came from Wakanda no doubt, but where’s Reed getting Adamantium from? The issue doesn’t say, but it’s likely from Adametco, a company that manufactures the stuff. Either that, or Reed is buying it from supervillains, because they’re the ones who more often deal with Adamantium.

The title of this story arc appears to be a series of random symbols. Look closely, though, and you see it spells out “Sentient.”

Fantastic or frightful? Another issue setting things up for bigger story beats to come, but all the little character moments make it worthwhile. It’s a return to the classic Marvel “heroes who have ordinary problems” style.

Next: Modular living.

* * * *

Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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Fantastic Friday: Big business

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 #60, legacy 490 features some classic Thing and Human Torch bickering, but also gets the ball rolling on the current story arc.

We begin with a serious discussion between Sue and Reed, where Sue says she’s at the end of her rope with Johnny’s impetuous ways.  She says drastic measures are in order. Nearby, in the kitchen, Ben has opened a package in the mail only to a get a pie in the face courtesy of the Yancy Street Gang again. Sue discovers a receipt in the box, with an address of the novelty shop that made the pie-in-the-box gag. Ben marches off to confront the Yancy Streeter who’s done this. Johnny reacts with fear upon seeing this.

Johnny starts to fly off, but Sue stops him with a force field. She gets him to admit that he’s the one who sent the package, not the Yancy Street Gang, suggesting that it was him who’s sent all the Yancy packages over the years. She tells him to go set things right. Outside, Ben smashes his way through the NYC sidewalks in a rampage towards the joke shop. Johnny flies up to him, but instead of telling the truth, he chickens out and says he can’t believe the nerve of those Yancy Street jerks. He then tells Ben to be a bigger man, but Ben fights Johnny off, first with a fire hydrant, and then through the wall of a beauty parlor.

Johnny catches up with Ben once more, and argues that Ben gets made fun of all the time and must be used to it now. Ben says you get used to some days, and some days it kills him. “And then there are the bad days,” he says. He punctuates this point by throwing an NYC taxicab at Johnny. Johnny tries to tell Ben that whoever sent the package never thought of it that way, but Ben doesn’t listen. He continues on.

In Reed’s lab, he’s working some high-tech device, when all the power goes out. This confounds him, as the Baxter Building has numerous backups to prevent power outage. Reed finds Franklin in Valeria’s room, where the walls are breaking apart to reveal nightmarish mouths and eyes on the other side. When Reed goes to rescue Valeria, spiders crawl out of her eyes and mouth. Everything goes black, and then returns to normal. Franklin asks Reed what just happened, and Reed admits he doesn’t know. “I don’t like it when you say that,” Franklin says. “Nor I, champ,” Reed says.

Back outside, Johnny flies ahead, warning New Yorkers that the rampaging Ben is a Skrull. Johnny offers to take out the Yancy Streeter for Ben, but Ben ignores him. Ben reaches the joke shop, only to find it an empty lot. Ben and Johnny realize the receipt must have been all part of the gag. Ben walks off, having cooled off. Johnny wonders how a piece of Manhattan real estate could be vacant. The store then reappears, having been turned invisible by Sue. She’s furious at Johnny over this incident, and says she has a special mission designed just for him.

Back at the Baxter Building, Sue gives Johnny his new uniform: a suit. Johnny accuses her of grounding him. She says no, she’s employing him. They travel a few floors down to the Baxter Building’s office level, where Sue says she’s naming Johnny the newest chief financial officer of Fantastic Four Inc. Sue says that Johnny has always been good with numbers and computers, and being an auto mechanic means that he “understands systems.” She further says that this is a task with grave consequences to everyone he loves, and either he succeeds or he ruins the family.

Sue then leaves Johnny alone in his new office, saying “Don’t screw it up.” Then the next issues blurb does an Arrested Development narrator gag with “Next: Johnny screws up.”

Unstable molecule: What is Reed working on in his lab? It’s a genome that is attached to a “protonomic spectrolyzer” that is connected to a “intracyloplasmic injector grid.” Sure, why not?

Fade out: In addition to everything else she does in this issue, we also see Sue doing the laundry. The Baxter Building has a futuristic washing machine with an “unstable molecules” setting.

Clobberin’ time: Ben causes a lot of collateral damage as he rampages through New York. At one point he tells a passerby “You can bill me,” and I guess that makes it okay?  

Flame on: Johnny’s interests in this issue include Maxim magazine and reruns of South Park and The Tom Green Show. Maybe Sue is right in saying he could do better.

Four and a half/Our gal Val: Is Franklin sharing a bedroom with baby Valeria? I’m going to say no, because there’s no other bed in the baby’s room. It appears Franklin is just hanging out there. Perhaps he’s old enough for babysitting duties now.

Commercial break: “Alpha, bring me my Zune.”

Trivia time: This issue breaks continuity when it comes to the Yancy Street Gang. Ben states that he’s never seen a Yancy Streeter face-to-face, when previous comics established he and his brother are former members of the gang. Not to mention teaming up with the “new” Yancy Street Gang in issue #361. Then there’s the matter of Johnny being the one behind the gang’s pranks all this time. Previous issues have shown Yancy Streeters off panel shouting things at Ben while pulling off their pranks. Are we to believe Johnny arranged that somehow? The Marvel Wiki states there is “no clarification” for Johnny’s claims in this issue.

Fantastic or frightful? This is so-called “decompressed” storytelling, where the entire issue is just the opening scene of what’s going to be a longer story. In the old days, this would’ve been the first three pages of the story. This isn’t good or bad, just a different way of looking at things. Maybe it’s a little too convenient for Ben to be this angry just for story purposes, but it means we get to have a fun Johnny/Ben fight, so it’s all good.

Next: Bust open the books.

* * * *

Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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Fantastic Friday: A week in the life

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Writer Mark Waid and artist Mike Wieringo come out swinging with the hopes of reintroducing the FF to a new generation of readers in vol. 3 #60 legacy 489. In doing so, they ushered in the third great era for the series.

Fantastic Four was the hottest thing around in the 60s, and it got hugely popular again during John Byrne’s time on the title, thanks to Byrne’s cinematic storytelling. Since then, however, the series floundered throughout the late 80s, the 90s, and the early 2000s. Steve Englehart, Walt Simonson, Tom DeFalco, Jim Lee, Chris Claremont, and Carlos Pacheco all had some good moments on the series, but Fantastic Four was considered dowdy and old-fashioned compared to the likes of X-Men, Batman, and everything happening in the indie comics scene. This issue was Marvel proudly announcing that the Fantastic Four are BACK.

Gimmie a gimmick: To further promote Fantastic Four as the next big thing, Marvel lowered the price of this issue to only 9 cents! That’s 1 cent lower than the original Fantastic Four #1. It worked, as EVERYONE bought this thing. If you collect comics, there’s probably one in your long boxes right now.

We begin in a shadowy boardroom where mysterious figures are discussing the FF’s origin story. The lights come up to reveal that these aren’t villains but a marketing firm, and the FF are their new clients. The Fantastic Four’s licensing deals are decreasing, as are their public appearances and interview opportunities. A young executive named Shertzer is assigned to meet the FF in person to come up with ideas.

Cut to Shertzer aboard an FF vehicle, sitting between Ben and Johnny as they bicker. After a page of comedy shtick, it’s revealed that they on board an interdimensional transport, in pursuit of a giant creature called a Datavore. Reed explains that info gained from the creature could help him bioengineer a self-sustaining dimensional probe that could convert ingested matter into fuel. Reed collects the data while his teammates fight off an insect horde, all while Shertzer watches. Everyone returns to Earth. Shertzer is introduced to Franklin, and the others wonder why Reed is so concerned with the FF’s celebrity status when he hadn’t been in the past. Meanwhile, one of the insects from the other dimension hitched a ride on their ship and now lurks around the Baxter Building.

Later, Shertzer joins Sue and Johnny outside the building as they do repairs following an unseen attack from the Mad Thinker. They talk about Johnny’s recent breakup with a girlfriend named Jennifer. Sue says Johnny should think more about his future, and she has an offer for him. But he flies off before she can continue.

The next day, Shertzer is there when the FF respond to a science lab where gravity has gone haywire. The team rescues visitors who end flying into the sky uncontrollably, while also getting gravity back to normal. It’s revealed that these scientists are a think-tank called “Cause Cerebral.” Reed was once a member but the group recently kcicked him out. The others suspect this is why Reed hired Shertzer’s firm, and they give him a big speech about it’s not about Reed’s ego. Shertzer concludes that while all four are adventurers at heart, it’s the other three’s adventuring that gives Reed the room he needs for his explorations and inventions.

The day after that, Shertzer joins Ben, Sue, and baby Valeria out shopping, when they come across some street performers doing a rap about the Thing. He dislikes it at first, but then comes around and buys one of their CDs. Sue points out that while a lot of people fear Ben as a monster, he does have his fans. After that, Reed and Sue visit a museum where Sue asks him about Shertzer. Reed says it’s important that the FF be in the public eye.

Shertzer reports to his bosses, saying that an edgy and modern reboot is not what the FF need. He argues that they are not superheroes, but astronauts and explorers. They stop evildoers along the way, but that’s not the job. He tells his bosses to focus on the FF as people, not as costumes. That night, when Reed is alone with Valeria, he lets Valeria in on the secret. He had been asked to join the Cause Cerebral, but turned them down to spend more time with his family. He says that the costumes and the colorful names are so the public won’t fear his teammates but instead adore them. He says that by turning his friends into celebrities, maybe he can someday be forgiven for taking their normal lives away. Then Ben and Johnny burst through saying there’s a problem with a time machine and now Davy Crockett needs the FF’s help. Sue says, “There’s always something new to deal with, isn’t there?” Reeds ends the issue with “I certainly hope so.”

Unstable molecule: I don’t know that we can back and reread Fantastic Four #1 and interpret Reed’s regrets and fears for his teammates’ futures in the half a page where the choose their codenames. I daresay that these regrets developed over time, especially during the team’s rocky first few adventures.

Fade out: There’s a lot of talk in this issue of how Reed and Sue have a “system” worked out, where she knows when to let him be oblivious and lost in his own head, and when it’s time to snap him out of it.

Clobberin’ time: Ben says the Hulk will be jealous to learn Ben has his own rap song. Hope Ben never learns about the 1969 smash hit “Nobody Loves the Hulk.”

Flame on: Johnny has recently broken up with his girlfriend, an actress named Jennifer (suspected but not confirmed to be Jennifer Garner). This means his romance with Namorita has ended. I continued to find it fascinating that their relationship went on for a couple of years, with most of it happening off panel. That includes their breakup, because the Marvel Wiki lists this issue as the official end of their relationship.

Fantastic fifth wheel: We’re told that Valeria is in daycare on the moon. This suggests that Crystal and/or Medusa have taken up babysitting duties again.

Four and a half: Reed brings Franklin a gift from the Datavore’s universe – a “macro-atom.” Could this be setting up Franklin a budding young scientist?

Our gal Val: Reed’s confession alone with Valeria includes this often-memed panel of him making a funny face.

Commercial break: Sing along!

Trivia time: There’s a lot of only-in-one-issue stuff here. Shertzer never appears again after this, and neither does the Datavore creature. The reference to the Mad Thinker’s attack is never followed up on, and there’s a reference to a monster called the Mandlebot that the FF once fought but will never be mentioned again. The Cause Cerebral has no Marvel Wiki entry, so it’s a safe bet they’re not coming back, either.

This issue states that the FF’s original rocketship crashed in California, whereas other comics said it crashed in upstate New York. I suspect this is a reference to the FF’s early adventures taking place in Central City, eventually revealed to be located in California.

Yes, Davy Crockett is a canonical Marvel character, having appeared in a handful of Marvel Western comics. He later appeared in the S.H.I.E.L.D. Celestial Madonna event, with a lot of time-travel and historical events were depicted in one issue.

Fantastic or frightful? Was this really the perfect issue to attract new readers and bring back lapsed readers? Who  can tell? More importantly, it’s the exact comic the creators set out to make, with Waid’s emphasis on character-based stories, and Wieringo’s desire for comics to be light and colorful instead of dark and gritty. Now that everyone’s been reintroduced, we get to have some real fun.

Next: Big business.

* * * *

Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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