Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #366 finds us in the middle of yet another big crossover. It was only a matter of time before Thanos and his freakin’ Infinity whatsits showed up.
Infinity War was the follow-up the successful and beloved Infinity Gauntlet. While the FF merely cameoed in Gauntlet, they’re major players in War. I’m going to try to summarize Infinity War and keep the emphasis what was happening in Fantastic Four. Infinity War deals with the conflict between space hero Adam Warlock and his evil doppelganger Magus. Using not one but five cosmic cubes, Magus hatched a plan to create his own team, made up of doppelgangers of various Marvel heroes. In Infinity War #1, we saw a fight between two Reeds, but it didn’t reveal which one was the evil, or which one won the fight. Fantastic Four #366 begins with a recap of this, where Thanos (who’s also hanging around) cautioning Magus not underestimate the Earth heroes.
At Four Freedoms Plaza, we see Reed working on his encephalizer device, in the hopes of monitoring and controlling Franklin’s rapidly-increasing psychic powers. Johnny is downright furious, saying that Reed’s obsessive work in the lab led to endangering everyone’s lives in the “Inniverse” of the previous three issues. Johnny attacks Reed (!) chasing him all over the lab, until Ben breaks them up. Reed and Sue then have a heart-to-heart talk about Franklin, how he deserves more protection that what they’ve given him. One panel shows Franklin asleep, but with eyes glowing with yellow light.
Then we meet up with Alicia and her father the Puppet Master, who are out for a walk in the park. He says he’s no longer wanted by police (a “white lie,” he thinks), while she thanks him, saying it was his actions that led to her being freed from the Skrulls. In space, Magus explains to an impatient Thanos that doppelganger fights are merely the foundation for a much larger plan.
Reed is alone in his lab, still worrying about Franklin’s powers, when a portal opens behind him and Evil Reed comes out. The doppelganger looks just like Reed, but with pointy ears, fangs, and glowing red eyes. Evil Reed argues that Reed spends more time in his lab than with his family out of own personal fears and weaknesses. Their fight has a lot of weird beats, including Reed using his head and neck as a battering ram, and Evil Reed trying to chock Reed by his whole arm down Reed’s throat.
We cut from the fight to Johnny, who is at Empire State University, reminding us that he’s now re-enrolled in college. He contemplates leaving the FF and striking out on his own, when a bunch of football toughs start a fight with him. A good-looking brunette girl breaks up the fight. Even though she clearly doesn’t’ like Johnny, he’s impressed with her. Ben, meanwhile, is at a gym somewhere in NYC where he’s impressing the other body builders by working out with a huge hydraulic press. He’s then surprised to see Sharon Ventura walk through. Sharon asks if he’s pleased to see her.
Back to the Reed vs. Evil Reed fight. Reed stretches himself around Evil Reed, cutting off the doppelganger’s oxygen. Evil Reed breaks free and uses a “microwave pulgator” (?) to attack Reed. It’s basically a flame thrower, and burns Reed, somehow also knocking him unconscious. Then it gets all hentai up in here when the doppelganger transforms into a bunch tentacles that wrap up Reed.
An alarm goes off and Sue runs into the lab. Reed is in there, and he assures her that it was merely a small malfunction. Of course, thanks to the old glowing-red-eyes-that-only-the-audience-can-see cliché, we know this is really the doppelganger.
We then cut to outer space, where we’re reunited with Devos the Devastator from issue #359. His ship is hijacked by a Skrull ship, where he comes face to face with Paibok the Power-Skrull from issue #358. The quickly compare notes and both agree that they want revenge against the Fantastic Four. Paibok says he has a secret weapon for this plot. He shows her Lyja, who is in suspended animation… still alive!
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: All this business about Reed spending more time in the lab than with his family has not only been done before, but resolved before. We’ve moved past this and yet here we are again.
Fade out: Sue’s only role in this issue is to be the doting wife and mother. Again, the writers are trying to do “classic” FF, but doing so by ignoring how much the characters have grown and changed over the years.
Clobberin’ time: We’re not told why Ben is working out in some random gym instead of using the high-tech weights in Reed’s lab, except that it gets him out of the action to set stuff up for future viewers.
Flame on: It’s uncharacteristic for Johnny to be so mad at Reed, to the point where he tries to more or less kill Reed. I guess he’s still working through the whole death-of-his-wife-who-wasn’t-really-his-wife thing.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon is again back for one panel, but, again, we don’t know why she’s back and what she’s up to.
Four and a half: Franklin has a poster of Superman in his room. How does that work?
The Alicia problem: Lyja is back, though we only see her in one panel. It’s the always-problematic “unconscious woman trapped in a tube” cliché that’s so prevalent in comics.
Commercial break: What is this ad selling, exactly? Gumby and Pokey toys? Were there Gumby and Pokey comics? Will two guys dressed as Gumby and Pokey come to your house?
Trivia time: In this issue, there’s a brief glimpse of Spider-Man fighting his doppelganger, from Spider-Man #24, where Spidey fought the Hobgoblin and the Demogoblin as well. The Spider-doppelganger was popular enough to appear in the ‘90s Spider-Man cartoon, and he got his own action figure.
Fantastic or frightful? All this doppelganger stuff is as good an excuse as any for a big crossover, but out our heroes are written so out-of-character that it’s frustrating. The Devos/Paibok scene is the only really interesting part, in that it reveals their previous appearances were merely seeds planted for something bigger.
Next: Ad infinitum.
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