Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #327, the original four are back together (sort of) for some old-fashioned villain-punching.
Recap: Reed and Sue have paid a visit to the new FF, and they may or may not be re-joining the team full time. A brand-new Frightful Four attacked, and during the battle, Reed’s latest machine turned Ben back into a human. As this issue begins, Ben is immediately overcome with doubt, losing his strength, while the battle continues all around him. Reed, Sue, Johnny, and the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel fight against the new Frightful Four, made up of the Wizard, Titania, Klaw, and Hydro-Man. Johnny turns Hydro-Man into steam, Sharon and Titania bicker about ugliness versus inner beauty as they trade punches, and Franklin uses a “mind thrust” to attack the Wizard, allowing Reed to take the offensive. The FF eventually defeats the Frightful Four to the point where the Frightful Four retreats. Reed says to let them go, so the FF can regroup.
Ben asks Reed how his transformation is possible, since Reed said Ben could never be human again because of his mental block. Reed promises to do some tests to find the answer. Sharon expresses concern about how small Ben is now, and that she could potentially crush him, but Ben responds by giving her a big hug. He still loves her! Reed gets to work not on Ben’s condition, but on the building’s defenses, finding out how the Wizard got inside. Sue tells him it’s not official that he’s team leader again. He assumes he is, but she tells him nothing has been decided.
Back at the Frightful Four’s headquarters, a warehouse in Long Island, the team bickers while the Wizard gives a big speech comparing him and Reed. He says their intellects are equal, so it’s their teams that make the difference. Reed’s team is like family, and loyal to him, while the Wizard’s team is made up of hired thugs, loyal to themselves. The Wizard sees a shape fly by outside the window, and thinks he’s found someone new to hire.
Back at Four Freedoms Plaza (I still don’t like that name) Ben says he’s enjoying being human, but again reassures Sharon that he loves her no matter what her body type is. Reed says he has not only found the computer virus the Wizard used to break into the building, but he’s tracked it back to the source, locating the Frightful Four’s hideout. Ben turns leadership of the FF over to Reed, so Reed, Sue, Johnny and Sharon take off to attack the villains.
Catching the Frightful Four by surprise, the FF make short work of the baddies. Just as they’ve won the fight, an unseen force knocks them all out. The Wizard then introduces his new recruits — Dragon Man (the shape he saw flying by earlier) and Aron the Watcher (whom we know has been stalking the FF for some time).
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed punches out Klaw with metal knuckles made of Vibranium. Because Klaw is made of pure sound, Vibranium has no effect on him. Predictably, we’re not told where Reed got these things from.
Fade out: Sue says she doesn’t know if she could handle all the ups and downs Ben has gone through lately. Are we just ignoring the emotional hell she suffered during the whole “Malice” story arc?
Clobberin’ time: Ben has some clothes stashed away from the last time he turned human (not counting his time on Battleworld) and jokes about the ‘70s wide lapels on shirts. Predictably, we’re not told how these clothes survived the destruction of the original Baxter Building.
Flame on: You’d think Hydro-Man would be a good opponent for Johnny, but he doesn’t stand a chance. Johnny turns him into steam during the first fight, and then turns him into ice by drawing the heat from his body in the second fight.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Once again, the comic is ahead of its time by having Sharon be a non-conventionally beautiful hero, but then the others have to keep reassuring her that she is loved over and over. Baby steps, I guess.
Four and a half: Where did Franklin get this telekinesis-like “mind-thrust” power from? In Silver Surfer and Avengers, we saw Reed decide to encourage Franklin using his powers and exploring what all Franklin can do, rather than trying to repress those powers.
The Alicia problem: Alicia, who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise, is quick to approach Ben and touch his face. Remember that Lyja wears contacts to simulate blindness, so this is the first time she’s “seen” Ben as a human.
Commercial break: The Campbell’s kids are sooo creepy:
Trivia time: What happened with the Avengers after Reed and Sue left? Captain America established a “revolving door” team, meaning that different Avengers would and wouldn’t be on the team at any given time, sort of like the Defenders constantly-changing membership. During this time, the Avengers faced some Fantastic Four villains, Dr. Doom and Blastaar.
Fantastic or frightful? I wonder if someone at Marvel editorial demanded more action, because this issue is pretty much all fighting. I love a superhero brawl as much as anyone, but it’s better to have more of a balance between slugfest and story, something this issue lacks.
Next week: Who watches this watcher? No one!
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.