Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. This is Marvel, so of course it’s time for another big crossover. This is annual #22, in which Atlantis Attacks.
Fantastic Four gets the distinction of being the grandiose final chapter of the 16-part Atlantis Attacks storyline that crossed over all of that year’s annuals. That’s a lot to recap. The villain is Ghaur, an ancient alien who founded the undersea kingdom of Lemuria. After coming back from the dead, Ghaur united Lemuria and Atlantis, urging them both to wage war on the surface world. What Attuma, the current ruler of Atlantis, and Llyra, the queen of Lemuria, don’t know is that Ghaur has an ulterior motive. The war is just a cover for his quest to re-create the Serpent Crown, which will unleash the Egyptian snake god Set onto the Earth, which would be bad. To accomplish this, Ghaur has abducted seven “brides of Set” made up of She-Hulk, Jean Grey, Scarlet Witch, Storm, Dagger, Andromeda (an Atlantean princess) and the FF’s own Invisible Woman. The FF, Spider-Man, and the Avengers stopped the Atlantis invasion in NYC, while Thor, Dr. Strange, and the West Coast Avengers defeated Set. Ghaur then escaped to Lemuria with the seven brides.
The annual begins the FF and the two Avengers teams heading deep into the ocean in high-tech submarine-like ships in pursuit of Ghaur. (We’re not told why Spider-Man stays behind.) The heroes arrive in Lemuria and enter the “damp zone,” a space where air-breathing and water-breathing creatures can coexist. (How convenient.)
There’s a huge battle, in which most of the Avengers are defeated, or at least held back. Namor the Sub-Mariner shows up, and this is supposed to be a surprise since he “died” at the start of the crossover. The final battle comes down to Ghaur and Llyra versus Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Namor. Reed describes this makeshift group as “a fantastic foursome.”
Llyra uses her mental telepathy to coerce the FFers into fighting each other. She also torments Namor with visions of his dead loves, Dorma and Marrina. Ghaur uses his new Serpent Crown to achieve godlike power, but then he is interrupted abruptly by Naga of Lemuria, a demonic figure who once wore the crown. (This seems to come out of nowhere, but it was foreshadowed in the “saga of the Serpent Crown” backup stories that run through all these annuals.) Naga and Ghaur destroy each other, and Llyra vanishes without a trace.
The seven brides, now free from Ghaur’s influence, work together to bury the Serpent Crown deep beneath the ocean floor, where we’re told no one will ever find it again. The kingdoms of both Atlantis and Lemuria are fallen, their inhabitants spread out across the oceans. Namor is reunited with his young cousin Namorita, who is hanging around Lemuria after her role in the New Mutants’ part of the crossover. Namor says he has been both a king and a lone wanderer, but he’s truly happy now that he has family. So, this was his story all along?
Unstable molecule: In the Web of Spider-Man annual, Reed is seriously injured while trying to help Spidey swing around, which seems like an uncharacteristic miscalculation on his part. The plot demands it, though, because the Atlanteans abduct Sue while he’s out cold.
Fade out: While Sue is being mind-controlled by Ghaur, there’s a subplot in West Coast Avengers where she and Jean Grey steal a magical gizmo from a Chicago museum.
Clobberin’ time: Even though Ben is human currently, in most of these annuals he’s drawn as though he’s still the Thing. This gets explained away here and there by having him wearing the Thing-shaped exoskeleton from way back in issue #169. (Or, more likely, Reed built him a new one after the destruction of the original Baxter Building.) Many have speculated that the annuals were drawn before it was decided to keep Ben as a human.
Flame on: During the battle, Johnny is reunited with the WWII android Human Torch, currently a member of the West Coast Avengers and going by the name “Torch.” There’s a quick reference to how they were enemies the last time they met, but that was only because of the Mad Thinker’s influence. They’re buddies now.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon doesn’t do much except throw a lot of punches during the battles. This does show, however, that the rest of the superhero community has accepted her as one of their own.
Reed comments that She-Hulk always had “a weird Hollywood-type personality.” I’m not sure what in their history would have Reed think this. She-Hulk later fights a giant sea monster while mind-controlled by Ghaur.
One-time FF member Tigra shows up alongside the Avengers, even though she was out of continuity at this time, having devolved into a full-on cat. Marvel later published a cartoon explaining that Tigra’s appearance in Atlantis Attacks was a mistake, asking readers to just imagine Tigra was never there. (Continuity!)
Commercial break: Here’s an Atlantis Attacks promo. Take the plunge.
Trivia time: As far as I can tell, the Serpent Crown never did actually return. An evil priestess named Nagala was later shown wearing what looked like a Serpent Crown, but it was never revealed what this crown was or where she got it. There were then a couple of stories about the “Thorn Crown,” which was basically the same thing, but different.
This was Ghaur’s last shot at real supervillainy, appearing only sporadically after this. Llyra, however, would continue to be involved in Atlantis-based intrigue. She had a son, Llyron, who became king of Atlantis for a short time.
Fantastic or frightful? When Atlantis Attacks works, it does what these big crossovers are supposed to do, by generating a real sense of excitement that comes with getting all the superheroes together for one big battle. The Avengers, Web of Spider-Man, West Coast Avengers, and Thor annuals do this the best. The same can’t be said the Fantastic Four chapter. I counted thirty-three Marvel heroes in this one issue, only for most of them to be forgotten about after the first few pages. And, yes, it’s more of an Avengers story than an FF story. A mixed bag, I guess.
Next week: Acting out.
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