Fantastic Friday: Goin’ to the chapel

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Can you believe I’ve been doing this blog series long enough to reach issue #300? It’s the big wedding.

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We begin in the office of the Daily Bugle, where Johnny is furious that the newspaper has found out he and Alicia (who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise) are getting married. Publisher Robbie Robertson says that Johnny and Alicia are public figures, which makes their marriage news. Johnny flies off, grousing about how complicated life has become. Speaking of grousing, we cut to Ben, who is wandering his old neighborhood, and getting pranked with more practical jokes by the Yancy Street Gang.

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Elsewhere in Manhattan, Alicia tries on her wedding dress while Sue and She-Hulk use their powers to chase away the paparazzi. In Latveria, even Dr. Doom has heard about the wedding, and he ominously states that he will make his presence known at the ceremony. At Four Freedoms Plaza (the FF’s new headquarters) Reed and Johnny have a heart-to-heart about marriage, and about how Johnny is a responsible adult now, and no longer the young “hot-headed” kid he was when the team was formed.

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With all that drama out of the way, the writers remember this is a Marvel comic book, so we get some supervillain action. The Puppet Master, whom you’ll remember is also Alicia’s stepfather, is furious about the wedding and wants to stop it. His lair (which appears to be an ordinary NYC apartment) is invaded by the Mad Thinker and the Wizard, who also want revenge against the FF. We get a couple of pages of flashbacks to these characters’ histories, to get new readers up to speed. They agree to kill the FF, but only if Alicia is not harmed and that she inherits the FF’s fortune after they’re dead.

Back at HQ, Alicia introduces Johnny to Gurdon Brewster, the priest who will be officiating the ceremony, and there’s an entire page of them (and the reader) getting to know this guy. Puppet Master creates a puppet of Franklin, which takes over Franklin’s mind and has him eavesdrop on the conversation. Thanks to this, Puppet Master knows the secret location where the wedding will take place. (It’s a small chapel out on Long Island.)

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The big day arrives, and we get to the best part of the issue: The wedding guests! This is the weirdest, goofiest-looking bunch of extras I’ve ever seen in comics. Needless to say, we’ve never seen any of these characters in the comic before. I think we’re meant to believe that these are folks from the art community who are friends to Alicia. One woman compliments She-Hulk on her “body paint,” suggesting that whoever this folks are, they’re not familiar with the FF as celebrities.

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Anyway, Puppet Master has snuck into the building with a puppet of the Thing, hoping to take over the Thing’s mind seconds after the ceremony and kill everyone. Puppet Master overhears Alicia thanking Ben for his bravery and integrity in agreeing to be Johnny’s best man. This causes Puppet Master to have second thoughts. The wedding ceremony goes smoothly, and Puppet Master decides he can’t go through with the plan. He puts the puppet away, and it’s a happy ending.

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Except it’s not happy for the Wizard and the Mad Thinker. Puppet Master uses a puppet of Dragon Man to find the real Dragon Man, take over his mind, and send him after the two villains. There’s a big fight between Dragon Man, the Wizard, the Mad Thinker, and the Mad Thinker’s androids. The androids are destroyed, the Mad Thinker is revealed to be a robot duplicate operated by remote control, and the Wizard barely escapes with his life. Puppet Master destroys the rest of his puppets and Dragon Man carries him away.

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Unaware that any of this has happened, the FF enjoy an outdoor reception. Then a package arrives… from Dr. Doom! It’s merely a bouquet of flowers, with a note saying that, in honor of the wedding, there will be a truce between him and the FF for as long as the flowers are bloom. It seems like a nice gesture, until Reed reminds us that cut flowers don’t stay in bloom for very long.

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Unstable molecule: In his heart-to-heart with Johnny, Reed says that even someone as smart as him still has a lot to learn about being a good husband.

Fade out: Sue is Alicia’s maid of honor. There don’t appear to be any bridesmaids. Also, Sue instantly recognizes Dr. Doom’s handwriting on Doom’s card. I guess this was from her only-mentioned-once-before private detective skills.

Clobberin’ time: Ben’s prankster nemeses the Yancy Street Gang haven’t shown up in this series since issue #190. Instead of just off-panel voices, this time we actually see them, but not their faces. They appear to be a group in their late teens or early ‘20s.

Flame on: Johnny is referred to as either “Johnathan” or “John” several times in this issue, no doubt to emphasize that he’s become a mature adult now.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk says to a paparazzi that she doesn’t like men with cameras, a reference to the notorious “Naked Truth” issue from the John Byrne run.

Four and a half: Franklin’s new dream-based powers aren’t mentioned or used when Puppet Master takes over his mind. I guess Puppet Master caught him unawares.

The Alicia problem: Based on issues to come, many readers over the years have suspected that Puppet Master knew all along that Alicia was really Lyja in disguise, but I’m not seeing any of that in this one. Also, we learn Alicia’s middle name is Reiss.

Commercial break: Look closely: This is not an ad for bicycles. It’s for candy!

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Trivia time: Robbie Robertson is publisher of the Daily Bugle instead of J. Jonah Jameson during this time, because Jolly Jonah had stepped down after it was publicly revealed that he funded the mad science that created the villainous Scorpion. If you’re wondering why Robbie’s door reads “Joseph Robertson,” it’s because that’s his name. “Robbie” is just a nickname.

I’ve been having a heck of a time trying to track Dragon Man’s continuity during this era of Marvel. It looks to me like he’s just wandering the world aimlessly, only for various villains to capture him and mind-control him. In Captain America, he was controlled by the Machinesmith, in Incredible Hulk, he was controlled by the Ringmaster, and in Power Pack, he was controlled by some random gangsters. The Power Pack issues ended with Dragon Man reunited with his creator, Professor Gilbert. Too bad that Puppet Master in this issue undoes that happy reunion.

Fantastic or frightful? From this point forward, Fantastic Four will be in a constant tug-of-war between creators who want the characters to grow and change, and creators who want the iconic status quo. This issue is all about showing how the characters have grown up and matured, and yet we know that it’ll all be undone in the future. I don’t know what the answer is. At least the all-villain rumble was fun.

Next week: Dream a little dream for me.

****

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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