Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issues #363-365 offer some epic yet inconsequential sci-fi action.
Previously, Reed opened up a portal to another dimension, the “Inniverse,” They fought interdimensional tough guy Wildblood, and then he, Sue, and Franklin were abducted by Wildblood’s enemies. This issue begins with a battle, where Reed, Ben and Johnny enter the other dimension and fight their way through the local barbarians. Inside the giant walled city at the center of this alien landscape, Sue and Franklin are brought before the local leader, Occulus, who values wealth above all else and who rules through fear and oppression. Occulus can sense Franklin has great power while sentencing Sue to the dungeon. Wildblood realizes Sue is not his enemy, and he helps Sue escape the city. While he flees, Sue stays behind in hopes of rescuing Franklin.
Wildblood meets up with Reed and Johnny, where it’s established that his people are the barbarians they fought earlier. Inside the city, Occulus has Franklin hooked up to machine powered by mystic gems, in the hopes of transferring Franklin’s mutant powers into him. Sue tries to fight Occulus but is defeated. Occulus fires up the machine, and it appears to work. Outside the city, Reed’s scanners show that Franklin has ceased all brain activity, making Reed think Franklin is dead.
Issue #364 begins with Occulus declaring “I am ultimate power!” With his new godlike abilities, he fights and easily defeats the barbarians, with Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Wildblood escaping in some underground tunnels. Occulus fills everyone in on the backstory, how this was once an advanced civilization that destroyed itself in war, leaving behind mystic gems. Occulus is master of the gems’ powers, while his long-lost brother is the thief of the gems. Yes, Wildblood is that brother.
Reed, Ben and Wildblood sneak back into the city (Johnny is “needed elsewhere”), where they rescue Sue and an alive-but-still-unconscious Franklin. Occulus catches them, and there’s another fight. Reed tries to drain Occulus’ power with a device he whipped up while in the caves, but it doesn’t work, and Occulus gets even stronger, tapping into the power of creation itself.
Issue #365 begins with Johnny flying in alongside the rest of the barbarians to fight Occulus. Reed and Sue run off, with him explaining that Johnny’s attack is a distraction. There’s a big fight with Ben, Johnny, Wildblood and the barbarians getting knocked around by Occulus. Back on Earth, we get a short scene in which Sharon Ventura returns, introducing herself to Alicia as “Ben Grimm’s girlfriend.”
Back in the other dimension, Reed rejoins the fight, leading Occulus toward a “gem screen” that he had the barbarians construct. The screen hurls Occulus off the planet and into subspace, defeating him. Wildblood and Occulus’ bride Landa are named the new rulers. Back on Earth, Franklin gets a clean bill of health, although Reed fears this incident might mean a return of his potentially world-ending mutant power.
Unstable molecule: Yes, Reed has always been able to invent and build a gizmo out of nothing in minutes, but these issues really push it. His improvised last-minute gadgets are made with alien tech and can defeat a godlike being.
Fade out: Sue is again depowered, so the villains are able to capture her and negate her powers easily. She later chides Reed for not communicating with her and not working as a team.
Clobberin’ time: Ben makes a lot of jokes during all the fighting, except for one serious moment during the fight, when he tells Occulus that he’s used to a lot of pain.
Flame on: One scene has Johnny envious of Reed’s leadership abilities. Could this have been setting up a story with Johnny eventually becoming team leader?
Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon is abruptly back in the comic just as abruptly as she left it. We won’t learn what she’s up to for a few more issues.
Four and a half: Now that Power Pack is over, we’re back to worrying about Franklin’s mutant powers being incredibly powerful, and what might happen if he reaches his full potential.
Commercial break: Something something the weasel something.
Trivia time: Wildblood, Occulus, and all the other characters introduced in this arc never returned, making these issues their only appearances.
Fantastic or frightful? These issues should be a lot of sci-fi fun, with the whole small-band-of-warriors-overthrowing-the-high-tech-empire thing. But it feels generic, and because it’s all in another dimension, it feels like there are no stakes.
Next: To infinity and beyond.
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