Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #309, the new FF team — Ben, Johnny, Crystal, and the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel — continue their struggle against a wacky and rather offensive villain.
To recap: The new FF are pursuing Fasaud, a murderous Arab sheik with television-based superpowers (you read that right) who’s out to kill a TV journalist. Ben and Sharon have left for Fasaud’s home country of Aqiria to investigate, while Johnny and Crystal have stayed behind as bodyguards for the reporter. Ben and Sharon arrive in Aqiria where they are greeted by King Khafir and US Ambassador Windsor Raynes. The king says Fasaud’s actions are an embarrassment to his country and he promises to work with the FF in stopping him. The king then adds that Sharon will have to cover up her legs and face in this Middle Eastern country. Sharon, who still has serious problems with men due to her PTSD, isn’t happy about this, but Ben convinces her to do it.
In New York, Alicia (who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise) prepares a small, intimate dinner for her and Johnny. Then he calls and says he invited Crystal to dinner as well, in the hopes of Crystal and Alicia getting to know each other better. Alicia reluctantly agrees. In Aqiria, there is one fenced-off portion of oil fields where foreigners aren’t allowed to go, and Ben spots trucks of liquid oxygen going in and out of there. As a former pilot, Ben knows liquid oxygen is used for rocket. Ben and Sharon agree something fishy is going on. They investigate, and the comic spends a luxurious page and a half showing us how Ben and Sharon combine his strength and her agility to hop a fence. (I wish today’s comics did here’s-the-characters-using-their-powers-in-cool-ways stuff like this more often):
In New York, Johnny, Alicia, and Crystal sit down for dinner and toast “to friendship.” As they reminisce about old times, when Fasaud shows appears and challenges them to a fight. Outside, so as not to endanger Alicia, Crystal and Johnny try to fight Fasaud, knowing that his touch could electrocute either of them.
Crystal draws moisture from the air around her to temporarily short out Fasaud with water. She then has Johnny fire his explosive nova flame into the air over New York, which she turns into a gigantic summer storm, so powerful is disrupts transmissions all over the city, causing Fasaud’s electric image to dissipate.
In Aqiria, Ben and Sharon discover a space shuttle has been built in secret, and looks ready to launch. Just then, Fasaud reappears behind them and electrocutes them both. The king and Raynes appear alongside Fasaud, with the king saying, “You’ve saved the kingdom once again, my trusted friend.”
To be continued!
Clobberin’ time: Ben states that he’s no scientist and doesn’t know how Fasaud’s powers work, but then his knowledge gained from years as a pilot comes in handy.
Flame on: When Johnny tells Alicia he invited Crystal over for dinner, he adds “We’ll make it a threesome!” We readers aren’t supposed to interpret any double meaning in that, right?
Fantastic fifth wheel: It looks like they’re trying to set up Crystal as the new team’s most powerful member, with her creating a city-wide cataclysm just to defeat Fasaud.
The Alicia problem: Alicia/Lyja says she has been sculpting animals with help from the Bronx Zoo, who sedates the animals so she can study them by touch. (Not cool, Bronx Zoo!) Again, I think we can assume that Lyja’s experience as a shape-shifter can be applied to her recreating Alicia’s sculpting prowess.
Commercial break: Is this how Avengers spend their day off?
Trivia time: After all this time, I’m still perplexed as to what Crystal’s powers are, so I looked her up in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition. It states her powers are based on the elements of fire, water, earth, and air. She manipulates the environment around her on a molecular level, creating any fire/water/earth/air-based construct or effect she can imagine. Why isn’t she a god, then? Because her constructs aren’t permanent, and she suffers mental and physical fatigue after using her powers nonstop for about an hour. (This makes her seem like a Green Lantern, actually.) Crystal’s portrait in the Handbook was drawn by John Byrne.
Fantastic or frightful? If Fasaud is after that journalist, why does he attack Johnny and Crystal? Was it too predictable that the king and the ambassador are up to no good? Sure, it’s fun to see Ben playing the part of the team’s leader and doing so in his own style, but beyond that, this issue has problems. And it’s not over yet.
Next week: The things, they are a changin’.
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