Fantastic Friday: Way down in the underground

Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #264, the Mole Man and the Fantastic Four are fighting side-by-side to defeat a Walt Disney wannabe. That’s a sentence I just typed.

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To recap: Mega-billionaire theme park owner Alden Maas has kidnapped Johnny, with a plot to end overpopulation by using Johnny’s flame to increase the size of the Earth (it makes more sense when you read it in the comic). Ben interfered, and was thrown deep underground, where he was attacked by the Mole Man. Got all that? As this issue begins, Ben is unconscious, being carried by a bunch of Moloids (how strong are those little guys?) while the Mole Man does the villain monologue thing.

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Ben stirs, and the Mole Man explains that he has been busy turning his underground kingdom into a haven for all ugly people not welcome on the surface. Alden Maas’ digging into the Earth destroyed the kingdom, killing everyone but the Mole Man. Mole Man thinks the Fantastic Four are behind this, and he doesn’t believe Ben when Ben says it was Maas. The Mole Man prepares a giant boulder to drop on the still-weak Ben, possibly killing him.

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Back in New York, you might remember from last issue that Reed’s scanners went crazy. He flies to Central Park to search for strange energy fluctuations. Reed uses his “dio-etheric scanner” to give the park the once over, but he can’t find anything. This doesn’t stop him from wondering if this mystery might have terrible consequences for all the people of Earth. In Connecticut, Sue is at her and Reed’s suburban house where they’re living with secret identities. She’s experiencing painful muscle spasms, and doesn’t know if this is part of a normal pregnancy (her first pregnancy being far from normal, that is). The pains go away, and she soon feels as if it never happened. (Both of these subplots are setting up Secret Wars, which is right around the corner.)

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Inside Maas’ test chamber, Johnny meets the woman who previously appeared as a hologram to Ben. She says it’s time for another nova blast to the center of the Earth. Before she can throw the switch, a bunch of Moloids grab her and pull her under the floor. Ben and the Mole Man rescue Johnny. (We’re never told exactly how Ben convinced the Mole Man they have a common enemy. Mole Man has one line where he says he’s still not convinced, but then he spends the rest of the issue wanting to defeat Maas alongside the FF.) Then they fight their way through a bunch of Maas’ robots, done up to look like the cartoon mascots from his theme park, in one of the weirdest fights we’ve had in a while.

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A bunch of Maas’ suit-wearing executives watch the fight on their monitors. Maas, walking with a cane, shows up and says it’s time to prepare a thermonuclear device for the Earth’s core, as mankind’s last hope. Ben, Johnny, and the Mole Man come to a giant door inside Maas’ complex, so the Mole Man summons the giant monster from Fantastic Four #1 (the monster’s name isn’t given, but the Marvel Wiki informs me it’s “Giganto.”) The monster tears up the place, with our heroes following.

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Maas says it’s time to unleash the nuclear device, but only he can throw the switch. He’s in a weakened state, and his executives have to help him across the room to get to it. Ben, Johnny, and the Mole Man burst into the room to find that Maas has died. What’s more, he died twenty years ago, except able to be revived for short amounts of time because his body was kept in an “extended animation chamber.” What’s more, the executives are robots, programmed to do whatever Maas said, no matter how crazy.

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Later, all the executives march into the sea to kill themselves, Virginia Woolf-style. The Mole Man insists that he and the FF are not friends, and the next time the meet it will be as enemies. Ben and Johnny fly back to New York, with Ben saying, “I feel like bein’ depressed for a while.”

The Thing #10 is required reading, so I’ll cover it here real quick. Ben breaks up with Alicia (or does he? It’s ambiguous), saying he’s changed, and he suspects even bigger changes are on the way. Then, Reed, Ben, and Johnny return to Central Park to check out those strange energy readings. They find a giant machine there. When the approach it, they all disappear.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: That “dio-etheric scanner” Reed used? He invented it in the minutes between his alarm going off and his visit to Central Park. Not built it, mind you, but invented it.

Fade out: This is the first indication that something has gone wrong with Sue’s pregnancy. It will lead to… well, if you know then you know.

Clobberin’ time: When fighting the cartoon mascot robots, Ben shows some remorse, thinking that beating up cute cartoon characters is like attacking “the flag or mom’s apple pie.”

Flame on: One panel reveals how Johnny survived the car crash last issue. His car was switched with a dummy car when it went through that tunnel.

Four and a half: Remember Katie, the neighbor girl from issue #259 who offered to babysit Franklin? She actually is babysitting him in this issue. She and Franklin are shown eating cookies and milk on the kitchen floor, which doesn’t seem to be good babysitting to me.

Commercial break: Uhhh…

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Trivia time: According to the Marvel Wiki, the cartoon robots working for Maas are Maxie Mouse, Hopalong Hippo, Gerry Giraffe, Dingaling Duck, and my personal favorite, Murgatroid Mutt.

Fantastic or frightful? You wouldn’t have known it at the time, but this is the last issue before EVERYTHING CHANGES. Beyond that, though, it’s a fun Ben/Johnny romp, with a lot of Disney spoof weirdness.

Next week: Famously, a new green-skinned character joins the main cast. Subtly, a second new green-skinned character also joins the main cast.

****

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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