Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’ve only just established a new FF team for a few issues, and the creators are already shaking things up again in issue #310, with more big changes for our heroes.
We begin in the middle of the action where Ben and Sharon (Ms. Marvel) have been taken captive via electrified chains by Fasaud, an evil Arab sheik with television-based superpowers (sigh…) in the country of Aqiria. Aqiria’s king and the US ambassador are also in on Fasaud’s plot, which involves a spaceship. The ambassador monologues the evil plan, which has to do with using the spaceship to secretly deliver military payloads into space (or something). Further, they have Ben and Sharon chained to platform directly beneath the rocket, where they will burn up upon launch. The bad guys then do the Bond villain thing, leaving Ben and Sharon alone in their death trap. Ben struggles against the chains, breaking them with a declaration of “I’m the Thing!” Sharon tries the same, but she’s not as strong as Ben. “There’s only one o’ me,” Ben says, foreshadowingly.
Ben frees Sharon and the two of them fight their way through Aqiria’s defenses, including a guy in a huge mech suit. While fighting, Sharon goes on about how much she hates men (she was once sexually abused by men and now has serious PTSD) and how she doesn’t even want Ben touching her.
Sharon deduces that in order for Fasaud to teleport to New York and back via television signals, he must be using satellites. This leads them back to the Aqirian spaceship. They fight their way on board the ship, where Ben hot-wires it (!) and they take off.
In orbit, Fasaud takes over the satellite, which of course is armed, and there’s a space battle between the ship and the satellite. Fasaud teleports to inside the ship, where he grabs Sharon, electrocuting her. Ben destroys the satellite, which weakens Fasaud long enough for Sharon to punch him out. Fasaud reverts to insubstantiality (which is death, apparently). Ben and Sharon celebrate… with a kiss! “She ain’t pullin’ away,” Ben thinks.
The romance is short-lived, as the ship flies out of control, crashing down toward Earth. Ben attempts to steer the ship to safety, it passes through the cosmic ray belt — the same one that originally gave the FF their powers. The ship crash-lands in a jungle, and Ben emerges from the wreckage. He discovers the cosmic rays have transformed him again. His rocky skin is now spikey skin!
He searches for Sharon, noting that his strength has greatly increased. Ben finds Sharon to see that she has become… another Thing!
To be continued!
Clobberin’ time: How, exactly, is Ben able to “hot-wire” a spaceship? He explains that most spaceships on Earth use tech invented by Reed Richards. As Reed’s number one test pilot, Ben knows his way around the ship.
Flame on: Johnny, Crystal, and Alicia (who is really Lyja the Skrull in disguise) are only in one short scene, in which Johnny once again assures Alicia/Lyja that he and Crystal are just friends now.
Fantastic fifth wheel: You might be thinking that Sharon will revert back to normal once this story arc is over. Oohh, no. Settle in for long, long haul with her as the so-called “She-Thing.”
Commercial break: It’s The Marvel Try-out Book! The book was part of a contest, and the winner was Mark Bagley, who later became a super-popular artist on Ultimate Spider-Man.
Trivia time: Not only did Fasaud never return, but Marvel later published a public apology for its stereotyping of Middle Easterners during this story. So, there’s that.
(Edit: The Marvel Wiki informs me that Fasaud reappeared in Union Jack #2, to which I respond, “Since when did Union Jack have his own series?”)
Fantastic or frightful? I’ll go ahead and table discussion of Ben and Sharon’s transformations until next week. (It’s my blog, my rules.) This is issue is mostly all action, with Ben and Sharon beating up bad guys, and then some space battle stuff straight out of a Star Wars comic. Ben and Sharon’s kiss is a great character moment for them both, except we can’t have a status quo for a single issue before the next big shake-up, it seems.
Next week: It’s not easy being orange.
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