Fantastic Friday: Down on Embassy Row

Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #287’s cover features a housewife looking afraid of something, and we have to read the comic to find out what. None of today’s comics would ever do this cover, right? Today’s comic covers all have to be wannabe movie posters. Also, Dr. Doom is back.

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The other big deal about this issue is that Joe Sinnott, one of Jack Kirby’s regular inkers, provides inks over writer-artist John Byrne’s pencils, giving the entire issue a definite old school look. Way to go, Joltin’ Joe! We begin with Reed in the Avengers mansion science lab (The FF is still living at the mansion after the destruction of the Baxter Building.) Reed and the Wasp have a chat. Reed says recently seeing Jean Grey come back from the dead has him thinking about all the times Dr. Doom has come back from the dead. Therefore, he’s whipped up a device to scan for Doom’s specific brainwave pattern, as a contingency plan if/when Doom reappears. But enough supervillain talk, because Sue shows up announcing that she’s changing her hairstyle again. She, Wasp, and She-Hulk are off for an afternoon of styling and girl-talk at the hair salon.

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We spend an entire page with the three ladies at the salon, a super-fancy one located in NYC’s Embassy Row. We spend an entire page with the Wasp going on about the finer things in life, until there’s an explosion outside. It’s the Invincible Man, in all his pink-and-yellow glory, firing energy blasts at the Latverian embassy. Sue is quick to point out that there is no Invincible Man, that it was just a disguise once used by the Super Skrull. Sue, Wasp, and She-Hulk fight the guy, who then reveals that he’s attacking because Dr. Doom has come back from the dead. Inside the embassy window, Sue sees what appears to be Doom, just standing there. Invincible Man says Doom has kidnapped his wife and young daughter. This is all She-Hulk needs to hear, willing to risk an international incident by storming the embassy for a rescue.

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We then cut to somewhere in the suburbs where the housewife from the cover, Peggy, is commiserating with a neighbor, talking about how strange her husband has been acting. The husband, Norm, was present the day Dr. Doom died in the FF’s fight with Terrax, and has since basically kept Peggy prisoner in her own home since then. A news report of the current fight comes on the TV, and Peggy recognizes Invincible Man as the costume her husband had been making.

Back at the embassy, there’s a lot of fighting and action as the heroes fight those purple Latverian guard robots. Invincible Man runs off by himself, and Sue follows invisibly. Peggy and the neighbor also show up at the embassy (how’d they get there so fast?) with Peggy saying she has to find Norm and help him, at any cost. Sue encounters Doom inside a room, but deduces quickly that it’s really a Doombot in disguise and she destroys it. She brags that this proves Doom is still dead, only for Invincible Man to attack her from behind, saying “Doom never dies!”

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Sue turns Invincible Man’s mask invisible, to show that this is Norm. He and Sue fight some more. Peggy interrupts the fight. She knocks Sue unconscious by hitting over the head with a vase, and then she reveals a Dr. Doom mask under Invincible Man’s mask. (I don’t know why Sue didn’t see this.) “Norm” claims that he is the real, original Dr. Doom. We then flash back to Dr. Doom’s death in issue #260. Remember that guy in the crowd who was rude to Aunt May? That was Norm from this issue. Dr. Doom used the ol’ mind switch technique from way, way back in issue #10 to take over Norm’s body at the last minute. Poor Norm was the one who died in Doom’s body. Doom steals Sue’s signal device and says he will contact her teammates, drawing them into his trap.

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Cut to Johnny and Alicia (who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise) enjoying a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park. Alicia/Lyja says she’s never been happier, but still feels some sadness for Ben, who is out there somewhere all alone. He gets the signal that Sue is trouble and flies off. Alicia/Lyja says there is nothing she can do now but go home… and pray.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed says he managed to make a recording of Dr. Doom’s brainwaves some time ago, but we’re not told when, exactly, this happened.

Fade out: Sue gets another new haircut, super-short this time. The big question is whether her hair is all spikey and messed up because she was interrupted mid-styling, or if her hair is that way because it’s the late ‘80s.

Flame on: Just before Johnny is called away, he says there’s very something important he wants to ask Alicia. I think we all know where this is headed.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk uses Ben’s “It’s clobberin’ time” catch phrase in this issue, with Sue joking that it just doesn’t feel like the Fantastic Four without someone saying it.

The Alicia problem: Lyja says her nostalgic feelings about Ben are nostalgia for something “that never really was,” which has new meaning now that we know she’s a Skrull. Also, there’s a reference to the Skrull empire collapsing in a recent Avengers action epic, so it’s a safe bet that whatever superior officer Lyja may have once reported to is no longer around.

Commercial break: Star Comics! I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the way Lion-O is holding that sword next to Misty. Misty, by the way, is not a ripoff of The Wizard of Oz, but “the soap opera superstar who’s setting the world on fire.” Good for her.

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Trivia time: Interesting how Invincible Man is not a character, but a costume worn by a variety of characters for whatever reason, including the Super-Skrull, Dr. Doom, and even Reed. Years later, Marvel would introduce Ronin, a similar concept, with Hawkeye, Moon Knight, and Echo all taking on the Ronin costume and persona at different times.

Wait, does New York City have an actual Embassy Row? I just did some surface-level googling, and could only find the one in Washington D.C.

Fantastic or frightful? You have to hand it to John Byrne for setting up this issue 30 issues back, but Dr. Doom’s big return feels kind of rushed. Beyond that, the rest of the issue is set up for the next one, so brace yourself for one more go-around with the Beyonder.

Next week: Time loops and paradoxes, paradoxes and time loops.

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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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