Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We get a brand new villain and tons of family drama in issue #269.
We begin with a visit to Johnny’s old pal Wyatt Wingfoot. He’s driving around the “Great Western Desert” on a high-tech three-wheeler. We learn his grandfather Silent Fox has died, and Wyatt is in line to be his tribe’s new chief. He ponders all the globe-and-outer-space-trotting adventures he’s had. Then, a giant red beam shoots down from the sky. It’s half a mile wide and moving at ridiculous speed, leaving a giant crevasse in its wake.
In New York, Johnny is having a casual lunch with Sharon Selleck, the girl who kissed him a few issues back. Johnny is distracted when he sees Alicia walk by, and he leaves Sharon to join Alicia. Alicia, who is of course Lyja the Skrull in disguise, says she’s gotten turned around while on way to a museum lecture. Johnny accompanies her, leaving Sharon to wonder if there’s something going on between them. Also note that Sharon is dressed in her finest ‘80s fashions:
At the Baxter Building, Sue sits by herself, grieving the loss of her unborn child. She puts on a brave face for Franklin, who wants to go back to their house in Connecticut. In Reed’s lab, he and She-Hulk are doing an experiment, which we spend a couple of pages on. Reed places a tennis ball into a device, causing it to implode. Reed (sort of) explains that the machine combines an averaging of relative objects, making the ball temporarily move through space at the exact same speed as the sun. This destroys the ball, but Reed theorizes that, once perfected, this technology can solve the world’s energy problems, etc.
Reed gets a call from Wyatt about the energy beam, and the beam coincidentally hits NYC at that moment. The beam destroys New Jersey (!) but stops at the river before it can harm Manhattan. Reed then gets a call from the U.S. president, whose face we don’t see, asking what’s going on. Reed says he and She-Hulk will meet with Wyatt at the spot where the crisis began. Sue wants to come with them, but Reed says it’s still too soon after the miscarriage, adding that he will nonetheless call on her if he needs her. They leave, and Sue gets hugely angry, unleashing her force fields and destroying everything in the lab.
Reed and She-Hulk fly across the country in the FF’s transonic jet, seeing more and more destruction caused by the beam. Reed says it took an advanced intelligence to project the beam across space to strike the Earth at just the right time and location. A giant vessel of some sort flies by them and crash lands nearby. Reed and She-Hulk investigate. The ship is red hot, so they can’t get too close.
Wyatt joins the FFers at the scene, introducing himself to She-Hulk. Reed deduces that the beam burned a pattern across the continental U.S., in some sort of alien language. Reed runs the message through his universal translator. It adorably prints out the translation on a small strip of paper. The message reads, “I claim this world – Terminus.” Just as She-Hulk asks who Terminus is, the spaceship rises, revealing that it isn’t a spaceship. It’s a giant metal-clad alien proclaiming, “I am Terminus. I am master of this planet!”
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: When She-Hulk, a lawyer, is baffled by all the science-talk, Reed counters by saying that the intricacies of law have always been like an alien language to him.
Fade out: Sue is in a dark, dark place in this issue, and things are only going to get darker and darker for her.
Clobberin’ time: She-Hulk’s joining the team has been made public in news articles, but the public at large doesn’t know that Ben is not on Earth. Sharon Selleck wonders why Ben isn’t around.
Flame on: Speaking of which, say goodbye to Johnny’s almost-girlfriend Sharon. The Marvel wiki informs me that she was never seen again after this.
Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk insists on being called Jen when at headquarters, but not in the field because she has a secret identity to maintain. Except that in the last issue, she said she doesn’t have a secret identity. So, what changed?
Four and a half: Franklin is coping nicely after everything that’s happened, saying he prefers living in Connecticut than at the Baxter Building. He still has something of a crush on She-Hulk.
The Alicia problem: If Lyja’s mission is to secretly infiltrate the FF, then her walking by Johnny’s lunch date with Sharon was no coincidence. Her getting lost could be a trick to get Johnny’s sympathies, or it could be because Lyja is getting used to the blinding contacts she wears.
Commercial break: Up to 3 million years old! “Daggar” shaped!
Trivia time: The last time we saw Wyatt Wingfoot in Fantastic Four was issue #193, in which he was travelling the country with a Nascar-style racing circuit. His only other appearance between then and now was Marvel Two-In-One annual #6, which introduced Native American superhero the American Eagle. Wyatt’s uncle and chief, Silent Fox, only had three appearances prior to this, most prominently seen in Fantastic Four #80. As part of the second wave of new Marvel characters in the late ‘60s, Wyatt was supposed to get his own spinoff comic alongside Black Panther and The Inhumans, but for some reason it never happened.
Famed sci-fi author Larry Niven gets a “scientific advisor” credit in this issue. Your guess is as good as mine.
Fantastic or frightful? The big problem here is that Terminus’ beam cuts up huge portions of the continental U.S., causing countless millions of deaths, and this is never mentioned in the Marvel universe again. That frustration aside, this issue is more about character building than it is about Terminus. She-Hulk is more a part of the team, Johnny and Alicia begin to bond, and Sue descends farther into darkness. Great stuff, really.
Next week: Big versus little.
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