Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #56 picks up on a lot of subplots left dangling in previous issues, including a new look for a noisy villain.
We begin with some sitcom-ish yuks, in which Sue is cooking a roast (not a euphemism) and can’t find Reed anywhere. The only place she hasn’t looked is the “Space-Time Room” in Reed’s lab. The door is locked, so Sue uses the “Space-Time Research Visi-Phone” to look on the other side. Ben is in there, and her warns her, “It’s almost H-hour!”
Inside, if I’m reading this right, Reed has opened a temporal field in the hopes of making subspace travel possible. Basically, he’s opened this doorway into some other world where weird-looking monsters are flying. Reed theorizes that travel through subspace could free the Inhumans, whose city is still trapped under an impenetrable dome. (This subspace business is what will later be known as the “Negative Zone,” except in this issue that phrase is used to describe the Inhumans’ dome.)
Reed continues to tinker, only to have the lab explode in a sonic boom. After that, they’re sealing behind a wall of solid sound. That’s when Klaw, master of sound, emerges seemingly out of nowhere. The last time we saw Klaw, in issue #53, He was an ordinary human, except for the metal hand, who used sound-based tech as weapons. He disappeared into his own sound converter as it was destroyed. Now, he’s back, in a much different, less human form. He wants the same thing he wanted last time – to go back to Wakanda and steal the Black Panther’s precious vibranium metal (also not a euphemism).
Then we cut to the Inhumans, to resolve their cliffhanger from issue #54. Black Bolt tried to use a powerful absorba-bomb to escape the dome, but he failed, and merely knocked himself unconscious. Maximus is out of his cell and hanging around, bragging that he knows the way out of the dome, since he invented it, but the others can’t have the solution because he’s gone crazy! Medusa gives in to despair, fearing the Inhumans will never escape.
At the Baxter Building, Klaw attacks Sue, and then exposits how the sound converter didn’t kill him, but gave him a new body made entirely of solid sound. “I have become the most powerful being on Earth!” he says. (Oh, how I wish the Hulk or Thor would’ve randomly walked through the door as he said that.) Sue grabs Reed’s neuro-stun-gun (still not a euphemism) and fires it, Meanwhile, Reed and Ben are having trouble escaping, with the walls sealed by pure sound. Reed just happens to have a “counter-sonic harness” lying around, which he attaches to Ben. With the harness, Ben is able to escape, leaving Reed behind.
Sue tries to escape Klaw by turning invisible, but makes it so her footsteps are incredibly loud, giving away her position. Ben shows up and attacks Klaw. Thanks to Reed’s invention, Ben can fight back against Klaw’s most powerful sonic blasts – so powerful they cause a blackout throughout New York City.
We cut from there to the Himalayas, picking up a subplot from the previous issue, where Johnny and his musclebound Native American friend Wyatt Wingfoot have reunited with Lockjaw, the Inhumans’ giant teleporting dog. Wyatt theorizes that Lockjaw was kept out of the dome intentionally, to keep humans from finding it. He then believes that if he and Johnny befriend the big dog, it’ll be just as loyal to them as it is to the Inhumans. So… super dog training.
Back to the action. Ben is dazed after Klaw’s attack. Klaw then lets Reed out of the lab so he and Sue can reunite. It looks like Klaw has the advantage, but then a “packet missile” flies through the window. Inside are two vibranium bands. Turns out that while Ben and Sue fought Klaw, Reed sent a message to Wakanda, and Black Panther responded by sending this super-fast missile around the globe in seconds. Reed wears the vibranium bands like a pair of brass knuckles, beating the crap out of Klaw.
Reed then puts the Black Panther on a speaker phone, thanking him for the last-minute save. Reed says the police will be able to keep Klaw held in a vibranium cell (I’m sure that’ll go well). Then, the issue ends on an ominous note, somewhere far away, where a mysterious figure is spying on the Silver Surfer…
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Here’s yet another example of Reed saving the day with super-science, but only after his super-science got the team in trouble in the first place.
Fade out: Sue is on the defensive the whole time, not much of a match for Klaw. Even as she’s defeated, though, she still refuses to give in to his demands.
Clobberin’ time: Early on, Reed briefly mentions that he’s still working on a way to turn Ben back into a human, only to have Ben say, “I’m beginning to feel like my normal loveable self.” We’re definitely in the era where Ben has accepted his fate and is even enjoying being a monster.
Flame on: Johnny takes the first step toward domesticating Lockjaw by heating up some strange local plantlife for the big dog to eat.
Trivia time: While not anyone’s favorite villain, this version of Klaw will go on to have a lengthy history in the Marvel universe, visiting Project Pegasus, the Nexus of All Realities, and even being a major part of the first Secret War. According to the Marvel Wiki, his first name is “Ulysses,” and he was born and raised in the Netherlands.
Fantastic or frightful? One of my favorite aspects of the Fantastic Four is mystique of Reed’s lab. Up there in that skyscraper, there’s this wondrous lab full of cosmic scientific wonders. So, it’s a real delight to have an entire issue take place inside just the lab. Klaw is not that interesting of a baddie, and it’s tough to depict sound in a visual medium, but this one’s nonetheless a lot of fun.
Next week: Too many torches!
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