Fantastic Friday: When Human Torches attack

Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Hope you like relationship woes, because that’s what you’ve got in issue #99.

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We begin with some sitcom comedy shtick as Reed and Sue barge in on Ben as he’s dressed in a skiing outfit. He says he’s preparing to take Alicia on a ski trip. So I guess they’re a couple again. Also, no mention is made of Alicia being blind, and whether that affects her ability to ski. She really is capable! Reed says they’ll have to cancel the trip, because Johnny has taken off, and might be in danger. He’s flying around the world, hoping to return to Crystal, who left him to return to her people the Inhumans back in issue #95.

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Johnny is flying around the world at extreme speed, zipping over France (obligatory Eiffel Tower appearance). He then passes into Russian space, apparently, because the “commies” fire missiles at him, which he avoids. It starts to rain, so he takes shelter in a cave in the Himalayas. (He’s making record time on this flight.) As he sleeps, a mysterious stranger finds him. At headquarters, Reed, Sue, and Ben take off in the team’s repurposed UFO from issues past, and hope to catch up with Johnny by shortcutting through the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Once in orbit, however, their ship comes under attack by meteors, knocking them off course. (The movie Gravity totally ripped off this scene. Totally.)

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Back in the cave, the stranger who found Johnny is — are you ready for this? — the Abominable Snowman! But wait, it’s not the Yeti, it’s an Inhuman, who thinks Johnny is one of them. He flees from Johnny, inadvertently leading Johnny to the Inhumans’ new digs, an underground city. A whole bunch of Inhumans attack Johnny, including a flying guy with fireproof wings, but Johnny takes them all out. The battle is interrupted by the Inhuman royal family — Black Bolt, Medusa, Triton, Karnak, and yes, Crystal is there too. She begs Johnny to leave, saying he doesn’t understand what’s happening. Johnny argues that the Inhumans have brainwashed Crystal, and then there’s more fighting.

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Johnny avoids one of Karnak’s karate chops, only to learn that it was a fake-out, so he’d jump right into Medusa’s hair. There’s a surprisingly dark moment where he threatens to burn her hair to escape. Meanwhile, the FFers have landed in the Himalayas to repair their ship, and to meet some locals, who are all dressed like someone from Genghis Khan’s era (sigh). Back to the action, Johnny confronts Crystal. He goes all emo, saying he wanted to leave with Crystal, but she wanted to go alone, and that means he never meant anything to her. Wah, wah, wah. She flips out, and says she can lose her temper too, unleashing her elemental powers on him. She immediately regrets blasting him, and the other Inhumans argue that Johnny should hear her out, but he doesn’t. He flies off, back out into the city.

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Johnny flies up into the sky above the city and generates a massive fireball. So… he is going to kill them all? Someone fires a strange, rod-shaped device into the fireball, diffusing the flames. Turns out it was Reed, who has arrived on the scene with the others, and brought his newly-invented “heat absorption rod” with him. Johnny is still going nuts, as he attacks his teammates, saying “I’m through being everyone’s pigeon!” (Pigeon?) Sue, ever the heart of the group, finally gets Johnny to calm down, appealing him to act like the man he is, and not a spoiled little kid.

The Inhumans then reveal the truth. Crystal had to come home to save Black Bolt. He was injured in a radiation experiment and needed “vibrations” to survive. Crystal took care of him while Inhuman Gordon (who once singlehandedly defeated the FF, let us never forget that) went on an adventure for a tube of strange liquid that can heal him permanently. Why they didn’t just say this back in issue #95 is unknown, but Johnny nonetheless apologizes to Crystal. She says that even though she has to stay with her people for now, she accepts his apology.

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Unstable molecule: I find it interesting that Reed has this heat absorption device that Johnny knows nothing about. Wouldn’t he have used Johnny’s help to test this in his lab? You don’t suppose he developed this thing in secret, in case Johnny ever went to the bad side, do you?

Fade out: Sue is the only one who can get Johnny to calm down and listen to reason. She also laments having to pursue Johnny around the globe instead of spending the day with Franklin.

Clobberin’ time: Ben’s skis have apparently been designed just for him, extra wide with huge metal boots for his big ol’ feet.

Flame on: This issue raises the question of just how fast Johnny can fly. We’ve seen him zipping around New York, but here he’s flying around the entire world in a single day. The Marvel wiki says he can fly at “supersonic” speed, which I take to mean faster than the speed of sound, but that’s still not a definitive answer. (There’s a Marvel “wikia,” which says Johnny normally flies at 140 miles per hour, and can accelerate to supersonic speed on occasion, but this doesn’t appear to be an official Marvel site.)

Fantastic fifth wheel: This issue has a reputation of being the one where Johnny and Crystal break up, but that’s not the case at all. I did a little reading ahead, and Crystal is going to be around for quite a while.

Commercial break: Turn your bike into a dragster! Then, get beaten up at recess!

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Trivia time: This issue was revisited in Marvel: The Lost Generation #7, published in 2000, in which we learn that time traveler Cassandra Locke was in the cave with Johnny and the Yeti, secretly observing their battle. That mini-series also revealed that the Yeti’s name is, in fact, “Yeti.”

Fantastic or frightful? What’s interesting about this issue is that Johnny is the villain. He’s the unstoppable, destructive force that the FF and the Inhumans have to work together to defeat. After a few phone-it-in issues from Jack Kirby, his art in this one really shines, even though he was fed up with Marvel by this point. Maybe this means he had real affection for the Inhuman characters? It’s nice to have a really great story this close to the end.

Next week: One hundred maniacs.

****

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

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About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH. amazon.com/dp/B00859NDJ8
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