Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’re in writer-artist John Byrne’s final full arc on the series, and we’re blasting off for some outer space action. Oh, and someone dies.
To recap: The FF and Nick Fury investigate the Negative Zone portal opening in Earth’s orbit. Inside the portal, our heroes fight and defeat Blastaar, only for him to trick them and restore Annihlus to full power. This issue begins with Annihilus standing triumphant over the unconscious Fantastic Four. He and Blastaar start to fight, as Sue and She-Hulk wake. Sue explains that Annihilus’ only desire is in his name — to annihilate.
Sue wants to help Reed, but Reed reminds her that he didn’t properly transition into the Negative Zone, and if he comes into too much contact with anything, there’ll be a major explosion. Nick Fury manages to contact Sue, informing her that Blastaar’s ship has been joined by hundreds of other ships. Blastaar proudly announces that his personal armada has arrived.
Annihilus takes the ship’s controls and fires on the armada. Aboard one of the other ships, there’s some Star Trek-style talk among the aliens about following the chain of command, with the captain, Tanjaar, saying he has no love for his leader Blastaar. Back in the main ship, Johnny wakes, and he and She-Hulk fight Annihilus. Blastaar tries to stop the fight so his ship won’t be destroyed. Tanjaar and his crew board the ship, but the attack Blastaar instead of following his orders. Annihilus stops the fight by unleashing the full force of his cosmic control rod, zapping everyone and breaking apart the ship. He then flies out into space, heading straight for the Negative Zone portal, towards Earth.
Reed comes up with a plan. If he comes into contact with Annihilus, the resulting explosion will stop him, even if it kills them both. Sue won’t have it, saying there must be another way. Reed says he’s put his life on the line to save humanity before, and if it’s the only option, he’ll do it again. Sue reluctantly agrees, knowing that Annihilus can and will destroy the Earth if not for them. Sue, She-Hulk, and Johnny regroup with Nick Fury’s ship, and he flies them through the Negative Zone portal, back towards Earth. Reed broadcasts a message, saying he’s caught up to Annihilus and is about to make contact. He tells Susan he loves her, and then there’s a massive explosion.
Back aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. space station, Fury announces that it worked, and that the Negative Zone portal is permanently closed, Sue is in tears, knowing that Reed is dead. Fury won’t give up, though, ordering the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to search outer space for any sign of Reed. An agent says there’s no sign of Reed, only an old weather balloon floating in orbit.
Sue toughens up and says they must accept that Reed is gone forever, and that they must get on with their lives — it’s what Reed would have wanted. Fury flies the team back to Earth aboard the retro S.H.I.E.L.D. flying car, while Sue wonders how she’s going to break the news to Franklin. She’ll have to wait, though, because Fury announces something is wrong. The explosion has caused temporal weirdness to happen, and somehow New York has reverted back to the year 1936!
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: A lot of fans believe that, on some deep psychological level, Reed is suicidal. I believe this issue fuels a lot of that fire, with him so quick to sacrifice himself rather than search for alternate way to save the day.
Fade out: Sue toughens up so that she insists mourning will have to wait until after the crisis is over. Also, she’s gotten so good at using her powers that it’s just a given that she keeps everyone alive in space with her force fields after the ship falls apart.
Flame on: Johnny manages to hold his own against a fully-powered Annihilus, keeping the big guy at bay during the fight long enough for his teammates to regroup.
Fantastic Fifth Wheel: She-Hulk asks again who Annihilus is, even though she was there the last time the FF fought him, and she was reminded who he was last issue as well.
Commercial break: Ahh, the New Universe. It was not a success, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for it. D.P.7, Psi-Force, Nightmask… those were good times.
Trivia time: What’s the deal with the flying car? It was originally designed by Stark Industries, who offered it to S.H.I.E.L.D. for use. The make and model of the car has changed over the years, but it is usually a Porsche or an Aston Martin. It’s often called L.O.L.A., which stands for “Low Orbit Levitating Automobile.” We saw it briefly in the first Captain America movie, and it’s shown up a few times on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.
Fantastic or frightful? Reed dies, but without any fanfare or without this being a major event, practically telegraphing to readers that he’s not really dead. Not to mention that this comes just after Jean Grey and Dr. Doom just came back from the dead, and Annihilus is back from the dead in this very issue. Beyond that, there is some fun to be had here, especially with Byrne riffing on Star Trek.
Next week: Great depression.
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.