Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’re in the middle of an ongoing arc, in which the we say goodbye to the classic FF and hello to a whole new team. In issue #305, that’s not so easy, because one of the new members has a long history with our heroes.
The issue begins with Ben brooding on a rooftop, Batman-style. He exposits about how Reed and Sue are leaving the FF, he’s the new team leader, and he’s got to come up with new team members. He talks with Reed, who’s still hanging around, about who the replacement should be. Reed suggests Black Panther, along with former alternate FF members Power Man, Thundra, and Tigra. They’re interrupted by Crystal, hovering outside a nearby window. She used her elemental powers to create a thermal updraft, giving her temporary flying-like powers.
We get a lot of exposition about how Crystal and her hubby Quicksilver recently broke up. She cheated on him with a real estate agent, and he turned into a murderous supervillain. (But, hey, what relationship isn’t complicated?) After having fought and defeated Quicksilver in the previous issue, Reed has him in a cell inside Four Freedoms Plaza, next to the padded cell they’re keeping young Kristoff in. Crystal steps into the cell to confront Quicksilver. After bickering a bit about one another’s discretions, it turns into a full-blown fight. Crystal uses the small space to her advantage, using her elemental powers to command the “earth” (a.k.a. the floor) beneath quicksilver so he can be as speedy. She says this is her goodbye to him.
Johnny and Alicia (who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise) show up, and Crystal congratulates them on their recent marriage. Crystal says it’s time for her to return to the Inhumans’ home on the moon, but Ben instead asks her stay and rejoin the FF as one of the team’s new members. Johnny doesn’t like this at all, and he curtly asks Ben to speak with him in private on the roof.
Johnny angrily accuses Ben of using Crystal to bother him, as he doesn’t want his ex around while starting a new marriage. Ben says Johnny’s doing the same thing with Ben’s ex. They fight, but it’s not much of fight because they both know how each other’s powers work. Johnny declares that he’s not leaving the FF, no matter what decisions Ben makes as team leader. Johnny and Alicia then have a heart-to-heart, with him promising her that Crystal is in his past, whereas she’s in his future. They go apartment-hunting, hoping to have their own life, separate from superhero craziness (yeah, good luck with that).
Sue and Crystal then have a heart-to-heart, with Sue rather abruptly bringing up Crystal’s infidelity. Crystal stands by what she did, saying “It was right for me at that time.” She further tells Sue, “We’re from different generations.” She assures Sue that she’s not here to break up Johnny and Alicia. The issue ends when the security system at Four Freedoms Plaza goes off. Everyone rushes to main entrance to find Dr. Doom there. The big twist is that he’s not there for Kristoff, he’s there for Franklin!
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: This issue remembers that the Inhumans left Earth because of pollution. Reed then whips up a formula to cure Crystal of pollution poisoning so she can stay with the FF. We’re not told why he doesn’t send cases of this stuff up to the moon for all the Inhumans.
Fade out: Sue’s reaction to Crystal sleeping with someone other than her husband is initial surprise that the “nice girl” Crystal would do that, but it doesn’t seem to me to be all that judgmental beyond that. (A quick trip around the internet and back shows a lot of folks interpreting this in other ways, though, with many readers damning Crystal for her behavior. I don’t believe this was the author’s intent.)
Clobberin’ time: Ben’s philosophy for recruiting new team members is that they have to be like family, and not just “powers and a good attitude,” which is how Ben describes the Avengers’ membership requirements. During the fight, Ben blows out Johnny’s flame with a huge gust of breath, something I don’t recall seeing him do before.
Flame on: Johnny and Alicia’s new loft apartment is only a few blocks from Four Freedoms Plaza, not taking him too far from the action. Their new landlord insists on an indemnity against smoke and fire damage.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Crystal’s superpowers continue to be ill-defined. Now she seems to controlling elements not in a “table of elements” way, but in a “air/earth/water/fire” way (maybe she’s the new reincarnation of Aang and Korra). She’s still shooting those yellow energy beams out of her hands, and we’re still not told what those are.
Four and a half: Franklin says he remembers when Crystal was a member of the team before, even though he was too young to remember.
The Alicia problem: Lyja talks about Crystal as the “woman I once knew,” except this is the first time she’s met Crystal. Lyja’s just maintaining her cover, no doubt.
Commercial break: Time machine!
Trivia time: Look closely: Some of the captions in this issue aren’t just the usual comic book narration, but Dr. Doom, secretly watching the FF via hidden cameras. It’s a really subtle touch that a lot of folks miss on their first read.
Fantastic or Frightful? This one has a lot to unpack. Before the new Fantastic Four can be introduced, the characters’ histories have to be dealt with. So this is mostly setting up future issues, but it’s still a smart play, keeping readers from asking “But what about the time that…”
Next: All Doom, all the time.
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