Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Just after introducing the New Fantastic Four, their story already wraps up in issue #349.
Recap: De’Lila is a telepathic Skrull fugitive. She’s come to Earth in search a device called an ITT, which she hopes to use to assassinate the Skrull emperor. She’s being pursued by a group of Skrulls who have taken over the minds of the monsters at the Mole Man’s Monster Island to attack the Earth. De’Lila successfully incapacitated the Fantastic Four, and tricked Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Hulk, and Ghost Rider into becoming the New Fantastic Four (with a capital N) to fight the Skrulls. As this issue begins, De’Lila has mind-controlled Reed to do her evil bidding, and they’re confronting the New FF, the Skrulls, and the Mole Man in caves beneath Monster Island. Got all that?
The issue begins with De’Lila revealing to everyone that she’s not really Sue. She tries to convince the New FF that she’s on their side, and the other Skrulls are their enemy. The Mole Man believes her, saying he has sympathy for those who are ostracized. Ghost Rider, however, says he can sense evil and treachery in De’Lila’s words even without using his penance stare. De’Lila and Reed escape deeper into the caves, as Spider-Man deduces that Reed is not a Skrull but the real Reed under mind control. The New FF and the Mole Man venture deeper underground in pursuit.
De’Lila slows down the New FF by setting off a bomb, burying them under tons of rock. Hulk does his Secret Wars trick of holding up just enough rock to save his fellow heroes. Ghost Rider uses his super-cool flaming chains to burn a path through the rock. De’Lila full-on seduces Reed with a big ol’ kiss. She explains that the ITT isn’t one device, but a whole army of “Inorganic Techno-Troids” buried beneath the Earth.
At Four Freedoms Plaza, the Fantastic Four are now awake, to find that De’Lila has tied them together in such a way that if one of them uses his or her powers, there’s risk of harming the rest of the team. Franklin shows up having merely slept through De’Lila’s attack, and he frees the team. Roberta the robot receptionist recalls Reed’s “tell it to the marines” comment from last issue, and that somehow inspires her to track down Reed’s location at Monster Island.
Back in the caves, De’Lila and Reed find a buried spaceship, the source of the ITTs, discovering it to be long-lost Deviant technology. (The Deviants are cosmic characters from Marvel’s Eternals comics.) Reed, who still has some use of his brain despite being mind-controlled, theorizes that all the monsters on Monster Island might be long-lost Deviants. The New FF shows up, and De’Lila holds Reed hostage, forcing the Hulk to use his strength to break into the ship and retrieve the ITT.
With the New FF’s help, the Hulk retrieves an egg, which I guess will hatch into the ITTs. (It’s getting confusing up in here.) The Mole Man is the next to show up, alongside an army of Moloids, demanding that the egg belongs to him. Then the original FF show up (perfect timing!) to join the fight.
A big fight breaks out. De’Lila shape-shifts into Mary Jane Watson in an attempt to distract Spider-Man. It only works for a second, until he gets the egg away from her. It ends up with two of the monsters, a male and female. The egg hatches, and out comes an ITT (just one, not an army) in the form of a three-armed robot. The ITT imprints on the two monsters, who appear to adopt it as its child.
Reed and De’Lila kiss again, shocking his teammates. He then regains his stretching powers, and punches out De’Lila. He reveals that he still had some mental control, fighting against her telepathy the whole time. When she kissed him, he pickpocketed the disputer device she used to keep him from using his powers. Reed then kisses the real Sue, reassuring her that she’s the only one for him.
Ghost Rider further defeats De’Lila by giving her his penance stare (so cool) and the Skrull soldiers take her into custody. The Mole Man and the New FF call a temporary truce, as a Hulk vs. Moloid army fight would like destroy his entire kingdom. As the heroes leave, we see the Punisher flying overhead in a black helicopter with a skull painted on the side. (Where’d he get that?) De’Lila had also summoned him to join the New FF, but he sees his help isn’t needed, so he flies off. Cameo!
Unstable molecule: Once again, it’s inconsistent whether Reed’s genius gives him the ability to resist mental telepathy. This issue does not that De’Lila is a “low-level telepath.”
Fade out: When Sue sees De’Lila kissing Reed, she threatens to flat-out murder De’Lila. It’s established that Sue has a dark side, but would she really have followed through with that threat?
Clobberin’ time: Ben, wearing his Thing-shaped exoskeleton, fights side-by-side with the Hulk, despite their ongoing. Hulk even says he’s glad to see Ben.
Flame on: Alicia asks Johnny what form De’Lila took to trick him. Johnny lies and says it was Alicia, not admitting he’s still obsessed with Nebula after Nebula took over his mind a few issues back. (So much mind control in these comics.)
Fantastic fifth wheel: After this story, Wolverine went on to have some time travel adventures in his solo series, followed by a space adventure in X-Men, where fought a bunch of Skrulls again. Not to be outdone, the Hulk’s next adventure in his series was also to fight a bunch of Skrulls!
This Ghost Rider is the recently-debuted Danny Ketch version. Along with his role in the New FF, his next adventures were fighting the Wrecking Crew with Thor, fighting the Hobgoblin with Spider-Man, and fighting demons alongside Dr. Strange.
It was back to business for Spider-Man after this. Along with his Ghost Rider team-up, he fought Cardiac, Carnage, and a bunch of classic villains given new gadgets from Justin Hammer.
Four and a half: It’s awfully convenient that Franklin was merely asleep during De’Lila’s initial attack on the FF. Perhaps that’s just his cover story, because in this month’s issue of Power Pack, he and the Power kids were busy fighting — are you ready for this? — the Adolescent Microwaved Shellshocked Amphibians.
The Alicia problem: Alicia, who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise, is the one who tells the FF that De’Lila “must be a shape shifter.” Takes one to know one.
Commercial break: The Silver Surfer video game, famous for being so hard that it’s unplayable.
Trivia time: This New Fantastic Four story arc would later be revisited in the 2010 Spider-Man/Fantastic Four miniseries. That story takes place minutes after this one, where De’Lila briefly escapes and causes trouble about the Skrull ship until the heroes put her in her place again, all while a mysterious time traveler takes a “sample” from the ITT back to the future. The miniseries ends by revealing the time traveler is Kristoff, who in 2010 is hoping to retake the Latverian throne.
The Marvel Wiki insists that the male monster who co-adopts the ITT is Giganto, the same monster that famously appears on the cover of Fantastic Four #1. While Giganto had numerous appearances after this, this story arc is the last time we see the ITT. I guess we can assume the ITT is just lumbering around Monster Island with the rest of the monsters.
Fantastic or frightful? A fast-paced, plot-heavy issue with the character development only happening on the edges of the story. It becomes about the Reed-Sue-De’Lila triangle, so that the New Fantastic Four are reduced to mere cash-grab guest stars and not a real team at all. Wolverine fans will be especially disappointed to see him not pretty much nothing. On the plus side, Art Adams’ artwork is terrific, and there is an overall “high adventure” feel that we want from Fantastic Four — new or original.
Next: One Thing leads to another.
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