Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. After last issue’s sadness-fest, issue #298 gets back to some old fashioned superhero brawling… but still with some sadness.
Previously, two alien brothers-turned-warlords, Umbra and Jaagur, were in a battle so great that it threatened life on Earth. The FF traveled to space to put a stop to it, unknowingly fusing the two brothers into a single being, like an evil Stevonnie, who is now very angry and heading for Earth. This issue begins as the FF’s ship is crashing, which is a good enough excuse for our heroes to use their powers for the first few pages to survive. Safely back on the ground, Johnny and Alicia announce to everyone that they are now engaged. Ben tries to be supportive, but everyone can tell he’s still depressed. When asked if he’ll attend the wedding, he says he’ll think about it.
We’re back at the military base where the story began, and one of the scientists runs up and announces there’s still a danger. The scientist has located Umbra/Jaagur, who is tearing up a satellite on the way to Earth. (No proper name is given for Umbra/Jaagur, although some fan sites call him “Jumbra.” I’ll go with that.) Jumbra arrives at the base via a “warp harness,” and is quick to dismiss humans as backwards primitives.
The rest of the comic is pretty much one big fight scene. Jumbra mows down the army guys and then is able to absorb Johnny’s flames. At one point, he starts separating back into two people, but re-forms into Jumbra. Ben fights Jumbra for several pages, not backing down even though Jumbra is stronger. Ben finally beats the pulp out of him, no doubt letting out a lot of frustration in the process.
Once Jumbra is defeated, there is some debate over whether to separate him back into two beings, with the Umbra half barely keeping the Jaagur berserker half in check. Reed says the two brothers will be more manageable than one big monster, so it’s off to the lab for a cure. It works, but the brothers start fighting again immediately. Johnny gets thrown across the room during the fight, but Ben rescues him. Umbra uses a power coupling to destroy both him and Jaagur, and they die in a huge explosion. Ben points out that brothers always fight, only the best ones don’t let those fights ruin them.
Unstable molecule: Reed applies “warp effect circuitry” to cure Jumbra. It’s as good an explanation as any, I guess.
Fade out: Sue is the only member of the team successfully able to counter Jumbra, as he is perplexed by invisible barriers around him.
Clobberin’ time: Like last issue, Ben spends this one with his face covered the whole time, until the very last panel. I guess this means he’s back to his old self after this? We’ll see.
Flame on: Johnny attempts to use his mega-powerful against Jumbra, but it doesn’t work, with Jumbra saying he’s able to withstand being in the heart of a sun. (There’s no way he’s that powerful. This is just bragging, right?)
Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk does very little this issue. Jumbra throws her around during the fight, and she carries heavy equipment around in the lab.
Four and a half: Franklin says he’s only been to one wedding before, referencing Fantastic Four #150. (And he was in a coma for most of that issue.)
The Alicia problem: Alicia, who is really Lyja the Skrull in disguise, says Ben doesn’t have to come to the wedding, but she hopes he does. I suppose Lyja is more about keeping the family together than feel overly guilty about a previous relationship with Ben, when there wasn’t one.
Commercial break: This “Cap’n Crunch is missing” promotion lasted from 1985 to 1987. They devoted years to this. Years! This thing was so huge even Spidey got involved:
Trivia time: The Marvel Wiki informs me that Umbra and Jaguur never appeared again after this. They/he would make a great adversary for the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Fantastic or frightful? This episode is one big fight scene, but the feuding brothers thing does serve as a metaphor for the tension between Ben and the rest of the team. So on that level, I’d call the issue a success.
Next: A surprising (not surprising) guest star.
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