Fantastic Friday: Installin’ Stalin

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The gun-toting alternate timeline action keeps on keepin’ on in issue #344.

After a time travel adventure, our heroes have landed in an alternate timeline, where World War III has just broken out. U.S. President Dan Quayle and Soviet leader Josef Stalin have launched nukes, so the FF have armed themselves with ridiculously oversized cool guns to put an end to the conflict. The first couple of pages are the heroes using their cool guns to shoot down the nuclear missiles. The guns are equipped with EMP blasts, which disarm the nukes, letting them fall to the ground with exploding.

Reed contacts the White House and asks that the FF be given six to solve the crisis themselves. The Russians fire their nukes again, this time aiming for the FF’s plane. Sue turns the entire plane invisible and Ben flies it into Soviet space. The team sneak into Moscow inside a stereotypically Russian potato truck. They break into Soviet headquarters, fight some guards, and make their way into a huge science lab. There, they find Stalin wearing a King Kong-size exoskeleton. He is… the Supreme Soviet!

Stalin has prepared for a fight against the FF, and has weapons to counterattack their powers. Then, Ben reaches into his knapsack and pulls out his Thing-shaped exoskeleton. (We’re told he used Tony Stark’s shrinking tech to bring it along. Does that mean in this timeline Tony is Ant-Man instead of Iron Man?) Now with two Things on the team, our heroes knock Stalin off balance, and Reeds shoots him with an EMP from one of the cool guns. Reed then reveals that it’s not just an exoskeleton, but Stalin himself is a robot!

Reed then pulls a fast one on the Russians, reprogramming the Stalin robot to be a good guy. “Stalin” reorganizes the government so that he and his inner circle are no longer in charge, turning Russian rule over to Gorbachev, who just happens to be there.

The FF return to headquarters, where we’re told that this timeline’s FF is still on their time travel adventure from the previous few issues. We’re also told that Reed made adjustments to the time sled that brought them there, so getting home won’t be a problem this time. This timeline’s Alicia gives Ben a kiss goodbye, to say thanks for saving the world. Sharon doesn’t like seeing this, and is overcome with jealousy. The FF leave just in time for the alt-timeline FF to get home. There, they find that Ben has left behind a file he stole from the Soviets, revealing that President Dan Quayle is also a robot! Surprise twist!

Unstable molecule: Reed is also a hacker in addition to scientist and engineer, because he’s abel to override the White House’s security system and place a phone call directly to the Oval Office.

Fade out: Sue mentions several times that her powers aren’t at their strongest because she’s exhausted. I guess this is to explain why she doesn’t destroy the Supreme Soviet with force fields the second she sees him, but it still feels out of character.

Clobberin’ time: Ben gets to show off his piloting skills, as we’re told he flew all the Moscow 20 feet off the ground to avoid radar. (Is that even possible?)

Flame on: Johnny makes a wisecrack about the New Warriors, whose series had just debuted. The New Warriors had already participated in the Acts of Vengeance crossover, and in their first issue they fought a villain on live TV, so it makes sense that Johnny knows who they are.

Fantastic fifth wheel: While Sharon has been a trusted member of the team for almost 40 issues now, her bout of jealousy in this issue is setting up her upcoming exit from the series.

The Alicia problem: Again, there’s no of knowing whether the alternate timeline Alicia is Lyja the Skrull in disguise. She has a line where she says it’s as if she’s know our timeline’s Ben all her life. Perhaps this is a reference to how Lyja studied the FF thoroughly before infiltrating them.

Commercial break: I love how “Drug Lord” is a proper noun:

Trivia time: So in the alternate timeline, the leaders of both Russia and America are robots in disguise. Who built these robots? And for what purpose? We’ll never know, because, according to the Marvel Wiki, we never return to this timeline.

Fantastic or frightful? So the “Fantastic Four use guns now” controversy ends as soon as it began, as the guns are non-lethal and not used that much. What’s left is a fun, action-packed issue that’s surprisingly apolitical given the subject matter. The message is merely “don’t drop bombs on people.”

Next week: We’re still not done time traveling!


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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