Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’re going cosmic in annual #27, travelling throughout the multiverse and wrapping up an ongoing plotline that I don’t think many people were following.
In the first of two stories, we return to the Time Variance Authority, or TVA, last seen during Walt Simonson’s run on the series. This is a cosmic bureaucracy that monitors all alternate timelines and parallel dimensions. (This is comedy/satire Douglas Adams-style stuff.) Mr. Mobius, one of the clerks, is chewed out by his boss because of a missing file. The file in question is the record of the FF’s visit to the TVA, which only Mobius remembers.
In New York, the FF — Sue, Ben, Johnny, and new teammate Ant-Man — are enjoying an afternoon in central park, where they stop an out-of-control taxi. A TVA named Justice Love places the FF under arrest and teleports them to the TVA’s null-zone. What he doesn’t know is that Ant-Man avoided the teleporter by shrinking to tiny size and hitching a ride on Justice Love’s armor.
Mobius’s boss, Mr. Alternity, questions Sue, only for her to escape and make a run for it. Ant-Man helps her escape, while Mobius appears before Johnny and Ben hoping to help them. The problem is that the Cross-time Express, which they used to escape last time, no longer makes stops on Earth. They instead take the Express to Chronopolis, home of time-traveling supervillain Kang.
Sue negotiates with a hologram of Kang (where or when Kang is broadcasting from is left a mystery). She offers him Moebius in exchange for Kang returning the FF to their own time, with Sue arguing that, as a defector from the TVA, Mobius has knowledge Kang can use. Before returning to Earth, Sue asks Kang what he knows about Reed’s death/disappearance. Kang refuses to reveal whether Reed is alive, but he tells Sue that at some point in the future she will find Reed.
Mobius, however, doesn’t stay with Kang. He returns to the TVA and asks that they match Kang’s offer. They do, giving Mobius a promotion, with the added responsibility that he continue to watch over the Fantastic Four.
The second story in the annual is the more interesting one (for me, anyway). It’s been five years in real time that readers have been following (or ignoring) through various annuals the ongoing subplot of Kubik and Kosmos exploring the universe, and this annual finally wraps it up. Kosmos is the being that was created when the Molecule Man and the Beyonder fused into a single being. Kubik is a cosmic cube come to life. He took it upon himself to teach the childlike Cosmos the ways of the creation.
First, godlike beings Eternity, the Living Tribunal, Master Chaos, and Lord Order hold a meeting to discuss the nature of the cosmic cubes. They say they created the cosmic cubes and sent them out into the universe as an experiment. From there, we catch up with the Molecule Man, who is alive again thanks to part of his essence left behind with his girlfriend Volcana. Except that now, Volcana has dumped him, and he’s all alone, wracked with grief. He decides to seek vengeance on the Beyonder.
In space, Kubik and Kosmos are studying the architecture of the “Aldeberous Hegemony.” Kosmos is struck by an energy beam, which re-creates the Beyonder, with his Secret Wars II armor and everything. The Beyonder is teleported away, leaving Kosmos in a ghost-like state. She says her soul is gone, and she only feels emptiness. Kubik says if her soul is not returned soon, Kosmos will cease to exist.
Molecule Man brings the Beyonder to Earth, to his home in Colorado. They fight, with their cosmic powers threatening to rip apart all of time and space. Molecule Man wins the fight, though it’s not clear how, and he severely weakens the Beyonder. Kubik appears with the unconscious Kosmos. Kubik says that Molecule Man’s origins as a mortal make him greater than all the other cosmic beings, that there is a depth to his existence that is more than sheer power.
Kubik pleads for Molecule Man to save Kosmos’ life. Molecule Man can see that Kubik has fallen in love with Kosmos. Molecule Man’s rage subsides, and he returns the Beyonder’s power to Kosmos, saving her. Kosmos and Kubik return to space, and Molecule Man is left to ponder how ripping galaxies apart with a thought is easy when compared to dealing with a broken heart.
Fade out: Sue cements her role as the team’s new leader by negotiating their way out of trouble, rather than fighting their way out.
Clobberin’ time: While most of this issue falls on the “Reed is still alive” argument, Ben is the one who insists that Reed really is dead this time.
Flame on: Johnny says this is the first time he’s gone out in public without being hassled by paparazzi following the destruction he caused at Empire State University several issues back.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man joins the team on their day off in Central Park, and Sue suggests that his daughter Cassie stay with the FF for the summer once she’s off school.
Commercial break: Magnus Robot Fighter was once so big that he could share ad space with Spidey, Batman, and Ghost Rider.
Trivia time: Kosmos won’t return until the Annihilation crossover event of the 2000s, after she is separated from Kubik, acting a lot less childlike and a lot more villainous. Renaming herself Maker, she spends the crossover struggling to keep the Beyonder half of personality from taking over her mind. Maker later battled Thanos in the hugely confusing Thanos solo series.
Fantastic or Frightful? The FF story ends up being kind of pointless, and making all the TVA agents lookalike clones makes it a confusing read. I really enjoyed the Kosmos story, though. After following these characters for so long throughout all these deeply-buried backup stories, it’s fun to see them in the spotlight.
Next: Who watches he who watches the Watcher?
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