Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #369 has cosmic crossover craziness and a familiar face from Sue’s past.
We’re still in the middle of Infinity War, where supervillain Magus (the evil twin of Adam Warlock) is creating evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. Last issue, a task force made up of select members of the FF, the Avengers, the X-Men, and Alpha Flight teleported to space in pursuit of Reed and Iron Man’s doppelgangers. This issue begins with that task force in the middle of a massive fight against Adam Warlock, Thanos, and Warlock’s pals the Infinity Watch. Infinity War #4 establishes that this is a cliché “superhero misunderstanding fight,” where the task force thinks Warlock is really Magus. Also, Thanos is here because he and Warlock have formed a temporary truce to stop Magus. None of this is properly explained in issue #369, however, making it look like everyone is fighting just for the sake of fighting.
The fight is interrupted when Galactus’ ship appears overhead, and beams everyone aboard. Inside, Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, Galactus, and former FF member Frankie Raye are on board, just having finished their own Eternity Quest crossover. Meanwhile, Magus has created a doppelganger of Thanos, and the two of them are secretly watching all this, with Magus bragging about how this is all going according to his plan. Magus presses a button in his ship, saying it’s time to take control of the Earth.
Back on Earth, Alicia is having tea with her father, the Puppet Master. He’s about to tell her that he saw Ben having lunch with Sharon Ventura, when the two become frozen in place. Time has stopped all over the Earth for everyone, except for Aron the rouge Watcher, who can sense what’s happening from his hideout in the arctic, and he ponders how to use this to his advantage.
In Galactus’ ship, Galactus runs a cerebral scan of all the heroes to get everyone up to speed. This has unforeseen complications for Sue, though, as she gets lost in a surreal mindscape of her own subconscious. There, she is confronted by Malice. The comic rightly points out that Malice was merely a temporary name and costume Sue adopted when she was being influenced by the Hate Monger (in issues #280-281). This version of Malice disagrees, saying that she’s always existed as living psychic entity repressed deep within Sue’s subconscious.
Sue and Malice fight, with Malice arguing that Sue needs Malice’s aggression and ferocity to deal with the conflict that lies ahead. Sue defeats Malice, and then absorbs Malice’s persona into her own somehow, hoping to combine Malice’s with Sue’s wisdom and compassion. Back in Galactus’ ship, Sue awakes and tells Johnny she’s never felt better.
On Earth, everyone is still frozen in time except for Aron, who teleports to Alicia’s apartment and abducts her. Elsewhere in outer space, we see Devos the Devastator and Paibok the Power Skrull have succeeded in bringing Lyja back to life. She’s unconscious, and Paibok plans to alter her genetic structure. In Galactus’ ship, we catch up with the events of Infinity War, where Warlock has retaken the Infinity Gauntlet and reassembled all the Infinity Gems, giving him the power of creation itself. Then a portal opens, with Magus and the Thanos doppelganger stepping out of it. They abduct Warlock and disappear.
Sue takes leadership of the superhero task force over Captain America, saying the heroes must attack Magus as soon as possible, before Magus gets adjusted to his new power. When the Hulk makes fun of her, Sue throws him around the room with her force fields. Ben and Johnny note that Sue is acting different than usual. The heroes open another portal (I’m assuming Dr. Druid is the one who does this, since he’s standing right next to it) to follow Magus. They jump through it, only to face an army of their own doppelgangers. Everybody fights. While the battle rages, we see that Magus has succeeded in wresting the Infinity Gauntlet from Warlock, claiming his victory over Warlock… and infinity itself.
To be continued!
Fade out: The original Malice story was about Sue facing her trauma and heartbreak head on, becoming a stronger person in the end. This issue makes the metaphor literal by having Malice be an actual character separate from Sue. Now that they’ve merged into half-Sue/half-Malice, we’ll see that play out in unexpected ways in upcoming issues.
Clobberin’ time: Ben makes a funny meta comment on these big crossovers by saying, “I hate these big brawls! No one gets ta admire my fancy moves!”
Flame on: There’s a quick scene where Johnny finds himself attracted to Psylocke, but doesn’t say anything because it’s still too soon after the whole Alicia/Lyja thing. Unknown to him, the telepathic Psylocke reads his mind, and thinks the two of them as a couple might have proven interesting.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Once again, both She-Hulk and Frankie Raye appear in this issue, but have no speaking lines.
The Alicia problem: Lyja appears in only one scene, where she is unconscious and strapped to a table, while two men discuss what to do with her. I know the word “problematic” gets thrown around a lot these days, but…
Commercial break: This is an ad for the videogame Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. Right to left, the characters are Neanderthal Donatello, Pirate Michelangelo, Cowboy Raphael, and Astronaut Leonardo.
Trivia time: The Infinity Gauntlet first appeared in 1990’s Silver Surfer #44. After Thanos gathered all the Infinity Gems, he just stuck them on his knuckles of his regular glove for a cool look. It’s not called “the gauntlet” until an issue later, when Mephisto tries to swipe the glove with the gems for himself. Later stories describe the gauntlet having cosmic properties by itself, with a lot of talk about the importance of building a new one.
As for the gems themselves, their history is way too long and complicated for this blog post. They first appeared in 1972’s Marvel Premiere #1, where they were called the Soul Gems. Their importance grew over time as the cosmic parts of the Marvel universe kept getting more and more cosmic. Marvel Premiere #1 is also when Adam Warlock got his name, and was no longer just called “Him.”
Fantastic or frightful? This is like one of those X-Men comics where it only works if you’re already deeply knowledgeable about the last 200 issues, plus all the other tie-ins to the current crossover. It’s supposed to represent a major turning point for Sue’s character, but that comes off as a watered-down version of what was done before. Can Infinity War please end?
Next: Infinity War ends.
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